Brandon Knight relieved Jonathan Niese to begin the top of the ninth in a 3-3 game and immediately invited trouble by walking the leadoff hitter, Wilson Betemit. Betemit moved to second on a sacrifice. So with one out, catcher Donny Lucy pulled a soft roller to Bisons thirdbase man Javier Castillo, who whirled and tried to throw to third to hit Knight on the run to nail the lead runner at third. The throw was multiple feet away from the target and ended up down the left-field line, allowing Betemit to score the go-ahead run.
Bisons' manager Ken Oberkfell was beside himself, "I've been in this game 37 years and I've never ever seen that. He's gotta get the out," he said after the game. Oberkfell was distressed by the fact that Castillo's mistake was both mental and physical, "if your thinking that if there's a slow roller, and you're gonna make a play at third, you're really in trouble."
The skipper, whose team has now lost four in a row, is clearly frustrated by this edition of the Bisons, saying of his players, "I'm sick of losing. If they're not, they're in the wrong business."
As lousy as the end was for Bisons fans, Niese was very impressive for the first eight innings. He allowed three runs, two earned on five hits and a walk, while fanning four. Niese, who prides himself on pounding the strike zone, threw strikes with 70 of his 102 pitches. Oberkfell attributed Niese's success on this evening, and over his last four starts to that simple phenomenon, "he's locating his pitches."
Niese attributed his recent success to location, and to his ability to "mix my pitches more." He blended his superior curveball with a four seam fastball that was 87-90, but mostly 88, a few two-seam fastballs, six or seven changeups, and a cutter that he tried to use to righties. Actually, after the game, Niese explained that he used two curveballs, a "get me over for a strike (pitch) and a good one I bury."
The lefthander made one real mistake all evening. With the Bisons up 2-1 in the fourth inning, and a runner aboard via error, Niese faced the Knights' righthanded hitting DH, Michael Restovich. On an 0-1 count, Niese tried to get a cutter in on Restovich's hands, that Restovich yanked down the leftfield line for a two-run homer. "I just left it up. I wanted to jam him," Niese said after the game. Niese's cutter, which was 84 and 85 mph during Tuesday's game, has movement that looks like a short slider, to the point where his manager thought that the pitch, "looked like a breaking ball." A scout in attendance also thought the pitch looked like a slider.
Niese uses the cutter to get in on right-handed hitters hands, but he was also effective jamming hitters from both sides with his more standard traditional four-seam heater. His curveball was quite sharp, and induced nothing but weak contact, or swings and misses.
The young lefty has continued to make adjustments over the course of the last year and one scout in attendance thought he had more than enough stuff to survive in the big leagues. The scout agreed with Oberkfell's assessment that location would be the key for Niese at the next level.
I got out my camera to do some video of Niese and realized I was out of batteries. Ooops!