Opening weekend 2011 in the Midwest League lived up to the expectations that were set back in September when Quad Cities' season ended. The River Bandits split the four-game series with the Beloit Snappers (Twins). Even with the split, the team looked very strong. Thursday's game was postponed because of a cold, driving rain so Saturday became a doubleheader of seven innings each.
April 8 (QC 7, Beloit 4)
Trevor Rosenthal was tabbed as the opening night starter. He struck out 11 in four innings of work but he also gave up two earned runs. He has good speed on his fast ball and nice movement on his curve. It's unfortunate that he starts the season with an ERA of 4.50 but that will work down quickly. Andrew Moss stepped in for mid-relief in the opener. He threw three innings and didn't give up anything to earn the win. He's stockier than other pitchers on the team—he looks as much like a football player as a baseball pro. Justin Wright was credited with the save.
Oscar Tavares set the pace for the batters. He went 3 for 4 with three RBI and an early BA of .750. It's hard to remember that he's only 18 years old. His injury on Sunday (see below) will certainly have an impact on the rest of the season. Jonathan Rodriguez and Yunior Castillo each added two hits. J-Rod, as he is already known to fans, is going to be a very positive addition to the roster.
April 9 Game 1 (QC 8, Beloit 1)
Jordan Swagerty showed fans what a pro pitcher really looks like in his Midwest League debut in the first game of the Saturday double header. He pitched six innings, struck out five and allowed four hits but no earned runs. The stadium pitch radar wasn't working yet this week but his fastball looked very good. On the shortened inning count for the double header, Keith Butler only got to pitch one inning but looked good for his first outing.
Nick Longmire was the batting star of the Saturday opener with three hits. Tavares got 2 more but lowered his BA to "only" .625. Oscar also got the first Bandits' home run in the first game Saturday.
Game 2 (QC 3, Beloit 7)
Seth Blair had his "hometown" opener in front of his family and friends since his hometown is only 40 miles from Davenport. His curve ball didn't have a LOT of movement on it but he had good control of the slight bend in his pitch. He threw four innings in another short game and allowed two runs (one earned) on four hits. Chris Corrigan came in from the bullpen for 2 innings of work to allow only one run. Last year's closer of the year in Johnson City, Hector Corpas, had everyone wondering what happened to him as he allows four earned runs on 3 hits and two walks in only one inning. His ERA has nowhere to go but down for the rest of the season.
Kyle Conley started to show what fans hoped to see last year when he started in Davenport. He went two for three with a walk in the seven inning game. Juan Castillo added two more hits and an RBI. Packy Elkins got two very nice pokes to center field, one resulting in a sac fly. I expect to see more and more from him as the season progresses.
April 10 (QC 3, Beloit 5)
On a day that felt like summer for the first time in a very long off-season, the Bandits lacked the fire they needed to win. Anthony Ferrara was disappointed with his own performance. He gave up six hits and two earned runs with only one K in the afternoon game. In a mental collapse that can't be explained, Angel DeJesus overthrew second base on an attempted pick off, and then watched as Nick Longmire added another error on the same play when he threw the ball into the dugout. Boone Whiting had a no-decision in 1 2/3 innings of work.
The batting highlight of the afternoon came when Oscar Taveras and Cody Stanley hit homers on consecutive pitches off Beloit pitcher Adrian Salcedo and Kyle Conley added another solo bomb in the eighth inning. Sadly, late in the game Tavares hoofed out a short hit to the third baseman to get the single but he also injured his hamstring and will be out of action for several weeks.
April 11 (QC 8, Kane County 3) at KC.
Playing for the second afternoon in a row, the Bandits got back into winning form on Monday. Kevin Siegrist got the start and the win for the matinee against the Kane County Cougars (Royals). He made a quality start of six innings, allowing only one earned run on two Ks. Andrew Moss became the first pitcher to make his second appearance of the season with two innings of one ER and 2 walks. Keith Butler walked two in the ninth but kept the Cougars from scoring.
Jonathan Rodriguez, Cody Stanley, and Greg Garcia each got two hits in the winning effort. The rest of this series will be played at noon each day. Zack Russell will be the sixth starter before they start back at the top of the rotation. The team returns home on Friday night as they face the Oakland A's new affiliate, the Burlington Bees.
After the Sunday game, I had the chance to talk to Tommy Watkins, hitting coach for the Snappers. I asked him what accounted for the change in his team's performance in the middle of the opening series. He said that after game one on Saturday, the team talked in the clubhouse about having fun. They came out to PLAY baseball in game two and suddenly started winning. I hope that the Bandits remember to have fun this year!
I'll only mention it this week but my signature on my column this summer will be to honor a great Cardinals fan that lost his life to cancer about five weeks ago. Those of us who were blessed to know Greg Wallace and those of us who knew him as AutoBodyCAD will miss him but we will feel his ongoing presence in our lives, especially when we're at a ball game. We can't really say goodbye so I'll close with SYSG - See You Soon, Greg.
Bonus: Opening series images are courtesy of Names Around Town Photography.
|Yunier Castillo (back) and Jonathan Rodriguez|
|Stanley and manager/3B coach Johnny Rodriguez|
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