Sunday, May 29, 2011

A change for the better

Last night, the Lugnuts eked out a 3-2 win over Bowling Green thanks to a home run from Marcus Knecht, two RBIs from Carlos Perez, four shutout innings from John Anderson, and an edge-of-your-seat save by Steve Turnbull.

But let's ignore all of those other guys and talk about the man who allowed Bowling Green's first run... and also picked up his first win of the season.

Misaul Diaz started the Lugnuts' first game in 2011, April 10th at West Michigan, and was battered about for five runs on five hits, two walks and two hit batsman in 2 2/3 innings.  In his next start, he gave up six runs on five hits and four walks and didn't complete the 5th.  Three straight starts allowing a home run followed, overlapping with three straight losses.

In a completely justifiable decision, Diaz was sent to the bullpen.  He has since made four relief appearances, accumulating 11 2/3 innings -- and he has already struck out 16 men, the same number of strikeouts he piled up in 24 innings as a starter.

Take it further:  He has only four walks as a reliever, compared to 17 walks as a starter.  He has a 2.31 ERA as a reliever, compared to 6.38 as a starter.  If you'd like to talk specifics, last night his change-up was utterly unhittable.  Bowling Green has now faced Misaul twice, with only three hits, one run (on a strikeout/wild pitch) and 11 K's to show for it in six innings.

The best thing about Diaz's breakthrough performance:  It joins a host of other sterling relief improvements by these Lugnuts.  I'm still wondering about Dayton Marze's consistency, but there seems to me to be no doubt about the Midwest League mastery shown by Marcus Walden, Danny Barnes, or Steve Turnbull.  Scott Gracey has already earned his call-up to Dunedin.  If the Jays need any other candidates for promotions, it's a crowded field.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

That felt great - now let's move on

Everything went right for the Lugnuts last night, from Casey Lawrence and Dayton Marze's strong pitching to key offense and grinding at-bats to brand new second baseman Jonathan Jones' sliding catch for the final out.

Conversely, everything went wrong for the Loons, from a complete absence of offense to terrible pitching by Raul Burgos and Robert Boothe to a freaky run-scoring error off a return throw to the mound by catcher Michael Pericht.  Heck, even unhittable closer Shawn Tolleson gave up two hits.

In short, it's one to send the Lugnuts to sleep smiling, but it's also one to move on from.  Every team gets to experience routs over the course of the year from both sides of the scoreboard.  The last time the Lugs went on the road, they humiliated Fort Wayne in the series opener 12-2, were promptly routed themselves 12-4 the next day, and then were shut down in a pitcher's duel in the rubber match.

I suppose Great Lakes is wondering how their Loons will react to being humbled at home.  Me, I'm wondering how the Lugnuts will react.

Lefty Sean Nolin to the mound today in a swap out with Misaul Diaz, who looks like he's off to the bullpen due to ineffectiveness.  Tim Sexton, a good one, starts for Great Lakes.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Hello from Dow Diamond

Back to blogging, after a little hiatus!  Okay, more than a little - since the first game of the season.  It's good to get back to it, though.

Video Coordinator Pete Gaglio is sitting next to me in the Great Lakes broadcast booth; he tells me he understands how busy the schedule can get, but I'm still going to try to do a little better as the season wears on.

This is an interesting Lugnuts team this year.  It doesn't feel that they've played their best baseball yet, due to awful infield defense, inconsistent starting pitching (8-9, 4.51 ERA, .292 average against, 1.52 WHIP), and a lack of hitting from K.C. Hobson yet.  (I'm certain K.C.'s going to catch fire sometime soon.)  Still, there they are, with the second best record in the Eastern Division.

Works for me.

Big games starting tonight against Great Lakes, the first of six in a row vs. the Loons.  I don't know if there's any team in the Eastern Division anyone wants to beat more than the Loons.