"I felt like I was able to command my fastball early on and guys played great defense behind me," said Ballard. "They picked me up on a lot of plays and Teagarden called a great game back there."
Ballard's fastball ranged anywhere from 86 to 90 mph on Friday evening, mostly sitting in the 86-88 range. Although he may not throw particularly hard, Ballard was able to keep hitters at bay by putting the ball low in the zone – he induced ten groundouts against just four flyouts – while also working the inside half of the plate.
"I don't want to be a guy that just pitches away, away, away," he said, "because hitters have a tendency to just lean out there. There is no fear going on if you don't pitch inside. Teagarden called a great game back there and we were able to really keep them off-balance."
After working mostly with his fastball in the game's first couple of innings, Ballard began going to his offspeed stuff – an above-average 69-71 mph curveball, a 76-78 mph slider, and a 79-80 mph changeup – more during the second and third times through the lineup. The southpaw says that was his game plan all along.
"As you start to go through the lineup more times, guys start sitting on certain pitches, especially if you have been getting ahead of them with fastballs," replied the 24-year-old. "They might be sitting on them the second or third time through the lineup."
Ballard's plan has been successful early on, as he has surrendered only three runs in his first two starts of the season.
• Through the first four games of the season, left fielder Steve Murphy was just 1-for-13 at the plate. The slow start came on the heels of last season's career-low .319 on-base percentage.
|Murphy hit a long home run. b>|
"The key to the last two games has really been going deep into counts, being able to see a lot of pitches, and see what the pitcher has," said Murphy. "It is all about getting into good hitter's counts so I can set myself up for a good at-bat."
Murphy also came through with arguably the game's biggest hit. With the ‘Riders trailing 1-0 in the bottom of the fourth inning, Cardinals prospect Clayton Mortensen suddenly lost control, hitting two batters and walking another. Murphy stepped up and placed a two-out line-drive single in front of Springfield right fielder Luke Gorsett.
"The first thing is just to protect yourself," said a laughing Murphy when asked about following the hit batsmen. "You know with a guy who is going to throw balls like that you have to wait and get your pitch. I did a good job of not swinging at the first pitch and getting into a hitter's count."
In addition to the clutch single, Murphy hit a monster 400-plus foot home run over the pool in right field.
• Right fielder John Mayberry had Frisco's other home run on Friday, an opposite field shot that landed near the aforementioned pool in right-center field. But Mayberry, who also had a run-saving sliding catch in the sixth inning, would go just 1-for-5 with three strikeouts on the night.
• Corey Ragsdale has been off to a slow start at the plate, but he went 1-for-3 with a double and a pair of RBIs on Friday. Originally drafted as a shortstop, Ragsdale figures to spend time at short, second, and third with Frisco this season. Defense has never been a problem for the former second round pick, but he has just a career .206 batting average through seven professional seasons.
Ragsdale is also known for his terrific arm, leading the Mets to turn him into a pitcher midway through the 2007 season. The Arkansas native appeared in three games with the GCL Mets, giving up one hit in four innings. The Rangers signed Ragsdale shortly after last season and put him back in the field.
• Max Ramirez is another RoughRiders hitter off to a slow start, but he reached base three times on a single and two walks. The catcher was clearly pleased with his performance after the game.
|Ramirez reached base three times. b>|
• Centerfielder Craig Gentry did his job as the leadoff hitter, going 2-for-4 with a walk and his third stolen base of the year. Gentry has hit safely in all seven games this season.
• Closer Warner Madrigal was sharp in the ninth, needing just 14 pitches to retire the side in order. Madrigal threw his fastball between 90-93 mph, tossing in a couple of above-average sliders for good measure. The former Angels prospect recorded a pair of strikeouts – one swinging and one looking – on 92 and 91 mph fastballs, respectively.
• Injury Report: Chris Davis was a late scratch on Friday after hurting his arm in a collision at first base on Friday. Davis is experiencing some soreness in his arm and is listed as day-to-day. Third baseman Adam Fox was forced to leave the game after being hit on the elbow with a pitch. Fox stayed in the game to run the bases, but was taken out before the top half of the fifth. Right-hander Jake Dittler came off the disabled list and allowed two runs in one inning of work.
Jason Cole and Todd Kaufmann contributed to this report.
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