Ems Win Three of Five Against Tri-City Dust Devils
Nate Gartrell, EDN
The Eugene Emeralds just finished a five-game home series against a potential playoff opponent, the Tri-City Dust Devils, and took three away three victories to secure a series win.
The Ems won Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. On both Wednesday and Saturday’s losses, they were shut out by Tri-City.
On Tuesday’s series opener, the Ems’ gave up an early lead to Tri-City, but then they bounced back with two late inning rallies, and ended up winning 9-4.
The victory didn’t come easy; the Ems used six different pitchers Tuesday, and the longest outing amongst them was James Needy’s 2.1 inning start. Needy was charged with three earned runs during that time, two of which scored in the first.
In the top of the third with the Ems trailing 3-2 , center fielder Kyle Gaedele made a diving, run-saving catch that could have easily made a major league highlight reel. It came with runners on first and second, and one out, when Dust Devils first baseman Blake McDade hit a deep fly ball to right-center. Gaedele stayed with it, fully extended his arm, and dove into the warning track to make the catch.
“That catch he made in center field was a turning point early in the game,” Ems Manager Pat Murphy said. “That’s two runs. He’s coming into his own, and we’re happy about it.”
Gaedele’s catch kept the game close, then Ems went on to take a the lead with a two-run fourth. The rescinded that lead in the sixth, when, with one out, reliever Luis De La Cruz walked the bases loaded, struck out Dust Devils second baseman Timothy Smalling, then walked in another run.
De La Cruz then retired the next Dust Devil, to end the inning. Ironically, in the bottom of the sixth, the Ems scored three times, ultimately giving De La Cruz his first win of the season.
Shortstop Jace Peterson had a good night offensively for the Ems. He came to the plate five times and reached all five, with two singles and three walks. He also scored the Ems’ first and last runs of the game.
“I’ve been working hard in the cage, and hopefully I can keep it going,” Peterson said after Tuesday’s game. “It’s always a big day when you come for five (games), and hopefully we can win the series.”
On Wednesday evening, the Ems were shut out, and limited to four hits, in a 2-0 loss to the Dust Devils.
Offensively, there didn’t seem to be much the Ems could do. The Dust Devils’ starter, Christian Bergman (5-3), threw a gem–striking out six, walking only one, and surrendering four scattered hits over seven full innings. Dust Devils’ reliever Rafael Suarez didn’t even surrender a hit during the two innings he pitched, en route to his fourth save.
“[Bergman] is an awfully good pitcher,” Murphy said after Wednesday’s loss. “So, hats off to him, he pitched great. Tomorrow, you just come out and try to string some good at-bats together.”
Both the Dust Devils’ runs Wednesday came in the fifth, and the Ems helped them score. It started when starter John Barbato (1-2) surrendered a lead off, four-pitch walk to right fielder Leonardo Reyes, then catcher Ryan Casteel singled to left.
The next batter, left fielder Juan Crousset hit a ground ball comebacker to Barbato, who threw wildly to second, pulling Ems second baseman Justin Miller off the bag, and allowing everyone to advance 90 feet.
The next Tri-City batter hit a soft line drive behind second baseman Miller, who was unable to catch it in the air, but fielded the ball and threw to shortstop Peterson, covering second, for an out. Reyes scored on the play. Peterson then tried to throw out Casteel, who was running to third, but airmailed the throw, allowing Casteel to score.
“If you turn the easy double-play, it’s two outs with a man on third, and you’re probably in business, especially the way [Barbato] has been pitching,” Murphy said. “Both runs are due to throwing errors, and it’s unfortunate. But it’s part of the game at this level.”
Ems’ starter Barbato had a strong outing, other than the fifth. He went 5.2 innings, struck out five, and only surrendered two hits. Murphy called his past two performances at PK Park “electric.”
“I think he realizes he can do it,” Murphy said of Barbato. “He’s ready to be John Barbato, the one who can handle a big load. I’m really pleased for him.”
On Thursday, the Ems turned the tables on the Dust Devils, and shut them out, 2-0. They’re pitching deserved most of the credit, for holding steady as pressure mounted deep into the game; the Ems didn’t score until the seventh inning.
Ems pitcher Cody Hebner (1-2) got the start in place of Matthew Andriese (3-1), who began the season as an Ems starter and pitched effectively, but has been transferred to the bullpen since he’s reaching his league-imposed inning limit for the season. Hebner struck out four over four scoreless innings, and didn’t allow a hit until two outs in the fourth.
“I worked on my mechanics and the pitch I was throwing a lot this week,” Hebner said after the game. “The results turned out in my favor, but I didn’t try to think about it too much. I just wanted to give my team a chance to win.”
After Hebner was done, Andriese came in, and pitched two scoreless, striking out one. Reliever Matthew Stites (2-0), and newly-assigned closer Chris Wilkes, finished out the game, the former earning his second win and the latter, his second save.
“Hebner was great, Andriese was great, Stites was great, Wilkes was great,” Murphy said. “You couldn’t ask for four better appearances than that.”
