When the Hawks headed north to Boise to start the 2012 season, they had only ten hitters. Ten. Yeah. Even with a DH, ten doesn't leave much room. For injuries. For slumps. Some players added just before and shortly after the Season Opener, the message was clear. "You guys are it. Don't look for help." Interestingly, they were also the youngest team in the league. It wasn't very close either.
Instead of a simple link to the score page of Game One, I've decided to go with a more complete rundown of what's coming up than just a simple link. This has been a very fun team to follow. Regardless of what happens from here on, this has been a pleasure.
There was a second message sent out by the Cubs braintrust. This one was to draftees. The sooner you sign, the sooner you get out of Arizona. Middle Round selections often were dispatched to Boise after signing. A handful of picks, Bijan Rademacher, Chadd Krist, Isaak Garsez among them, chipped in offensively. Eduardo Orozco, Nathan Dorris, and Michael Heesch were key relievers from the draft class.
The first half saw the Hawks play like a young team. Late inning comebacks were sparse. The defense was error-prone. Runners were stranded far too often. Boise finished the first half twelve under and 8 out. The second half started with a nine game homestand. They would play three each against their three division rivals. Yeah. Kind of important. After losing two of three (to Yakima), they rattled off five straight. Then, they won five-of-six on the road. After that, the second half was theirs.
What ended up happening was that Manager Mark Johnson had a really solid 12 hitter rotation. Boise led the league in doubles. And triples. And homers. Gioskar Amaya was a dangerous leadoff man. He hit just under .300, had 12 triples, including one to (finally, in the season's last game) to help win a game they trailed after 8. Steven Bruno was the utility-man extra-ordinairre. He hit in his last 22 games, filled in across the infield, and hit .362.
Dan Vogelbach arrived when he had proven too good for the Arizona League, and mashed the Northwest League as well. Jeimer Candelario held down third with solid and sometimes flashy offense. His glove improved as the season progressed. Marco Hernandez silently hit .286 and was generally solid at short, especially in the second half. To explain how smooth the offense chugged late, Albert Almora hits sixth. Wilson Contreras caught, and played wherever needed also. Trey Martin was a solid CF, until Almora took it from him.
The pitching was less spectacular. Jose Arias is the de facto ace. His WHIP was a bit below 1.3. Tayler Scott was very surprising early, but tired a bit late, sporting a WHIP just above 1.3. Felix Pena has been the best pitcher lately, with a WHIP at 1.3. First Round Supplemental pick Pierce Johnson will get the ball in the opener. He will pitch the first 2, then turn it over to Arias. The short end of the pen will be determined by the situation. Late add Jose Paniagua may be a key reliever in the post-season Scott will start the second game.
The home games through the year have been shown (thanks to the folks at Fiberpipe) on MiLBTV this year, but that might not happen tonight. It is listed on the docket, but I'm thinking no video tonight. Mike Safford will be on the call.
Yakima's Bears are moving after the season. This post-season is their swansong. They owned the East in the first half. Infielder Kevin Medrano led them in hitting, and their offense was middle of the pack. Yakima's pitching was top-half in the league. Boise's was eighth of eighth.
While home field advantage is usually the key, despite winning the head-to-head with Boise, a four game skid by Yakima gave Boise the better overall record. Whoever gets off to a quick start tonight is in good shape.
This Boise squad has trumped the other affiliates for me since mid-June. A good sign for Boise would be Pierce Johnson holding Yakima down early to a run or less, and the offense figuring out the opposing pitcher in the second or third inning. Boise has put up early 'crooked numbers' with regularity, though not necessarily in the first inning. If Jose Arias has a decent lead with a rested bullpen, a Game One win is definitely possible.
Enjoy the series. I'll be doing modified play-by-play until I leave for work around 9:40 central. First pitch is at 7:45. I hope to see you then.