Hot damn. This was about as good as it gets in A-ball. Easter Sunday was picture-pefect: 77 degrees and sun-drenched in Savannah with a pair of big arms on the hill, RHP Kyle Crick for the GreenJackets and RHP Domingo Tapia for the Gnats.
Sunday, I got my first look at Tapia in game action. He's got a chance to be really, really good. At 6'4" he's about the ideal size for a pitcher with long limbs and easy movements. He spent the first two innings mowing down GreenJackets sitting 94-96 mph on the stadium gun. The ball just explodes out of his hand. At times, he showed some arm-side run on his heater.
In the first inning, after a pair of fastballs, he got a called third strike on a slider on which the poor batter had no chance. He lost his delivery a little bit in the third when he was getting under the ball a little, and started missing up. In fact, he fought that battle with his own mechanics over his final three innings. He sat 94-96 for the first four innings, and 92-94 in the fifth. He showed a slider and change-up. Both will need work, but have promise.
His line: 5 IP, 4 H, 3 R 3 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 2 HBP - 80 pitches and one impressed broadcaster. Through four innings, the only two hits he'd given up had both stayed on the infield. Perhaps tiring in the fifth, the 'Jackets picked up two runs on a pair of doubles in their best contact of the day.
I really like what the Mets have done with their Savannah rotation who broke camp with pitch counts of 80-85. The pitch count gives their hurlers a chance to work through the fifth, go through a lineup two and a half times, and work in and out of trouble.
For the Giants' affiliate, Crick was sitting 93 (on the stadium gun) early, but had very little idea where it was going. He walked two batters in the first and hit a batter. After walking a batter in the second, he drilled Gnats' 2B Brandon Brown in the temple with an errant fastball. There was no intent, but Brown was removed from the game. Crick didn't throw any off speed pitch much early and when he did later in his outing, he was up with a slurvy slider. By the end of his 3.2 innings and 66 pitches, the stadium gun had him down to 91.
A scout told me the other day that the stadium gun matched his own about half the time, and about a quarter of the time was a mile or so light, so I feel much more comfortable referencing it now as fairly reliable. The other quarter or so, it gives a nonsensical reading - like 52 - when it doesn't pick up a pitch well.
His line: 1-4, HR, 3 RBI... and no errors.
The big third baseman lifted a three-run homer for the second straight day. This one was a towering fly ball to left. I didn't think he'd got all of it at contact, and then it just kept going and going. Through four games his line: .250/.333/.688. The 20-year old has four hits: a single, a double and two three-run homers.
The Gnats lost the game because the GreenJackets scored five runs against the combination of relievers Carlos Vazquez and Estarlin Morel in the seventh and eighth innings. In terms of game action, it was an odd day - the #8 and #9 hitters in the Augusta batting order reached safely in all eight of their plate appearances going a combined 3-for-3 with two doubles and a triple, three walks, two HBP, two RBI and seven runs scored.