Emeralds bullpen carrying heavy load

Chris Haney

It's only five games into the season, but the Eugene Emeralds (3-2) bullpen is probably feeling like it's August.

A combination of pitch limits for starting pitchers and early inning meltdowns have brought Eugene relievers to the hill for a total of 27 innings in five games.

There would be no rest for the bullpen in the final game of the five-game series against the Boise Hawks (2-3). Starting pitcher Leonel Campos lasted just two innings, giving up four runs and striking out four.

The Emeralds rallied to tie the game in the sixth inning, but a taxed bullpen couldn't hold the lead, as the Emeralds dropped their second game of the series 11-6 on Tuesday night at PK Park in front of 3,010 fans.

Following Pat Murphy's first series as manager of the Emeralds, he reflected on his team's performance through five games of the season.

"I didn't think we played very well," Murphy said. "I didn't think we played complete games. A lot of that has to do with having to use five pitchers every night, so it's hard to get in that rhythm with anything."

While many players try to work through the nervousness of their first professional baseball experience, unexpected mistakes have proved fatal for the Emeralds.

"Usually you're going to hope six runs are enough, but not always," Murphy said. "These young kids are just getting started. They're trying to get their feet wet—they've only been here five days, six days, and they've had to pitch two or three times already.

"We got to get a little better starting pitching."

After Pin-Chieh Chen led off the game by legging out a bunt and then stealing second base, Campos muscled-up the next two batters he faced—striking out both on fastballs.

Deciding to not shake things up, Hawks clean-up hitter Paul Hoilman belted a fastball over the left field wall for an early 2-0 lead.

"We got away from what was successful I think the last couple of games," said Matt Colantonio, who is one player that has impressed Murphy this season. "We were a little up in the zone tonight. When we went breaking ball and off speed pitches, they were a little up instead of letting this team chase a little bit, and I think that's where we fell into trouble."

Chen, who went 4-for-5 with three RBI, continued to pester Campos—this time with his bat instead of his legs. His two-run, opposite field single extended the Hawks lead to 4-0.

The Emeralds bats showed their potential by scoring 30 runs during the series; however, Murphy has not been pleased with his team's mindset at the plate.

"Our offensive production right now, as far as driving the baseball and having a great approach, we haven't done that yet," said Murphy.

The Emeralds left 10 runners on base on Tuesday night.

In the third inning, the Emeralds cut the lead to one by scoring three runs, including a RBI single by 2011 first round draft pick Cory Spangenberg.

"Spangenberg is everything you think he is," said Murphy, who compared Spangenberg to an infielder he coached while at Arizona StateDustin Pedroia. "He puts together good (at-bats) after good (at-bats). He plays solid defense. Plays every pitch of the game.

"He doesn't do anything great except play the game great. He's really impressive, and sometimes that doesn't happen with a first rounder who has a lot of pressure on him. This kid is a gamer."

The Emeralds were inches away from tying the game with one swing in the bottom of the sixth inning—but it wouldn't matter.

Following Mykal Stokes' one-run double off the top of the left center wall, a safety squeeze by third baseman Jorge Minyety scored Stokes, who advanced to third on a wild pitch, tying the game at six.

The tie would be short lived, as the Emeralds bullpen couldn't prevent further damage in the top of the seventh.

With two runners on and first base open, reliever Chris Haney—making his third appearance in this series—opted to pitch around third baseman Willson Contreras to load the bases, deciding to face designated hitter Chad Noble, who, at that point, was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts. Noble responded with a two-out single up the middle to gove the Hawks their second and third runs of the inning and regaining the lead, 9-6.

The Hawks would plate two more in the top of the eighth, squashing any hopes of an Emeralds comeback.

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