The Ems scored their first run in the seventh, after center fielder Gaedele struck out swinging, but was able to advance, as the ball got through Tri-City catcher Richard Pirkle and traveled to the backstop. Jeremy Rodriguez followed with a single, and the two then advanced 90 feet on a wild pitch.
Shortstop Peterson then hit a line-drive single up the middle, and Gaedele scored.
In the top of the eighth, the Dust Devils lead off batter, left fielder Jaron Sheperd, reached on a walk, and it appeared that Tri-City would make a bid to tie the game. But then, a chain of events unfolded that resulted in an out, an ejection, and a momentum shift in the Ems’ favor.
It began when Stites threw to first for a pick off attempt, and first baseman Tyrell appeared to tag Sheperd’s hand an inch or two off the base, but Sheperd was called safe by base umpire Lee Meyers. Murphy, who frequently argues calls, came out and calmly discussed the situation with Meyers, who then asked home plate umpire Ed Leopold for help.
“I said, ‘I think you missed something there, and I’m not going away,'” Murphy said of his talk with Meyers. “And right off the bat, he was like, ‘Yep. I’ll go ask about it.'”
After the two umpires conferred, they reversed their desicion, called Sheperd out, and discussed that with Dust Devils manager Fred Ocasio. Ocasio quickly grew angry, and began pointing and screaming in Meyer’s face. Soon the two were nose-to-nose, and Ocasio appeared to bump Meyers, at which point he was ejected. The argument continued for a few more minutes, and Ocasio then left the field.
“A two-man crew is not easy for these guys,” Murphy said. “Especially on pick-off plays and things like that. You don’t always find an umpire confident enough to (seek help), knowing that there’s a really good chance it’s gonna blow up.”
In the bottom of the eighth, Ems infielder Daniel Killian was inserted as a pinch hitter for first baseman Cole Tyrell, and came through in a big way. He hit a solo home run, which looped over the right field fence and into the Ems bullpen.
“Coming in like that, it’s always exciting,” Killian said after the game. “I just tried to do the best I could, and tried to get a pitch to hit, and I did that.”
On Friday, the Ems scored enough runs in bunches to endure an attempted Tri-City comeback, and won the game 10-8. In doing so, they secured a series win against the Dust-Devils.
Ems relief pitcher Greg Gonzalez (4-1), former college teammate of Dust Devils infielder Jordan Ribera, got the win Friday, for pitching two scoreless innings. He struck out three.
Crucial to the Ems’ Friday victory was their half of the fourth inning, in which they scored six runs. With one out in the fourth, eight straight Ems reached base. Capping the rally was a two-run triple, hit by third baseman Travis Whitmore. Whitmore is batting .406 in his last ten games.
After the fourth, the score was 9-1 Ems. But then Tri-City had a similar rally in the top half of the fifth, when six Dust-Devils reached in a row. The biggest blow of what turned out to be a five-run fifth was a ground-rule double off the bat of designated hitter Blake McDade.
Closer Wilkes secured his third save of the season Friday as well. Wilkes has become a primary choice of Murphy’s for the closer role, although the position is still not set in stone.
On Saturday, the Ems weren’t able to muster a single run, and lost 1-0 to Tri-City, in a game last lasted only two hours and nine minutes.
Dust Devils starter Tyler Gagnon (3-1) got the win Saturday, after pitching seven scoreless in which he struck out seven. His offspeed pitches were particularly deceptive; Ems batters were swinging at balls in the dirt all evening, without much success. In fact, the Ems were only able to muster three hits.
“All the credit goes to their pitching staff, for sure, but we gotta do a better job,” Murphy said after Saturday’s game. “We got three hits–a ground ball down the left field line for a double, a bloop hit into center, and a bunt.”
Ems starter Colin Rea pitched three innings, walked five and gave up three hits, but didn’t get any runs. He seemed, at times, to have difficulty controlling his curveball, but was able to make key pitches when necessary; in the first, for instance, he loaded the bases on two singles and a walk, but was able to induce a double play off the bat of designated hitter Reyes.
Mark Pope (1-1) came next, pitched three innings, and only made one mistake. Unfortunately for the Ems, that mistake was enough to cost them the game. It came in the fourth, off the bat of shortstop Taylor Featherston, who hit a deep solo homer to left-center field on a curveball up in the zone.
“Every game seemed to be close, and every game, there seem to be difference-makers,” Murphy said. “We were swinging the bat much better (Thursday), but we’ve gotta be consistent.”
The Ems’ best chance to score Saturday came in the seventh, right fielder Lee Orr hit a double, with one on and no out, to give the Ems runners on second and third. Catcher Matthew Colantonio followed that by striking out, and then center fielder Gaedele grounded to short, who threw out Whitmore at home. The next batter, Tyrell, flied out to left.
“I’m glad to be able to have won the series against them, but we’ve gotta have a better effort then we had tonight,” Murphy said. “We’ve been having a problem swinging the bat. We’re hitting .240 as a team, and that’s with Spangy (Cory Spangenberg) hitting .380 for the first 25 games.“