Mesa Solar Sox Overall Record through two weeks: 1-9
Monday, October 19 – Home vs Scottsdale; Result: Scottsdale 10, Mesa 6
Jaycob Brugman, CF (2 for 4 – 2H, K)
Chad Pinder, 2B (2 for 5 – 2H, 2R, BB, K)
Renato Nunez, 3B (3 for 5 – 3HR, 3R, 5RBIs, K)
Also of note:
Daniel Robertson, SS 1 for 4 – H, BB
NOTES: The biggest news of this game was Renato’s three home runs! He became the second A's prospect to post a multi-homer game for Mesa this season (Pinder had a two-homer game on Opening Day).
Tuesday, October 20 – Night game at Scottsdale; Result: Mesa 5, Scottsdale 4
Renato Nunez, DH (1 for 5 – R, H, GW RBI, BB, 2Ks, LOB)
Jaycob Brugman, CF (1 for 4 – H, BB, LOB)
NOTES: First – and only – win of the season thus far. Rained much of the day but not at Scottsdale Stadium. Was a show-and-go day. During my pregame chat with pitching coach Steve Connelly (aka “Convo with Conns”) I showed him I was doing my part to help the team get its first win of the season, by wearing a camoflauge top –similar to the newly themed workout attire seen around the Lew Wolff Training Center this fall. He said that if Mesa defeated Scottsdale, then, of course, in keeping with supersti… I mean routines, I would have to wear the same shirt again tomorrow.
During the game, I learned first-hand that umpires are trained, evaluated, and held to the highest of standards in order to be “…the best in the world.” That quote is from 18 year Umpire Supervisor Cris Jones who, along with Evaluator Ed Rapuano (and Ed’s wife) sat next to me for several innings evaluating the 4-man crew on the field. Their meticulous scrutiny of every call (and timing), gesture, and field position made me feel so uncomfortable, at one point I compared it to being a kid at a friends’ house, while their parents scold them in front of the guests. I was half-kidding
I can be a soft touch at times like this. Jones understood and then explained the process of producing the best umpires in the world. Let me tell you, the commitment is real and is executed at the highest level. Part of that process includes what they did earlier that day; as Jones shared, they “ended the dreams of 15 men.” Oh. Ugh. Never a good day. Just like when a team releases players, the decision-makers and those breaking the news, dread doing it. But, that’s life in professional sports.
No coddling of the arbiters allowed. Great insight.
Shortly after the trio moved outside to the stands, Renato Nuñez drove in the game winning RBI in the top of the 9th and thanks to Steve Connelly, I had half of Wednesday’s outfit already selected.
Wednesday, October 21 – Day Game at Peoria ; Result Peoria 5, Mesa 3
Jaycob Brugman, CF (0 for 4)
Chad Pinder, 2B (1 for 4, R)
Renato Nuñez, 3B (0 for 4)
Sean Manaea, LHP (4IP, 5H, 3ER, BB, 4K)
Aaron Kurcz, RHP (1IP, 1K)
Kris Hall, RHP (1IP, 1K)
Brendan McCurry, RHP (1IP, 1K)
Notes: It was an all-Oakland game in Peoria! Jaycob Brugman, Chad Pinder, and Renato Nuñez in the lineup; all four pitchers took the mound starting with Sean Manaea. The lefty, who is rooming with three of his former Royals teammates (on the Surprise Saguaros) this fall, had a rough third inning, but limited the damage to three runs. This kid is impressive. Other adjectives shared in the press box about Manaea: “legit” and “total class act.”
One thing to keep in mind about pitchers in the AFL: if they have been healthy all year, October is the 9th consecutive month of action. A little fatigue should be expected. Scouts and front office personnel know this; interested fans should, as well. Manaea was follwed by Aaron Kurcz, Kris Hall, and Brendan McCurry, each of whom struck out a batter during a stellar one inning; no walks, hits, or runs allowed. Outstanding day for the three relievers.
Most of the day’s offense for Mesa was provided by Cubs’ DH Willson Contreras (two doubles and a home run.) Then, in the bottom of the 9th, Mariners’ Tyler O’Neill (who was the California League’s 2015 version of Matt Olson) walked it off with a two-run home run.
