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May 30 - June 5 Detroit Tigers Minor League Recap: Quite a Matt Hall

Summer is quickly approaching, and though it seems as though the minor-league season just started, we’re now only a few weeks away from all-star games and a full complement of short-season action. Last week in the minors we saw another league begin its season, a notable promotion in Erie, two position players outpitch the starter in one game in Lakeland, the end of a ten-game winning streak in West Michigan, and absurd ninth-inning antics in Toledo.

Detroit Tigers Minor League Week in Review: 5/30 - 6/05

Toledo Mud Hens
26-29, 4th in the West Division

Toledo has had its share of wild games and strange finishes this season, but it will be hard for them to top the late-inning oddities we witnessed last week. The Mud Hens went 4-3, beginning the week with a 3-2 walk-off loss in Louisville, and ending the week with a 4-3 walk-off win against the Indianapolis Indians, but the truly wild stuff happened in between. Thursday night’s series finale against the Louisville Bats was a classic pitcher’s duel, with Keyvius Sampson (7IP, 2H, 12K) and Matt Crouse (7 1/3IP, 4H, 5K) blanking their opponents late into the game. The Bats were one out away from heading into the bottom of the 9th with the score tied at zero, and then all hell broke loose. The next 12 Toledo batters reached base safely, resulting in an 11-run inning and a Mud Hens victory. Unbelievably, the game the next night may have been even wilder, with Toledo trailing the visiting Indians 10-2 heading into the bottom of the 7th. The Hens scratched out a run in the 7th, three more in the 8th, and then with two outs in the 9th, Jordany Valdespin, who had come in as a defensive replacement two innings earlier, hit a game-tying grand slam. Indianapolis went back ahead by one run in the 11th inning, but in the bottom of the inning Valdespin came through again with the bases loaded, scoring Wynton Bernard on a sacrifice fly. Indianapolis put the game away by erupting for five runs in the top of the 13th inning to win 16-11, but Valdespin figured into the action yet again -- this time on the mound. The veteran utility man, pitching for the first time in his ten-year career, recorded the final two outs for Toledo, but not before giving up two hits and committing a balk that led to the ejection of Mud Hens manager Lloyd McClendon.

    • Thursday’s wild 9th inning proceeded as follows: ground out, strikeout, single, walk, single, walk, walk, grand slam, walk, single, reached on error, single, 3-run homer, single, ground out.

    • Steven Moya had another spectacular week at the plate, going 11-for-30 with two homers, and 7 RBI. The big man is posting the finest stats of his career, and he may surpass the impressive numbers he accumulated in Erie during his 2014 MVP season.

    • Catcher John Hicks has provided a huge boost to Toledo since joining the club on May 19th. Last week he went 7-for-14 with two home runs and nine RBI, he threw out one of the two runners who tried to steal against him, and he picked off another runner at second base.

Erie SeaWolves
22-35, 5th in the Western Division

The SeaWolves began the week with a 1-0 loss, and ended the week with a 1-0 loss, with very little going right in between. Erie went 2-6 on the week, largely due to an anemic offense that scored just 18 runs, and they now sit 16 games out of first place. The team’s two wins went to relievers Joe Jimenez and Joe Mantiply, though Anthony Fernandez (6IP, 1ER, 6K) and Josh Turley (7IP, 1ER, 6K) both took hard-luck losses despite pitching well. The offensive numbers were unspectacular, but JaCoby Jones (7-for-28, 3 2B, 4 RBI) and Dean Green (6-for-25, HR, 5 RBI) accounted for half of the team’s runs, and Connor Harrell (7-for-16, HR) and Harold Castro (7-for-19) hit well. Catcher Grayson Greiner made his AA debut last week, appearing in three games. He went just 1-for-7 in limited action, but he did throw out two of the five runners who tried to steal against him.

    • Harrell was hit in the face in his first at-bat on May 29th, but returned to action on June 2nd and promptly went 2-for-3 with a double, a HR, and a walk. The athletic outfielder is posting the best numbers of his career, with an .825 OPS and a .172 ISO.

    • Jimenez recorded a win and a save last week, and he struck out four of the six batters he faced. The powerful reliever hasn’t surrendered a run in 20 1/3IP this year, and his regular-season scoreless streak is up to 25 1/3IP.

