Friday, August 7, 2015
Rock Cats Blog // New Britain 9, Erie 4 [Game 16]
Box Score: http://www.milb.com/gameday/index.jsp?gid=2015_07_31_eswaax_nbraax_1&mode=gameday
I'm not all about the spoiles so I can tell you that the Rock Cats won this game which is something obviously we all know now but I didn't know prior to the game. This game actually took place on the day my wife and I celebrated our 11th wedding anniversary and through some stroke of fate Shane Carle got his 11th win for the season as a Rock Cats pitcher. I only say that it was through "some stroke of luck" because I was following the game closely before it ever happened and the weather was also not working in our favor so it is in no way a reflection of the pitching quality of Shane Carle. I noticed when Ryan Carpenter pitched the day after Matt Flemer (and they were in Binghamton that night) that we saw Matt Flemer pitch against the Mets when they were here and then Carpenter pitched after that during the day game.
I began to try and piece together a pitching rotation for the Rock Cats- no, really, I did- and I saw that Bryan Evans was scheduled and then Harrison Musgrave after Ryan Carpenter and I knew we were on our way to seeing Shane Carle pitch, going for his 11th win of the season, on our 11th wedding anniversary. Evans ended up going down with an injury but the rotation was still as I predicted and it also made me wonder how long they'd been doing this without me really paying it any attention. It also put in line the fact that Ryan Carpenter would pitch on Saturday- two days later- so we bought tickets for that game as well.
Two days or so before the day of the game I saw on the MiLB app that Shane Carle was scheduled to pitch. This was it. And then my wife told me we were supposed to get scattered thunderstorms on Thursday. Great. Just what we needed. The game was going to get rained out and Shane Carle would get his 11th win but just not on our 11th wedding anniversary. During the day it was surprisingly sunny out and by 4pm or so it started raining/thundering/lightning. Nothing was going to stop me from going to this game though, so as we left Stop and Shop around 6pm in a downpour I didn't even bother to check my phone and see if there was mention of calling the game.
When we got to New Britain Stadium there was no mention of a rain delay or anything like that so I took that as a good sign. The countdown clock was going to what should have been a 7:05 start time and there were a bunch of kids there in red shirts from some camp or something. We made our way over to the visitors dug out because I had two cards I wanted to get signed from my "Top Prospects" set and we had about a half an hour or so until the game anyway. I managed to get Wynton Bernard to sign his card but my other autograph was nowhere to be found. As I headed to the home side where my wife and son were sitting it began to downpour. It wasn't that heavy but it sent most people into a covered area.
During this time we played a game where we spun a wheel and won a prize which was a Rocky frisbee and that was pretty cool. It started to let up and then eventually stopped raining, so we made our way back into the stands and went over near the Rock Cats dug out to see which players were hanging out. When the team set came out there were a few players no longer with the Rock Cats and one of them was catcher Abel Baker. Apparently he got swapped for Tom Murphy as Murph went up to AAA and Baker came back down to AA. So even though I had all of the team cards signed, the moving of Abel Baker opened up another opportunity to get a card signed. (I don't think any of the other cards are going to come back to the Rock Cats though)
I didn't actually see Abel Baker and he wasn't catching that night so we didn't get to have him autograph his card but I wasn't that bothered because I knew there would be other chances when it wasn't raining out (And if it was a game where he was catching then surely he would be out warming up as well, as tonight's catcher Jan Vasquez was doing) It was at this point in time I noticed that two kids- probably around 10 or 12 years old each at most- were standing next to me with baseballs in hand trying to get autographs as well. I looked over and saw them only because Mike Tauchman had a ball which he threw to me. I looked at the kids like, "Sorry", as I guess my son got it because he was younger and wearing a Rock Cats hat. (Tauchman may or may not have also recognized us from being at so many home games because my theory is that since I'm beginning to recognize the players more now it probably works both ways)
This was the beginning of the *luck* and amazing night because when Mike Tauchman threw me that ball I was holding my three year old son (Who's got to be 35 pounds or so now and was tired so he felt even heavier) with my left arm up near my shoulder, I extended my right arm (I am right handed, thankfully) and caught the ball barehanded. I had no idea how I pulled it off as it was pure luck without a glove and my being some twenty years out of practice. (My son and I haven't quite mastered the game of catch yet) As I felt this to be a good sign, all of those in charge had a meeting of sorts on the field and decided to take the tarp off and start the game as it had stopped raining.
