Now that the grueling 140 game Midwest League schedule is over, it’s on to a tightly contested and heavily scrutinized, three game set in the first round of the playoffs.
The Captains went 40-30 in the second half, good enough to earn a playoff bid from the eastern division. After growing immeasurable baseball steps this season, despite being one of the younger teams to start the season, the Captains will now test their mental fortitude against the slimmest margins for errors, three game set with the Bowling Green Hot Rods of the Tampa Bay Rays organization.
Winning game one in these series is extremely important, like knocking on opponent straight in the jaw with a hook.
Round One: Captains, in a split decision, 5-4.
Manager Dave Wallace after the game said that it’s “very important” to win this game but that the team also has to “put it behind them, get on the bus and get ready for tomorrow”
The tomorrow Wallace refers to is to game two that will be in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Game three if necessary would also be on the road for the Captains.
While the players still have to play the game, Wallace did a heck of a job with his crew tonight. The Captains added INF Joe Wendle and OF Tyler Naquin from Mahoning Valley, both were in the lineup right away and made an impact.
Wallace said there was no concern about affecting the chemistry of the team because “I know what kind of guys we draft, and just talking to Teddy (Kubiak, Manager of the Mahoning Valley Scrappers) of what kind of guys they are. It (chemistry) wasn’t a concern.”
Naquin stepped in and delivered a pair of doubles down each lines, including an opposite field double off a tough left handed pitcher, Jacob Partridge, who allowed just three hits in 5.1 innings of relief and six strikeouts.
In between the doubles, Naquin also worked a six pitch walk, looking like he had a little leadoff hitter in him, despite hitting ninth in the lineup, which in most baseball circles, serves as almost a second leadoff spot.
“It was great to be here. Outstanding”, Naquin said of being called up for the playoff run and getting right into the game his first day. “They told me to go out and just play my game.”
He looked very healthy running the bases and Wallace also noted that he has a very strong arm. He also addressed the back issues that caused him to miss several weeks in Mahoning Valley, saying it was just something they didn’t want to make any worse. He called it some tightness, but seemed to be 100% tonight.
The Captains, despite mostly being playoff newbies, didn’t show any tightness.
Cody Anderson, who is still only throwing three innings per outing, got the call in game one, and said he was a little over anxious out there. He had a couple of things go bad on his watch in the first inning that led to a tough spot early.
Francisco Lindor made a rare throwing error, but it wasn’t just the throw, it was his decision to throw, with leadoff batter, Jake Hager, already well on first. Lindor’s throw wound up near the Captains dugout.
A sacrifice bunt followed, yet no one covered first, so runners were on first and third immediately.
Anderson said he calmed down and got back to doing what he does best. After allowing the run, which came via a groundout, not a hit, he retired the next five in a row and allowed a pair of base runners in the third.
Nick Pasquale, who Wallace said was player of the game, gave a gutty five inning performance, “piggy backing” as the term is defined, when a starter followers another starter, to save both from piling up innings.
After retiring the first four batters he faced, the quiet righty got into some trouble in the fifth, allowing three runs. He managed to work through it and said that “Wally (Wallace) came to me and asked me how I felt, I told him I was a little fatigued, but I could do it (get through the eighth inning).
Pasquale got the win in the box score but one thing that won’t show up there, was a big night from Bryson Myles.
Myles hit a scorching .375 down the stretch of the season and hasn’t let up, earning three walks and a base hit. The first two times he walked, the Captains scored runs in the inning, which is what his game is all about.
“I’ve just been working on getting one pitch to hit and not missing it. I’ve been working on being disciplined all season, sometimes I get away from that, I don’t want to say I’m starting to figure it out, but I feel pretty good out there”
This group of players seems to be clicking at the right time, and added “sparks” to the lineup, as Wallace put it, about Naquin and Wendle.”
Naquin was able to get the his first knock out of the way, taking some of the edge off he said. Wendle didn’t get a hit, but made two outstanding defensive plays at third in the first inning, when the waters got a little choppy. He was solid at third base all night and said while he knew there was a chance he might get the call up to Lake County after a stellar campaign in Mahoning Valley, he was happy to be a part of a team that has “the drive to win”.
“Everyone is pulling for each other. These guys have made me feel right at home and I really appreciate that. I just want to go out there and do the best I can.”
That sounds like a team with all their pieces working as one, as Myles noted that he “likes the lineup, we have speed and a bunch of unselfish guys who put together team at bats”.
You can’t discredit these games and the experience for these guys and you also cannot overlook the attitude these players are taking in a series that allows for the slimmest of margin of error. Some people like to say that there is no roll over effect from minor league playoff games when a player does make it to the bigs.
That feeling is why the Indians have hit the proverbial iceberg. The Captains however have enough talent, cohesiveness and enough selflessness, and look like a team not affiliated with that disaster.
Should the Captains advance here is the possible schedules.
If the Fort Wayne TinCaps (winners, 5-2 on Wednesday) over the Lansing Lugnuts, go on to win that series the Captains would play at home:
Sunday September 9th at 7pm and Monday September 10th at 7pm.
Should Lansing come back to win that series and the Captains advance; Saturday September 8th at 7pm, would be at Classic Park.
Read the complete game story here: Captains take 1-0 lead in playoff series with Hot Rods with 5-4 win