The Lakewood BlueClaws began the season losing nine straight games. The skid is the longest losing streak in team history. Six of their first seven loses came in one run games, but now the team is starting to turn the corner.
On April 15th, the ‘Claws guaranteed fans a win at home and they came through. In 13 innings, Lakewood won their first game 8-7 over the Delmarva Shorebirds as Sean Gamble singled to drive home Julian Williams in the bottom of the 13th.
After a couple days off, the ‘Claws began a four-game series at home against the 7-4 hot-hitting Greensboro Grasshoppers.
On Tuesday, Kyle Kendrick was dominant. He won his first game of the season, pitching eight innings while giving up only two hits, one walk, and striking out 12. Lefty Mike Zagurski pitched a scoreless ninth, striking out two. The BlueClaws shutout the Grasshoppers 7-0.
On Wednesday, Matt Maloney tried topping Kendrick's 12-K performance. He gave up one hit, one walk, and struck out six in six innings of work to improve to 1-2 on the year. Brett Harker, Ron Hill, and Pat Overholt each pitched one inning, allowing only two baserunners. The BlueClaws once again, shutout the Grasshoppers 6-0.
On Thursday, it was Carlos Carasco's turn. In six innings, the 19-year-old gave up four hits, one walk, one earned run, and struck out five batters. Carasco had a no decision, as the win went to Andy Barb, who pitched two innings, allowing five baserunners. Brett Harker pitched a perfect ninth for his first save of the season. The BlueClaws beat the Grasshoppers 6-3.
On Friday, Josh Outman finished off Greensboro. Through six innings, he gave up two hits, one walk, and struck out six batters to record the win. Scott Mitchinson came on in relief for two innings, striking out five batters. Pat Overholt closed out the game in the ninth for a save as the BlueClaws shutout the Grasshoppers for the third time, 3-0.
"It was nice," said skipper Dave Huppert. "The pitching was outstanding. All of our pitchers changed speeds, located the ball very well, elevated the ball when they wanted to, and that was a big plus. Greensboro has some pretty good hitters, and they had a tough series so it was a great outing for the pitching staff."
Combined, the ‘Claws gave up 16 hits, six walks, and struck out 39 batters in 36 innings. Pretty clutch considering Phillies General Manager Pat Gillick, Assistant General Manager Mike Arbuckle, and Minor League Operations Director Steve Noworyta all came to Lakewood during the home stand and Pitching Coordinator Gorman Heimueller and Infield Coordinator Dave Owen were there for all four games.
The Grasshoppers came to Lakewood 7-4, and leave 7-8 while the BlueClaws improve to 5-9.
Offensively, the ‘Claws outscored Greensboro 22-3. During the nine game skid, they were outscored 46-20 and hit only .200 (12 RBI, 50 opportunities) with runners in scoring position.
"I think they are getting their feet on the ground. A lot of kids haven't been on this level before. They had to get going, get a feel for the league. We got off to a rough start. We lost six one-run ball games. The hitting will come around. We knew we had a pretty good ball club coming in. We just have to get back to .500, then work to get back into the race," said Huppert.
John Castellano has been swinging a hot bat for the club. He hit .500 for the series. Last season, Castellano split time between Double-A Reading and Triple-A Scranton before being released by the Phillies. He was then picked up by the Cincinnati Reds and released, and is now back with the Phillies organization.
Greg Golson continues to struggle. Golson went 3-for-15 in the series, with one home run, one run batted in, three runs scored, and one walk. The former first round pick is beginning his second season with Lakewood and is batting .130 in 12 games, splitting his time between hitting leadoff and sixth in the lineup.