On social media, #TBT is a thing, apparently. I asked someone at work the question "Throwback?" and she quickly responded with "Thursday!" Apparently plenty of you grasp the concept better than I do. However, the premise allows me to look back at some of my favorite minor league tilts of the season, so it works for me.
Today, we head to the southwestern section of Ohio to watch the Kane County Cougars take on the Dayton Dragons, not to be confused with the Daytona Tortugas. Both are Reds affiliates. Good luck keeping track of those two. The Reds affiliate is trotting out big lefty Amir Garrett to the hill, and the Cougars are sending out Daury Torrez, a righty. Both teams lead their divisions at the time. Todd Benzinger is on color commentary, and Tom Nichols is the home club's announcer.
Garrett is a hard-thrower, and fanned lead-off hitter Jake Hannemann on a reported 94 mile per hour fastball to start the proceedings. After a three-hopper to short by Cougars shortstop Carlos Penalver, the game was off to a traditional start. That was about to come to a screeching halt. Ben Carhart doubled to the left side of center-field warning track (after working a 2-0 count), and was singled home by the Cougars best hitter early in April, Yasiel Balaguert. After the opposite-field single, Balaguert was called out at home on a Jacob Rogers double (after fouling off a full count pitch) that looked and sounded like a homer. Replays would show 'Bala' beat the throw, but no matter.
Daury Torrez is one of those pitchers that simply gets low-level hitters out. Whether that will translate at higher levels is debatable, but he rarely walks anybody. After throwing two quick balls on the first hitter, the Dragons leadoff man fisted a grounder to Rogers at first. Following quite a few Cougars games this season, it struck me how often the pitchers got themselves involved early. This 3-1 putout was no exception. On a full count, the next hitter topped a two-hopper to Torrez, who bare-handed it on a throw to first. He completed a perfect first by going up-the-ladder on the Dragons third hitter.
If I had the capability, the next two innings would be preserved forever on my external hard-drive. They are what the new idea of Cubs minor league ball is about. David Bote started the second with a bouncing single over the pitchers head. Garrett fell behind Daniel Lockhart 3-0 before Lockhart became the fifth straight Cougar to reach on a walk. Will Remillard, who was in an icy slump coming in and was at .105 for the early season, batted next.
One of the more amusing plays of the night occurred during this at-bat Garrett wheeled to throw to second to keep the runner close. Nobody was covering, but he air-mailed a throw to the shortstop in his position where he usually plays. Possibly, it should have been a balk, as he threw the ball to an uncovered base, but he didn't throw it to the base. The runners stayed put.
Remillard singled in a run as both runners took off on an 0-2 count, and the rout was on. The stage was also set for my favorite at-bat in my favorite game of the regular season. Trey Martin batted with runners on first and second. After a mound visit, Martin took a pitch low, then the next two pitches were strikes. He then reached to protect a pitch on the black, fouling it off. Martin then fouled on to the screen, and watched one in the dirt. Another foul to the screen preceded a line single to left.
Garrett was cooked, and Hannemann spotted a bunt for a hit down the third base line that Rod Carew would have been impressed with. To complete the "once through the line-up without a hitter being retired," Lockhart fisted one in front of the left-fielder. Garrett, who was protected by the Reds for Thursday's Rule 5 Draft, was done after an inning plus.
Another lefty (Joel Bender) came in to induce a twin killing and another out to send it to the middle of the second at 5-0. Torrez continued to do what he does. He kept throwing strikes, and retired the Reds in order in the second in order with a strikeout, eight pitches, and only one outside of the zone.
The onslaught continued into the third. After a first-pitch fly-out to center by Bote, Lockhart singled past a diving second baseman. Remillard doubled to left over the left fielder's head, scoring Lockhart. After a grounder to second, Hannemann singled to center to drive in Remillard. After a hit-by-pitch, Hannemann and Penalver executed a double-steal, and scored on a Carhart double to right.
Torrez took the mound in the bottom of the third with a 9-0 lead, and proceeded to throw more strikes. A five pitch strike-out, a four-pitch grounder to third, and a four-pitch one-hopper to second brought the game to the fourth. Rogers doubled to left, and Bote walked. After a 4-3 twin-killing, Remillard had his third RBI hit of the game. At this point, the Cougars had scored ten runs, and Dayton had only had nine hitters.
Three-pitch grounder to first. Three-pitch grounder to first. Two-pitch grounder to third. Torrez perfect through four.
In the fifth, the Cougars only managed one hit. Which was one more than Dayton had in their fifth. Through five innings, Dayton had hit one ball to the outfield.
Rogers started the sixth with the Cougars' 16th hit of the night. A Remillard double later in the inning was his fourth RBI hit of the game. In the Dragons sixth, Torrez gave up a walk and a hit, but picked the runner off second, adding insult to embarrassment. The Dragons scored in the seventh on a triple and a grounder, and the Cougars added one with the aid of an error.
Torrez would go eight innings, which almost never happens in Low-A ball. He gave up a run on two hits, walking one and fanning four. All nine hitters had base hit, eight scored, and six plated runs. A trio of Cougars had two doubles in the 13-1 victory last April 17.
With the switch to the Midwest League Eastern Division, MiLB.TV viewers will get used to the Dayton venue, as they stream their home games on the service. I'm starting to get myself ready for the busy season to come. I imagine a few of you might be more interested in the parent club this year. I'll still be doing what I do, and any assistance along the way would be appreciated.