The dog days of the season have passed and the heat is now on for the stretch run. There are approximately 18 games left for each team, give or take a game, but we are not ready to put a bow on things just yet. Let's take a look at how our teams are gearing up (or not) for the final harvest.
The Pawtucket Red Sox were 1-5 over the last week when they didn't have Dustin Pedroia in the lineup and 2-0 with him in the lineup. Unfortunately Dustin was only in town for two games as part of a long line of Boston players who had to rehab with the AAA squad. The positive from all of this (besides the two wins) was that McCoy Stadium was banged out during Pedroia's weekend visit. Saturday night they drew a crowd of 11,991 and bested that on Sunday by pulling in 12,154. At this point, the PawSox need 6 wins to improve on last seasons 61-82 record and they have 19 games to get it done. They finish off their home stretch against Lehigh Valley on Friday night then they hit Buffalo for a six game series that includes a double header on Saturday. Starting pitchers Kris Johnson and Adam Mills lead the team with 21 starts each, yet Johnson hasn't won a game since July 15th and Mills hasn't won since June 29th!
The New Britain Rock Cats capped off their first series sweep of the season when they took out the Richmond Flying Squirrels on Thursday night. The Rock Cats will not even come close to last seasons 65-61 record and they are well on their way to the team's worst season ever. The team would need to win 14 of their last 19 games to avoid that recognition...7 of those games are against Trenton and New Hampshire, the two best teams in the Eastern Division respectively. The key for them at this point is making sure they don't lose 13 more games and become one of only three Minor League teams with 100 losses over the last 50 years. Of those players with enough at-bats to qualify, third baseman Juan Portes currently holds the worst batting average in the Eastern League with a .203 showing. Since Mike McCardell was pulled from the starting staff after earning his only win of the season back on July 31st he has made 4 appearances from the pen and has allowed 6 earned runs and 17 hits over 11 2/3 innings. Sadly, he has not earned another win.
The New Hampshire Fisher Cats have a 9 1/2 game lead on third place Binghamton in the Eastern Division after dropping 2 out 3 games against the Mets, including a 1 hit shutout on Thursday night. It is the last time these two teams will play against each other this year after splitting the season series 11-11. The Cats are currently 3 1/2 behind first place Trenton who they will see next week for three games. Darin Mastroianni has company in the record books. Eric Thames and Mastroianni now both have 88 runs scored on the season, which surpasses the previous franchise mark of 85. Mastroianni entered the record book once again as he tied the franchise record for stolen bases in a season with 42. Another Fisher Cats record was set when the team played a 19 innings game against the Altoona Curve last Friday night, becoming the longest game in team history. The Fisher Cats are already 6 games above their 64 win total of 2009.
The big news in Portland this week is the recent shut down of top pitching prospect Casey Kelly for the remainder of the season, a popular trend in the Red Sox organization as of late. Kelly was suffering from a lat muscle strain and was 3-5 on the season before being sidelined. The Sea Dogs are 2-4 since a 3 game sweep of Bowie at the beginning of last week. According to Baseball America, Portland has six of the best tools in the Eastern League...wait, that may have come out wrong. Regardless, Manager Arnie Beyeler was named the "Best Manager Prospect" in the league , while players Ray Chang (Best Defensive Third Baseman), Jose Iglesias (Best Defensive Shortstop), Che-Hsuan Lin (Best Defensive Outfielder), Anthony Rizzo (Best Defensive First Baseman) & Nate Spears (Best Strike Zone Judgement) also received honors. The Sea Dogs need 8 wins over their last 18 games to tie their win mark of 67 from last season.
The Connecticut Tigers have allowed the Tri-City Valley Cats to pass them in second place in the Stedler Division after Tri-Valley swept a two game series against the Tigers in Connecticut. The five Tiger All-Stars combined to go 4-9 at the plate with 2 runs and 2 RBI in the New York-Penn All Star game this past Tuesday, and catcher Julio Rodriguez has the only stolen base for the American League. Connecticut is in the midst of a four game losing streak, matching their longest losing streak of the season. Outfielder P.J. Polk is third in the league with 20 stolen bases, he has only been caught 3 times. Josue Carreno (48) and Brennan Smith (47) are 12th & 13th in the league in strikeouts. The Tigers have had seven different pitchers pick up saves this season and Logan Hoch leads the team with 4. Connecticut faces Staten Island for three games over the weekend, then they battle Tri-City again for two to start next week.
Although it was an amazing ride, it just wasn't meant to be for Lowell's Seth Schwindenhammer in the MILB.com Minors Moniker Madness tournament. The Hammer took it to the limit, losing in the finals to NW Arkansas' Rowdy Hardy. The Spinners have won 7 games in the month of August, besting their July win total with 12 left to play. Lowell has been involved in 10 one-run games this month and they are 5-5 in those games. Even the All-Star game was a one run game and it was won on the bat of Spinners shortstop Jose Gracia who drove in Trent Mummy with a single in the 3-run eighth inning, helping the American League to win 4-3. Kolbrin Vitek has been a beast as of late, collecting 13 hits over his last 7 games including 2 home runs and 10 RBI. Felix Sanchez still leads the NY-Penn with 28 steals, but he is being chased down by Williamsport's Cesar Hernandez who now has 26. Lowell has a five game home stand which starts tonight against the Hudson Valley Renegades.
The Vermont Lake Monsters halted a current three game losing streak by eeking out a 10-9 victory over Lowell on Thursday night. The team is currently 1 1/2 games up on second place Tri-City in the Stedler Division. David Freitas won the home run derby during the New York-Penn All Star festivities. Vermont All Stars Freitas and Blake Kelso went a combined 0-4 at the plate and reliever Neil Holland tossed a scoreless seventh inning for the National League, striking out two batters and plunking two. After the team ERA finally started going back down last week (from 4.15 to 4.11), the team allowed 43 runs over fives games, sending their ERA skyrocketing to 4.46, 2nd worst in the league. The Lake Monsters welcome the Brooklyn Cyclones to Burlington for three games starting Friday night. Brooklyn is the best team in the NY-Penn with a record of 39-20.