|Windy skies tonight in New Britain|
The conditions at New Britain Stadium were damp, to say the least. About an hour before game time, a brief but severe storm passed through. The infield remained in good condition thanks to the tarp -- more accurately thanks to the grounds crew pictured above -- but parts of the outfield (lacking the advanced drainage system of Target Field) were soaked. The grounds crew did a great job taking care of that issue, however, and the game started just over an hour late (one neat thing about minor league baseball is that it's very much an all-hands-on-deck mentality -- the same people helping with the tarp or the drainage might be some of the same people you encounter in the press box or the concourses later).
Perhaps Rock Cats starter Trevor May was off his rhythm due to the delay, because he surrendered a long and loud homer on the very first pitch of the game. It seemed as if May would settle down, though, and fortunately had his very good curve going early on, but it wasn't going to be that easy. A control problem that plagued May ended up (more or less) costing him 2 more runs: in the second inning, he walked the #7 hitter with 2 outs, then gave up another no-doubter to right field. It was his only walk of the night -- accompanied by 6 strikeouts -- but it was damaging.
On the whole, I'd call it an up-and-down performance for May. On the one hand, the struck out 6, only walked 1, and had flashes of excellent pitching. On the other hand, he allowed 2 long home runs, issued a costly 2-out walk that preceded a home run, and was over 50 pitches with only 1 out in the third inning. He ended up tossing 93 pitches to make it through 5 innings. Definitely not an awful performance, but also not the kind of performance that's going to make Terry Ryan pick up the phone and set May up in Rochester. His final line: 5 innings; 4 ER; 6Ks; 1 BB. 2 HR.
Offensively, wow. Have you heard of this prospect the Twins have? Miguel something-or-other? I'm no baseball expert, but I sure have been to a ton of MLB and MiLB games. Sano's performance tonight ranks right up there with any individual performance I have ever seen: A long, frozen rope single to left field; a first-pitch homer; and an amazing 9th inning homer. And his one out was a long, long fly to center. Ridiculous. Boy does that guy know how to hit. In fact, I have video of all his at-bats on my YouTube channel. Check it out. Again, I apologize for the poor quality of the video and the finger(s) that may occasionally appear in the corner of the screen. Hey, I never said I was Steven Spielberg!
Two funny things about Sano's at-bats this evening: his single was hit harder than either of the homers; and the flyout to center field probably traveled farther than either of the home runs. The power he generates is amazing. Jeez the guy is impressive.
Back to the game and the other 20-some players on the team. The problem with tonight's game is that there wasn't nearly enough Rock Cats offense. 5 hits -- 3 from Sano; one from Josmil Pinto; 1 from Nate Hanson. Although Trevor May wasn't great tonight, he did deserve better performance from the other 6 guys in the lineup.
I spoke to Rock Cats' manager Jeff Smith after the game. The obvious questions would have been about Sano. But what could Smith say besides "he's great" or "he's a rare talent." "Wow. He hit the ball hard and far tonight???" I can write crap like that (in fact, you're reading it!). Instead I asked about May. As I've written before, May's downfall typically has been issuing too many walks and prematurely driving up that pitch count. But what about tonight? Only 1 walk and 6 strikeouts -- peripherally good numbers. Smith stated: "Home run on the first pitch of the game, and just fell behind. . . . If you look back, [May] only gave up 5 hits, but his pitch count got up there pretty fast. . . . There were about 2 or 3 at-bats that the other team had that were about 10-pitch at-bats. It might have started 1-0, 2-0 [on the batters], and the next thing you know, a guy starts fouling pitches back. [May] didn't pitch that bad. A lead-off home run, and then an 0-2 home run."
For the most part that's an accurate assessment. There were a couple very, very long at-bats. May wasn't bad by any means. I didn't get a chance to speak to him -- and I'm pretty sure he would not have been one to make excuses -- but you do have to wonder what happens to a starter after an hour-long delay. Especially when the starter gives up a first-pitch homer. Although May took the loss, there were plenty of good things about his performance tonight: first-pitch strikes seemed to be better; the curve was great, especially early in the game; the extremely wet conditions on the field didn't seem to affect his control; 6 Ks to 1 BB in 5 innings with 5 hits is a solid performance, excepting that 2/5 hits were homers.
All in all, what a crazy night. I'll be honest: I wanted to see a Miguel Sano home run tonight. I got what I came for, and then some. I'll leave you with a couple funny Sano stats: he's 4th on the Rock Cats in home runs despite playing only 17 games for them. He has more homers than singles. He has 16 RBIs in 17 games. And get this, HE'S BATTING A LOUSY .236. What a freak of nature.
Thanks for reading.