TigsTown.com - Paul Wezner

April 6 - April 9 Detroit Tigers Minor League Recap: Another Year Begins

The 2017 minor league baseball season officially kicked off last Thursday, and though Winter’s vestigial tail whipped through the Midwest one last time (hopefully), all four of the Tigers full-season affiliates were able to get in at least three games. It was an action-packed week that saw outstanding pitching performances, two different 16-inning marathons, and a three-homer day from one player.

Detroit Tigers Minor League Week in Review: 4/06 - 4/09

Toledo Mud Hens
2-2, 1st in the West Division

The Mud Hens begin their season on a seven-game road trip, and that started Thursday with four games at the Indianapolis Indians. All four Hens starters performed well, giving up just six earned runs and striking out 28 in 19 1/3IP (2.79 ERA), but with the starters averaging fewer than five innings an outing, the bullpen had to carry a heavy load, and was roughed up a few times. Toledo took a 3-2 lead heading into the bottom of the 7th on Thursday, but the Indians scored five runs off Angel Nesbitt and Logan Kensing to pull off a 7-4 win. On Friday it was Edward Mujica’s turn to give up three runs in the 7th inning, and Indianapolis held on to win 5-4. The Hens turned the tables over the weekend though, scoring twice in the 7th on Saturday to eke out a 2-1 win, and then erupting for five runs in the 7th and 8th on Sunday to win 9-5 and even the series.

  • Chad Bell racked up 10 strikeouts during his start on Saturday. It was just the second double-digit strikeout performance of his career, with the last one coming May 21st, 2015.

  • Outfielder Steven Moya hit a 2-run homer in his first at-bat of the season, his 41st in his Mud Hens career, while Catcher John Hicks got hits in each of his first six at-bats of the season, and finished the week 6-for-9 with a triple, five RBIs, and a stolen base.

  • The arm-hungry Tigers bullpen keeps its eyes trained on Joe Jimenez, who pitched two scoreless innings and picked up a save last week, though he wasn’t terribly sharp. He surrendered a hit and struck out two on Friday, and on Saturday he gave up a hit and walked two (one intentional to load the bases) but recorded the final two outs to close out the 2-1 win.

Erie SeaWolves
2-1, 2nd in the Western Division

No affiliate was affected by the weather more than the SeaWolves, who saw their first two games canceled due to inclement weather. When they finally did make their home opener, lefty starter Tyler Alexander put on a show, tossing five scoreless innings and striking out two. Unfortunately for Erie, Trenton Thunder starter Chance Adams was just as effective, Wolves reliever Sean Donatello gave up four runs in his lone inning, and the club fell 6-2. Friday’s missed game is scheduled to be made up on May 5th, but Thursday’s missed game was made up during a wild doubleheader on Sunday. The first game featured seven home runs and saw the Thunder take leads of 5-0, 6-5, and 9-6, only to lose 10-9 on a Gabriel Quintana single in the 10th inning. The second game of the doubleheader featured four more homers, including Christin Stewart’s go-ahead bomb in the bottom of the sixth, and Donatello found a measure of redemption with two scoreless innings to pick up the win and give Erie the series.

  • Quintana didn’t start the first game on Sunday, but he played a huge role after pinch-hitting for Kody Eaves in the sixth inning. He walked in his first plate appearance, then hit a 3-run homer in the 7th inning to tie the game at 9, before knocking in the winning run with two outs in the 10th.

  • Alexander now has 11 consecutive scoreless innings for the SeaWolves, because he also tossed six scoreless frames in his final outing last season, one of his six starts for Erie at the end of 2016.

  • Stewart’s power explosion on Sunday gave him 43 career homers in just 202 games, but it was the first time in his pro career that he has hit more than one home run in a game.

Lakeland Flying Tigers
3-1, 1st in the North Division

The Flying Tigers began their season with a home-and-home series against the Tampa Yankees, and they got off to a terrific start thanks to outstanding pitching and timely offense. Beau Burrows pitched well in the first game of the season (4 1/3IP, 3H, 2BB, 3K) and Zac Reininger, Santiago Garrido, and Mark Ecker gave up just one run the rest of the way, while outfielder Ross Kivett was the batting star, beginning the game with a double and hitting a solo shot to start the 9th inning and give Lakeland a 2-1 win. A.J. Ladwig was outstanding (6IP, H, 6K) on Friday, and homers from Wade Hinkle and Quincy Latimore paved the way for a 5-0 win. Saturday’s outing was a marathon, with the Yankees scoring two runs in the top of the 6th to tie the game at 4, and then neither team plating a run until Hinkle knocked in Kivett with a single in the bottom of the 16th. Gerson Moreno, Kyle Dowdy, and Ecker were terrific out of the bullpen, combining to give up just two hits and two walks while striking out 12 over eight scoreless innings. Tampa was able to pull out one game on the week when they got to starter Sandy Baez for three runs in four innings on Sunday, then tacked six more runs on the bullpen, while the Lakeland offense consisted of solo home runs from Jose Azocar and Austin Green.

  • Azocar’s homer was his second in as many days, which is notable because he previously had only one home run as a pro. He also picked up an outfield assist, the 47th of his young career.

  • Saturday’s 16-inning contest lasted four hours and twenty-five minutes, and it featured 433 pitches, 41 strikeouts, 22 men left on base, and ten different pitchers.

  • The veteran Latimore homered and singled on Friday, doubled on Saturday, and tripled on Sunday, and he ranks second in the Florida State League with 12 total bases.

West Michigan Whitecaps
3-1, 2nd in the Eastern Division

Like Erie, the Whitecaps saw their home opener spoiled by foul weather, and like Lakeland, they got off to a 3-0 start that included winning a game in 16 innings. West Michigan’s pitching was stellar to begin the year, as they held the South Bend Cubs to just 13 hits and zero runs in their first three games, covering a total of 32 innings. Kyle Funkhouser set the tone in game one of a doubleheader on Friday, striking out nine and giving up just one hit and one walk over five scoreless innings. Anthony Pereira provided literally all the offense in the 2-0 win with his two hits and two RBIs. Eudis Idrogo (5IP, 3H, 5K) was also strong in the nightcap, but Eduardo Jimenez, Jason Foley, Zac Houston, Fernando Perez, and Trent Szkuntik kept the club in it by combining for 11 scoreless innings, until first baseman Blaise Salter hit a two-out, walk-off single off position player Vimael Machin. Spenser Watkins (5 1/3P, 4H, 5K) and Alfred Gutierrez (3 2/3IP, H, 5K) combined to author the team’s third consecutive shutout on Saturday, while Cam Gibson provided all the offense the Whitecaps would need with a home run and a triple. The Cubs finally broke through on Sunday, salvaging a game in the series after putting up four runs on starter Anthony Castro and adding three more against Szkutnik.

  • The Whitecaps pitching was spectacular, but it masked some severe offensive struggles. Even though they threw three consecutive shutouts and won the series 3-1, they were still outscored 7-6 overall.

  • West Michigan led the Midwest League with 172 stolen bases in 2016, but they’re the only team in the league without a successful steal in 2017. Outfielder Jacob Robson has the only attempt so far, and he was gunned down.

  • Salter’s walk-off winner put a nice finish on what was otherwise a lousy day for him. The 23-year-old first baseman had been 0-for-6 with five strikeouts before the game winner. On the season he’s just 1-for-18 with eight punchouts.

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