Much like the game I saw the night before, this one started with a bang. The Mudcats scored three in the top of the first on a three run home run by Lucas Erceg, who hammered a hanging breaking ball from Dane Dunning down the right field line. In a bizarre turn of events, the next time Erceg came up to bat, Dunning threw a high hard one behind him and was immediately ejected by the home plate umpire. It was unclear to me what the reason was for Dunning to throw at Erceg, but it certainly appeared to be intentional. Dunning did not argue his ejection and walked straight off the field. Dash manager Willie Harris would argue and get tossed as well. So that's three ejections in two games on this trip.
|Willie Harris departs after being ejected|
The Dash would fight back. In the bottom of the fifth, Dash star catcher Zack Collins hit an opposite field home run to left off Mudcats starter Freddy Peralta to give the Dash a 4-3 lead. But that lead didn't last long. In the next half inning, Carolina tied the game when Dash rightfielder Luis Silverio dropped a relatively routine flyball in the gap. More craziness ensued in the bottom of the seventh when the Dash plated a run on an attempted sacrifice bunt by Luis Alexander Basabe, but a throwing error by the Mudcats catcher allowed the go-ahead run to score. I happened to catch that play on video:
Again, a lead was lost in the next half inning as the Mudcats scored a pair in the eighth to go up 6-5. Troy Stokes Jr.'s homer to deep left-center plated the first of those runs and another unearned run would score later on a throwing error by Dash pitcher Ryan Riga. Down a run in the bottom of the ninth, Brady Conlan hit a game tying home run, his third hit of the day, to send the game to extra innings. But a pair of Mudcats runs in the top of the tenth proved the difference as the Dash dropped this one by a score of 8-6.
In April, many Sox fans were starting to think Dane Dunning may have been the crown jewel of the Adam Eaton trade with the Nationals, despite not being as highly regarded as Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez. A first round pick by the Nats out of Florida just last year, Dunning absolutely dominated the low A level for Kannapolis in April. Since being promoted to Winston-Salem a few weeks ago, his results have been less impressive. Dunning was primarily a reliever at Florida because of their loaded pitching staff, but the Sox (and Nats, previously) seem to view him as a starter. He doesn't have an overpowering fastball, but is able to keep hitters off balance with sliders and changeups. In this game, he got rouged up in the first inning, highlighted by the hanging slider that Erceg hit out of the park. But he had retired six straight hitters before his ejection. It would have been nice to see if he could have turned this into a productive start, but alas, he got the heave-ho in the third. Not sure what to make of that incident. For Dunning's sake, I would hope the high, hard pitch was as a result of something Erceg said or did, but I really don't know. Throwing at hitters every time they hit a home run off him isn't going to get him to the big leagues. Here is a good moment for him though, striking out elite prospect Corey Ray:
Luis Alexander Basabe
Prior to yesterday's signing of elite Cuban prospect Luis Robert, the one position where the Sox were severely lacking talent in their organization was in the outfield. Basabe was one of the lesser pieces in the Chris Sale trade, but does give the Sox an intriguing possibility in center field. Basabe is an elite runner with a good arm and some power potential. But so far this year, he hasn't shown much with the bat. That was the case in this game as well as he went 0-5 with a pair of strikeouts. He didn't have any notable opportunities to show off his running or fielding abilities either, except for the bunt play linked above. I'd like to see more from Basabe because the Sox clearly have a need for promising outfielders.
Last, but not least among Dash players is Zack Collins, who had a very good night on Friday. The White Sox selected Collins with the tenth overall pick in last June's draft. Everybody knew Collins could hit as he was one of the best hitters in college baseball for Miami last year. But there were many who didn't believe he possessed the chops to be a serviceable major league catcher. So far, the reviews of his defense have been positive. Maybe even more so than his hitting. He has thrown out about half of the potential base stealers he's faced this season. In this game, he threw out two of four, though I think the Dash had a questionable call go their way on one of them. His release is quick and has a very good arm, from what I can tell. I'm sure there are still things he can improve upon behind the plate, but I'm encouraged that he should be able to stick at that very important position. Collins' offensive skills are apparent as well. He has very good strike zone awareness, taking a ton of walks. He reached base on a walk and a hit by pitch on Friday. But the highlight was clearly his opposite field home run. Granted, it wouldn't have been a home run in many (any?) major league parks, but it was still an impressive display of opposite field power. I was able to catch that hit on video as well:
Mudcats (Brewers) Prospects
As I mentioned, this Mudcats team is very talented. Their starting lineup featured two of MLB.com's top 60 prospects in outfielder Corey Ray (#25) and Isan Diaz (#57). Ray, from Chicago via Louisville, was the fifth player selected in last year's draft and appears to have a bright future ahead of him. In terms of tools, he is Basabe with a much better bat. He had a pair of singles in this game, but was thrown out trying to steal second in the ninth inning. The Brewers have a ton of great young outfield prospects. Ray is certainly one of them. Diaz is a middle infielder (played short on Friday) with legit power. He has seven home runs already this season. He reached base three times in this game (single, two walks). And then there is third baseman Lucas Erceg, who was in the middle of most of the action on Friday. He crushed a homer off Dunning and displayed his great arm on several occasions. He did commit a throwing error too though. Less notable in terms of prospect rankings was Friday's starting pitcher Freddy Peralta. I was impressed by his outing. He did allow four runs in five innings, but two of those were unearned. He struck out nine hitters with his nice assortment of fastball, sliders and changeups. He's listed at 5'11", but that may be generous. What he lacks in height, however, he makes up for in stuff.
Saturday is big league day. I will be attending the Nationals vs. Braves game at the brand new SunTrust Park in Atlanta. After this game, I will once again be able to say I've been to a game at every active MLB stadium. I won't be writing about that game/stadium until sometime after this trip though. So the next post will come after a game I attend in Birmingham. That is supposed to happen tomorrow, Sunday. However, the weather forecast doesn't look promising. So I may wind up going to Birmingham on Monday instead. Stay tuned.
UPDATE: Birmingham was rained out Saturday night, so they are now scheduled to play a pair of seven inning games today (Sunday). Hopefully the rain will stay away.