    • Green was one of the hottest hitters in the Eastern League in April, hitting five homers and producing a .940 OPS. He also hit five home runs in May, but his batting average dropped to .235 and his OPS fell to .674. Things seem to be back on track though, as his OPS is back up to .943 through the first six June contests.

Lakeland Flying Tigers
28-28, 3rd in the North Division

Lakeland had a rough week, dropping five of six games, getting outscored 47-27, and falling back to the .500 mark, though they did manage to stay in third place. Pitching was an issue all week, with the starters posting a robust 7.13 ERA, and the bullpen barely outdoing them with a 6.30 ERA. Endrys Briceno (4IP, 1ER, 5K) did a solid job as the starter in the team’s one win last week, but Calvin Drummond took home the win with 2 2/3 scoreless innings. Jairo Labourt posted the nightmare line of the week, giving up no hits but walking six and surrendering six runs in just 1 2/3 innings in Friday night’s loss -- a game that eventually saw position players Ben Verlander and Brett Pirtle both pitch one scoreless inning. The team’s offense was solid for most of the week, led once again by Christin Stewart (9-for-19, 9BB, HR), but also with strong contributions from Mike Gerber (10-for-26), Joey Pankake (8-for-23, 2HR), Kade Scivicque (8-for-28), and Wade Hinkle (6-for-18, 5 RBI).

    • Since seeing his batting average dip to .204 on May 22nd, Gerber has gone 20-for-54 to raise his average 40 points. The 24-year-old oufielder has recorded two hits in eight of his last thirteen contests, but he has only walked once in that time, and he still leads the Florida State League with 74 strikeouts in 55 games.

    • Briceno is among the FSL leaders in a number of unfortunate categories. His 6.80 ERA is third worst among qualified starters, while his 1.77 WHIP is the worst in the league, and his eight hit batters also tops the circuit. And yet, he’s one of only twelve pitchers in the league, and the only pitcher on Lakeland’s staff, with a complete game to his credit this season.

    • The FSL All-Star teams were named, and the Flying Tigers are well represented. Pankake, Scivicque, and Stewart will join starters Tyler Alexander and A.J. Ladwig, and reliever Adam Ravenelle for the festivities in Ft. Myers on June 18th.

West Michigan Whitecaps
32-22 2nd in the Eastern Division

The Whitecaps came into the week on fire, running their winning streak up to ten games and taking over first place with a win at South Bend on Friday night. But the Cubs fought back by taking the final three games of the weekend, forcing West Michigan to settle for a 5-3 week, and leaving them a game behind in the standings. The starters were mostly excellent all week, with Sandy Baez (5IP, 2ER), Matt Hall (6IP, 0ER, 6K), Trent Szkutnik (7IP, 2ER, 9K), and Beau Burrows (6IP, 1H, 0ER) pitching well in wins, and Baez (7IP, 1ER), Fernando Perez (5IP, 1ER, 5K), and Jordan Smith (6IP, 2ER) all pitching well in losses or no decisions. Will Maddox had another monster week at the plate, going 15-for-33 with seven runs scored, while Jose Azocar (10-for-28, 3BB), David Gonzalez (7-for-31, HR, 7 RBI) and Will Allen (9-for-32, HR, 8 RBI) all had highly productive weeks.

    • Hall’s mastery of the Midwest League continued last week, and he now ranks among the league leaders in wins (6), strikeout rate (28.7%), and batting average against (.189), and his 0.72 ERA is the lowest in all of minor-league baseball.

    • Maddox is tied for the league lead with a .342 batting average, and his 91% stolen base success rate is second best in the league among those with at least ten steal attempts.

    • West Michigan outscored its opponents 43-20 during its ten-game winning streak. It was the team’s longest winning streak since August of 2010.

DSL Tigers
1-0 T1st in the San Pedro Division

With just one game on the schedule there wasn’t much to learn about the DSL Tigers last week, but wins are always better than losses. The squad squared off against the DSL Yankees2 and came away with an 8-6 victory. Priority signings from last July, outfielder Juan Ramirez (3-for-5, 2B, SB) and catcher Gresuan Silverio (2-for-4, 2 RBI) both had strong pro debuts, while Julio Guante earned the win with two innings of scoreless relief, and Willians Moreno got the save by striking out three over 1 1/3 innings.

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