The temperature went from cool to humid to muggy throughout the rest of the night but it didn't rain again. Shane Carle pitched a great game that was helped by the offense of the Rock Cats. To be fair though, the Sea Wolves have a losing record and are something like 18 games out of first place so it didn't seem like it'd be too hard to defeat them. I ran a lot of numbers and felt like the odds were on our side. The starting pitcher for the Sea Wolves- a Tommy Collier- was also having a night as everything he threw seemed to either be a ball or hit. He worked his way to what seemed like an endless amount of full counts with a number of foul balls after that so he had a high pitch count from the start.
Now normally I don't really care or think about pitch counts in baseball in general- not even just in AA, but on the whole. But this pitcher, I don't know what it was with him, but he kept throwing to first and checking the runner. When you're in the first four innings and down by six runs, what's the point? It's just wasted movement and effort. You're throwing to first when you could be using that to throw to home and throw strikes. I've never understood why pitchers check the runner at first (Outside of it being a stall tactic and for intimidation or whatever) because if he's going to try and steal, let him and have some faith in your catcher to throw him out.
Oh, and you know the best reason not to constantly throw to first and check your runner? Because if you're far enough along in your pitching motions you could get called on a balk. And guess what? Tommy Collier did just that. After a while it seemed like even the umpire was getting upset with this kid and he called him on a balk. The Sea Wolves manager of course came out to talk about it, but the crowd thought it was great because they were sick of the stalling as well. (Well, except for his brother and parents and everyone he knew behind the Sea Wolves dug out) But you know the kicker was? After getting called for a balk the first time the kid kept throwing to first to check the runner.
I said that at some point he was likely to check the runner at second, throw it into center field and watch him score, but that didn't actually happen. He was losing control though, throwing some pitches behind and off of the catcher, also at times looking like he was going to take off the batters's head. And then guess what happened? He balked. Again. Yes, really. At this point, I wondered why the manager didn't pull him because there was certainly no reason to sit around and wait for a third balk but they probably just didn't have anyone in the bullpen. But, just for the record, Sea Wolves, this might be why you're so far out of first place you might as well just call it a season now.
As the manager came out to argue with the umpire after the second balk, I yelled "Thanks, I've never seen two balks in one game before" and one of the employees down in front of me turned around and said something like, "I know, right?" It's just unheard of in baseball probably all the way down to high school. I remember last season one of the Mets got called on a balk and they said it was their first one in something like ten seasons. I don't know the history or any real stats about balks, but I just don't feel like they happen often because it's about having control and pitchers- even to make the team in high school- should have that control. To slip up once in a game, fine, whatever. But twice in the same game? You might want to send this kid back down to A.
For as badly as the Sea Wolves pitcher was doing (And it was pretty brutal. As much as I kind of enjoyed it because I wanted the Rock Cats to win, deep down I really did feel badly for the guy because after all he is still human like you and me) Shane Carle was displaying control the likes of which some pitchers don't even have in the majors. Dean Green (Who has a hilarious rhyming name) hit a home run off of Carle and you know what? Carle came back and struck him out the next time he was up. And that's what this game- at this level- is all about. If you have a bad at bat then you make up for it with your next one. It does also come a little bit with being able to pick up yourself after a bad game and I don't think Tommy Collier should worry too much because it's not like he's going to be universally known as the pitcher who balked twice in the same game now-- teams will look at other stats over that.
Austin House put down six in a row in the last two innings and Shane Carle defied the odds (Only not in terms of winning but in terms of which day he won on and the weather troubles) to make a sort of history for my family. This is one of the best reasons to follow this sport called baseball because where else could such a thing occur? Some people might go out to dinner or see a movie, take in a play or some sort of broadway show otherwise, but seeing something so specific- so precise- occur just feels like a once in a lifetime experience and I am glad to have shared it.