Results from the Arizona Fall League title game played Saturday, November 21st.
The 24th Arizona Fall League Championship Game was held at Scottsdale Stadium on Saturday afternoon. With the league’s best record, the West Division champion Surprise Saguaros (19-11) were named the home team, hosting the East Division’s best, the Scottsdale Scorpions (18-12).
Something had to give, with Scottsdale featuring the league’s best pitching (3.25 ERA) and Surprise having the most proficient offense (5.81 runs per game). The former prevailed, with the Scorpions claiming a 6-4 victory.
With two out in the third of the then-scoreless contest, Diaz hit a hard chopper down the third base line that carried down into the left field corner for a double. He was stranded at second. With that, the eventual game-winning pitcher, Taylor Rogers (MIN), finished his day with three scoreless frames on two hits and two strikeouts.
Though it is great for defensive versatility for players to get experiences at new positions, the downside showed in the fourth - both for Wisdom playing first and Diaz, at Wisdom’s normal spot at third - as they made consecutive errors to open the inning.
Looking into the sun, first baseman Wisdom dropped a high pop fly a few feet in front of the mound. The next batter hit a chopper that bounced high off the edge of the infield grass at third. Diaz leapt and pulled the ball down, but threw high to second.
With two on and one out, the third Cardinals prospect to appear in the game, Luke Weaver, was called upon to pitch. He promptly yielded an RBI double down into the right field corner. His second inherited runner scored on a single to center, making the score 2-0 Scottsdale.
The troubles continued on a sacrifice fly when the errant throw home from left got away from the catcher for the third Scorpions run, the first charged to Weaver. The pitcher was backing up the play, but his throw to second was high and wide. That ended the scoring in the fourth, however.
For the top of the fifth, Weaver did not return, as Scottsdale extended the lead to 4-0 on a single and RBI triple.
Surprise got on the board in the fourth as Kansas City’s Bubba Starling scored on a double-play grounder. Diaz then struck out, stranding a runner on third to end the threat.
The fourth Cardinal on the day to appear was lefty reliever Dean Kiekhefer, who took over on the mound in the sixth. A strikeout in between two groundouts defined his efficient 1-2-3, 12-pitch inning.
Kiekhefer remained in the game for what was a more eventful, but still 1-2-3, seventh. After a strikeout, consecutive balls were blasted to left center and right center field, respectively. Each required diving catches by the outfielders, Tyler Austin (NYY) and Starling, to avoid damage.
Surprise pulled to within 4-3 in the seventh on an RBI single by Dustin Fowler (NYY) and a sacrifice fly by Ramon Torres (KC). With two on and one out, Diaz flied out to center and Juriskson Profar (TEX) also failed to get the tying run home.
In the top of the eighth, Scottsdale took the two runs right back on a ringing double into the left field corner by Adam Brett Walker II (MIN). That extended their lead to 6-3.
Wisdom fanned swinging on an off-speed pitch with a runner on base in the home eighth.
Fowler made it a bit more interesting with a leadoff home run to left in the ninth, bringing Surprise to within 6-4. Diaz ended the game, flying out in foul territory down the line past third base.
Diaz finished his day with a double in five at-bats with a strikeout. Wisdom wore the 0-for-4 collar with two strikeouts. Each committed an error.
Though Weaver was charged with just one run in his 2/3 of an inning, he also allowed both of his inherited runners to score. That hung the loss on Surprise starter Sam Wolff (TEX), whom he relieved.
Kiekhefer had a perfect line with two strikeouts in two innings, but needed two defensive gems in the outfield to back him up.
Recognition for Weaver
Weaver was one of two starting pitchers named to MLBPipeline.com’s 12-man All-AFL Team, announced Saturday. Diaz was a runner up despite better AFL stats across the board compared to the second base selection, Chad Pinder (OAK).
Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation: Cardinals AFL Prospect Interview: Dean Kiekhefer
Coming at The Cardinal Nation: More interviews with St. Louis Cardinals prospects from the AFL.
© 2015 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com and scout.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.