Johnny Cueto shoves; Zach Remillard mashes; Cristian Mena comes two outs away from a seven-inning no-no, which is real, dadgummit, it’s real!!!
Many things occurred in this Knights game that one simply loves to see. For example: ag-ed veteran Johnny Cueto, who is 16 years older than Bryan Ramos down in High-A, put down four nigh-spotless innings, a one-out single to Willians Astudillo in the first inning his only baserunner allowed. He struck out six and walked none, throwing 45 pitches (29 strikes) and causing more and more people to ask, could he have a major league future? And can it please be very soon because things are dire up on the surface?
Other good things: Zach Remillard, naturally, went 3-for-3 with six RBIs and a walk, hitting two doubles and going deep once. Micker Adolfo nearly matched him in power, hitting a two-run dong in the sixth and also hitting a double of his own. Adam Haseley hit two doubles, Blake Rutherford hit one as part of a three-hit day, and Seby Zavala had two hits. New-to-the-level Yolbert Sánchez is firmly in the 2-spot and drew two walks to accompany his single.
Less encouraging things: the Kyle Kubat Experiment has been going on for many years, trying intrepidly to determine the answer to the final question, is Kyle Kubat good??? Unfortunately, that question added a data point today in the form of three runs in three innings pitched, two of those runs coming on a JJ Bleday blast (although Kubat did end up with the W). The dream must not die; crafty lefties must survive.
Yacksel Ríos was also pretty … interesting, striking out three in one inning of work but also allowing three hits and one run. Brandon Finnegan also made it interesting, one run scoring in the ninth under his rule but the batter thrown out at second trying to stretch a double to end the game.
It was how tonight’s game had to end, when you think about it.
The Barons were the one team today to get totally stomped. Lenyn Sosa had three hits and Tyler Neslony and José Rodríguez had two apiece, comprising seven of the team’s nine total. Alex Destino had another in the form of a two-run ninth-inning dinger, his second long ball of the year after hitting 21 in Winston-Salem last season. The first baseman had a cold start but is now eight for his last 15 in four games, both home runs coming in that span. Craig Dedelow had the only other hit, a single before Destino’s blast.
It is also somewhat notable in this game that Designated Mop Up Guy JJ Muno, who normally plays all positions except the one on the mound, finished it there and also took an at-bat in the ninth as a pitcher, where, fittingly, he struck out. Muno pitched a scoreless inning, something he does not often do, entering the day with a four-season career line of 8 ⅔ IP, 15 H, 14 R (10 ER), 4 BB, 5 K. Caleb Freeman also pitched a scoreless inning before him, lowering his season ERA to 23.63, but the damage was already done; Kaleb Roper walked none but allowed six runs in five innings, then Garrett Davila allowed four runs in a single inning.
The Dash resumed their dismantling of the Asheville Tourists after taking a vacation from doing so yesterday (but almost coming back on ninth-inning bombs by Harvin Mendoza and Oscar Colás, falling just a run short). Today, Bryan Ramos drew a bases-loaded walk in the first inning and Caberea Weaver singled in a run in the third before starting pitcher Chase Solesky gave up the only two runs he allowed all game, one of them unearned but both of them counting to tie the score.
Mendoza and Duke Ellis put the Dash back up for good in the fifth, Mendoza with a ground out RBI and Ellis with a ground ball single to the pitcher. Ellis, by the way, is back to being the menace on the basepaths he was last year; he stole second twice in this game and was caught once stealing third.
In the seventh, Mendoza added two insurance runs with his third home run, scoring Luis Curbelo from a double and making it 6-2 Dash; Mendoza is on a two-game home run streak, which, if continues until the end of the season, would be really amazing.
The last two runs for the Dash came in the ninth, a Luis Mieses double scoring Moises Castillo from a single. As much as you might think is is hard to ignore a Mieses scoring Moises exchange, it is getting harder and harder to ignore Castillo. The 22-year-old shortstop was an offseason waiver claim from the hated St. Louis Cardinals, and he is currently riding a six-game hitting streak and a five-game multi-hit streak. That includes today, when he went 3-for-5 with a walk and a run scored.
Colás was hitless in five at-bats, but did walk. Ramos kept his 13-game hitting streak active by going 1-for-3 with two walks.
Overall, Solesky was very good, throwing six innings in total. I can’t believe I’ve said this multiple times this year about the Dash bullpen, but the Dash bullpen was also very good, Isaiah Carranza allowing an unearned run but he, Cooper Bradford, and Zach Cable combining for just one hit and no walks while striking out two over three scoreless innings.
Starting pitcher Kohl Simas had a pretty good four innings in the doubleheader opener, burned only by two solo home runs, but the Cannon Ballers scored one run on three hits, proving they are already capable of hitting about as well as the big league Sox. Angel Acevedo made his season debut, out of the bullpen, and struck out two over two scoreless innings.
The CBs were hitless until a DJ Gladney single in the fourth, then a Wes Kath single to lead off the fifth. The lone run came when Wilber Sánchez walked with one out in the sixth inning, stole second base, stole third base, and scored on a wild pitch. Kath also hit a double to lead off the seventh (a doubleheader ninth) and made it to third on a wild pitch, but there he would remain.
This was the Ballers’ seventh loss in their last nine games played.
The nightcap went significantly better. Cristian Mena signed as an international free agent with the Sox in 2019 at age 16. He didn’t reach affiliated ball until last year, where he had an elevated ERA with the Arizona Complex League Sox, but did show spurts of promise. He was solid enough in his first two starts this year, although not solid enough to avoid carrying a 0-1 record into this game.
Then, tonight, all Mena did was put down the best performance of any Sox org pitcher this season. It took until there was one out in the seventh (and final) inning, but he did give up a hit, a single to right. That’s where he got the hook, 81 pitches in, with his final line: 6 ⅓ IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 10 K.
Haylen Green, who has been very sharp in his young career, finished off the next batter with a 13-pitch called strikeout, then respectfully preserved the one-hit shutout intact with a fly ball out to end it.
Ballers bats contained slightly more life in this game, still producing a Soxian three runs on five hits. One of those hits was Wilfred Veras’s third home run of the season in the fourth inning, with the other two runs coming in the fourth as well. Post-dong, Samil Polanco singled, Ivan González doubled, and Misael González hit a two-run single to put the team up 3-0, where they would remain. Colby Smelley went 0-for-6 on the day, his season line through 14 games tumbling to .340/.404/.500.