Surprise fell to 1-2 in the fall season after dropping a 6-5 contest at home on Thursday afternoon to the Mesa Solar Sox. Tigers prospect Nick Castellanos' solo home run in the top of the ninth inning provided the final edge.
The Saguaros can't blame starting pitcher Seth Blair. The Cardinals farmhand left the game after three innings with a 5-1 lead. However, five Mesa relievers combined to allow only two hits and no runs over the last six innings as their club inched back.
Blair, who missed much of the season after surgery on the middle finger of his pitching hand at the end of spring training, is working his way into form on familiar turf. The 23-year-old right-hander starred at nearby Arizona State, where he was the 2010 Pac-10 Conference Pitcher of the Year and a first team All-American according to Baseball America and the ABCA.
Our Perry Van Hook was at Surprise on Thursday and noted that Blair appeared to be "a little too amped at the start." To open the game, he walked the leadoff batter, then made a wild pickoff attempt that moved the runner up to second. After a ground out, the unearned run scored on a Blair wild pitch. He then proceeded to strike out the final two batters.
After a quiet second, Blair issued a one-out walk in the third to Rafael Ynoa (LAD). Ynoa stole second and moved to third on a single. Blair's day ended when Ynoa was erased trying to come home when Joc Pederson (LAD) struck out swinging on an apparent failed squeeze for the inning-ending double play.
Van Hook was impressed by Blair, noting "he has very good stuff," specifically "a very good sinking fastball as well as a good curve and good cutter." He was consistently at 93 on the guns, touching 95 once or twice.
Blair was not particularly efficient, however, requiring 47 pitches to get through three innings, of which 27 were strikes. He allowed just one hit, two walks, the unearned run and fanned five in an outing that has to be considered encouraging for the oft-injured hurler.
The Cardinals' AFL priority player, Kolten Wong, was back in the lineup batting third. He went 2-for-5 with a two-out RBI. The second baseman also fanned once and stranded four runners.
His Springfield teammate, Mike O'Neill, led off and had his first action in the field, playing in left. The left-handed hitter did what he continues to do best – get on base. In five plate appearances, the 24-year-old singled twice, walked twice and stole a base. His teammates brought him home just once, however, as the Saguaros went 3-for-14 with runners in scoring position and stranded 12.
Friday's game: at Mesa, 12:35 pm MT (2:35 pm CT).
Brian Walton can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Follow Brian on Twitter.
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