Thursday, October 22 – Home Game vs Peoria; Result: Peoria 5, Mesa 3
Renato Nuñez, DH (1 for 4)
Others of note:
Daniel Robertson, 2B (1 for 4, R)
Notes: Crazy plays in this game including one made by Cubs catcher Willson Contreras: while attempting to stop a runner stealing third, throws the baseball into the right handed batter, D.J. Peterson. There was a delay while the umpires researched to find the correct ruling on the play (E2), and the runner was not awarded first base.
Chad Pinder is away from the team due to a family matter and is expected to return next week. Daniel Robertson played second base for only the ninth time in his professional career. In 2014, he played nine games at second base as a member of the Stockton Ports.
Marlins RHP – and a Sun Devil for life – Trevor Williams was traded to the Pirates and is now a member of the Glendale Desert Dogs.
Friday, October 23 – First Night Home Game vs Salt River; Result: Salt River 5, Mesa 1
Jaycob Brugman, CF (1 for 4)
Kris Hall, RHP (1IP, 2 Ks)
Daniel Robertson, 2B 0 for 4
Salt River’s Chris Bostick, 2B
Notes: First night game of the season at Mesa. Always a bit of a challenge with the lights and shadows. Chris Bostick, Oakland’s 44th round pick in 2011, was traded to Texas with Michael Choice in December 2013 for Craig Gentry and Josh Lindblom. Bostick was then traded to Washington a year later as part of the Ross Detwiler trade. The speedy second baseman spent the season with Double-A Harrisburg Senators. Always so good to see one of our favorites doing so well; regardless of what team he’s on. Kris Hall took the mound in the seventh inning and was brilliant! He struck out two of the three batters he faced, and multiple sources reported his fastball touched 98.
Saturday, October 24 – Day Game at Salt River ; Result: Salt River 6, Mesa 5
Renato Nuñez, 3B (2 for 4 - 2H, R, 2B, RBI, BB)
Aaron Kurcz, RHP (1IP, BB, 2Ks)
Brendan McCurry, RHP ( 0.1IP – 3H, 2 ER, K, BS)
Daniel Robertson, 2B (2 for 4, R)
Salt River’s Chris Bostick, 2B (1 for 4, H, R, 2Ks)
Salt River's Dakota Bacus, RHP (0.2IP, H, K)
NOTES: Beautiful morning, weather wise, at least. Salt River Fields was hosting some festival on the outlying parts of the property, again. Anyone checking the SRF website would know that and be able to plan accordingly. However, as I arrived at 10:00am, the parking lot was almost full, and music was coming from the inside the stadium.
Though the information was not communicated anywhere to assist anyone attending the game, the stadium was hosting a public school band competition of some sort. The home team did not come out for batting practice or infield, but once Mesa arrived, they took the field for both. School children and their chaperones stayed for the game; as did the group from MLB’s Scout School for the Public. Attendance numbers for the game total 2,300, which is five times more than the typical game attendance. Misleading number though, certainly not tickets sold, but donated.
Talking to pitching coach Steve Connelly before the game, he told me that Aaron Kurcz and Brendan McCurry would each pitch an inning of relief. He also told me of a connection between him and Aaron Kurcz: in the off-season, the Vegas-native Kurcz surfs in southern California with a group of locals; one of whom is Steve Connelly’s younger brother. Neither knew the connection until recently.
Kurcz struck out two and walked 1 while facing 4 batters in the 7th inning. Once again, another strong outing for the righty. McCurry is as solid as they come. In his own words, he “throws a bunch of stuff over the plate” and dares the batters to hit them. Usually, they don’t or can’t hit him. Today, they did. And, that’s all we’ll say about that game.
The bats came to life early in the game. Though they didn’t score until the 3rd inning, the momentum was flowing in the right direction. Great diving plays by Renato Nuñez, as well, whose defense continually improves.
Top of the 6th inning brought Dakota Bacus to the mound. Bacus was drafted by Oakland in the 9th round of 2012 draft out of Indiana State, and traded to the Nationals in 2013 for Kurt Suzuki. For two outs, it was fun to see Bacus on the mound and Bostick at 2nd base. I don’t know why Bacus was replaced; he gave up a hit, and struck out a batter.