Knott Smelling the Roses In May

Clay Hensley continues to impress; Jon Knott continues to destroy; Natanael Mateo continues to fool hitters; Corey Smith continues to K; Arturo Lopez's great starts continue to get wasted; Fernando Valenzuela continues to pursue .500 in May; Luke Steidlmayer continues to embarrass Midwest League hitters; Matt Lauderdale continues to be perfect at the plate.

Portland lost 5-3

Clay Hensley made his fifth straight 'Quality Start' for Portland Wednesday, throwing seven innings of one run ball, but Brad Baker gave up a three run homer in the ninth on the way to his second four-run ninth inning in six days.  Hensley was dominating, giving up only five hits and not walking a batter on the day, but his record with Portland remains 0-1 due to a combination of bullpen miscues and a lack of run support.  Hensley has gone at least six innings in each of his five starts with Portland and as a starter his ERA sits at a cozy 1.97.

Baker took the loss, dropping his record to 1-3 on the year.  For Baker this season it has either been all or nothing.  He has given up earned runs in five of his 21 outings, but in four of those five games he's given up three runs or more.

Outfielder Ben Johnson has apparently found his power stroke as things have gotten warmer.  Johnson was 1-3 Wednesday notching his fifth homer of the season with a solo shot in the eighth.  Johnson hit just .222 in April with one home run and eight RBI.  In May his average is up to .256, he's hit four homers, and driven in 12.

But if you really want to see a hot hitter look no further than Jon Knott.  The first baseman hit his eighth homer of the year, also a solo shot, and is hitting a full 100 points higher in May than he was in April.  It was the fifth straight game where Knott had scored a run.

Mobile won 2-0

Since winning his first start of the season Brian Whitaker had gone 0-5 in his next eight starts, despite giving up more than four runs only once.  Wednesday he left no room for doubt, pitching seven scoreless innings and combining with Natanael Mateo and Dale Thayer for the shutout.  Whitaker managed to pitch around five walks by giving up only four hits and inducing two double plays on the day.  Ironically it was the second time this season Whitaker has walked five, and those two games account for both of his wins.

Mateo has been flat out brilliant in his last 11 appearances.  He's pitched 12 innings during that time, given up zero runs, struck out 13 and walked only two.

Shortstop Ronnie Merrill came into Wednesday nursing a 1-16 slump, but broke out by going 2-5 with a home run and two runs scored.  It was Merrill's first home run since May 10th when he cracked two in the same game.

Third baseman Corey Smith was 0-2 with two walks and strikeout, extending his streak to eight straight games with a K.

Just one day after having his 10 game hit streak stopped as a pinch hitter, first baseman Greg Sain started a new streak, going 1-4.

Lake Elsinore lost 5-3

Arturo Lopez has strung together three very impressive starts, but has only a 1-0 record to show for it as the Storm wasted six innings of one run ball from the lefty on Wednesday.  In the fourth after Lopez retired the lead off hitter, then hit a batter, gave up a single, walked a batter, and then hit another batter to force in the only run he would allow.

Howard Pence came on to relieve Lopez and had his scoreless appearances streak broken after he allowed three hits, two walks and four runs (three earned) in just one-third of an inning.

Fernando Valenzuela continued his hot hitting with a 3-3, one walk, one run scored day.  Since April 14th Valenzuela has gone 19-41 with 10 runs scored, but he hasn't hit a home run since April 24th.

Meanwhile Drew Macias and Brett Bonvechio both homered, it was Macias' second of the year, Bonvechio's fifth and third in five games.

Left fielder Brian Burgamy extended his hitting streak to eight games with a lead off single in the fourth inning. 

Fort Wayne won 8-3

Luke Steidlmayer made his third start for the Wizards and gave up only one earned run in 5.2 innings pitched, striking out six, dropping his ERA to 1.53 on the season (fourth best in the Midwest League) and running his record to 5-1.  Opponents are hitting just .180 off Steidlmayer this season.

The Midwest League hitters continue to struggle against Ricky Steik.  The closer struck out two of the three batters he faced in a perfect ninth inning.  He hasn't been scored on since April 17th, or 15 appearances.

Chris Kolkhorst has had a solid season, but Wednesday he went 3-4 with two runs scored, giving him his first three hit game of the season.  He has six three hit games last season between Peoria, Eugene, and Fort Wayne.

Catcher Matt Lauderdale's 3-3, two RBI day ran his hitting streak to four games, during which he's gone 8-11 with five walks.

Shortstop Sean Kazmar collected his first three hit day of the season, going 3-5 with a double.  The Wizards had 14 hits as a team.


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