First the good news:
The VERY good news. Young phenom Matt Garza spun a masterful three hit, eight strikeout complete game shutout, as the Wings squeezed by the first place Charlotte Knights 1-0 in the first game of a pivotal four-game series between the league's two top teams. Garza threw 126 pitches for his first professional 9 inning complete game shutout. At the end, as veteran Ernie Young blasted a 3-2 pitch, clocked at 96 mph, to the deepest part of center field, some 402 feet from homeplate, Andres Torres got on his horse and ran it down to the cheers of the 5,100 who were standing throughout the entire inning.
So what's the bad news?
Too many people were watching. Particularly in Minneapolis, where Twins Manager Ron Gardenhire is getting far too antsy to snatch Garza from Rochester. After this performance, I envision Gardenhire literally knocking down the door of GM Terry Ryan and demanding that the young pitcher catch a red-eye flight to the Twin Cities so that he will be able to pitch against the Tigers on Sunday. It's hard to argue. Garza has a combined record of 13-4 this season, as he has made his way up the minor league ladder. Still, is it wise to rush him too quickly? The Twins were patient with Francisco Liriano last year under similar circumstances. Liriano got a September recall, got in a few games and then made the big club for keeps this season.
Back to the game, where it was quite a pitcher's duel between Garza and the Knight's Sean Tracey. Scoreless thru six innings, the Wings finally broke through with three straight singles in the bottom of the seveth. Thomas Watkins delivered the game-winning RBI.
It was the third nine inning complete game shutout for the Wings over the past six weeks, after having never recorded one in the entire history of the Wings-Twins affiliation. It was only the third time this season that the best hitting team in the International League has been blanked.
The Wings now have a modest three-game winning streak. Scranton beats hapless Richmond 6-1, so the Wings remain two full games ahead of the Red Barons. The victory was the 60th for the Wings against 45 losses.
Quinton McCraken did not make his Red Wings debut tonight, and former Major Leaguer Erubiel Durazo had one hit.
Knights made a highlight reel play. Torres hit a sinking liner to left. Ryan Sweeney came in, dived for the ball and it glanced off his glove. But out of nowhere, SS Jorge Velandia was alongside and before the ball hit the ground, he snatched it out of the air for the out.(Shades of Pete Rose anyone??)
All in all, a great night at the old ballyard.