Entering Saturday night’s game with the second worst batting average in the Northwest League, the Ems were held to three hits in a 1-0 loss to the Tri-City Dust Devils at PK Park. The Ems ended the five-game series against the Dust Devils taking 3-of-5 in the process.
Tri-City’s starting pitcher Tyler Gagnon, who went seven innings and struck out six, faced just two above the minimum through the first six innings.
In the seventh inning, the Ems (30-19) spoiled their best opportunity to end the shutout. After a leadoff walk to Travis Whitmore and a double from Lee Orr, Eugene had runners on second and third with no outs.
After a mound visit from the Dust Devils (29-20) manager, Freddie Ocasio, Gagnon settled back into his rhythm by retiring the next three Ems hitters.
“You got to do a better job of getting them home,” manager Pat Murphy said. “We only had two real situations that we could of scored a run. We’ve been having a problem all year swinging the bat. We’re hitting (.244) as a team. We’ve got to find ways to score runs—manufacture runs.”
Starting pitcher Colin Rea continued to prove the value of his 12th round selection in this years MLB Draft, as in his tenth start of the year he lowered his ERA below one (0.95).
Despite not having quality stuff on Saturday, Rea displayed pose and maturity not typically found in 20 year olds facing adversity.
Rea stranded at least one runner in scoring position in each of his three innings pitched, including a bases loaded jam in the first inning where he was able to induce a double play off of Leonardo Reyes.
“I kept falling behind in counts, and these are good hitters,” Rea said. “You got to get ahead, that’s the main thing. I had a little trouble locating my fastball, and my curveball wasn’t really there tonight. I just kind of battled through.”
Despite allowing five base runners through three innings, Rea did not allow a run and has only allowed two runs in his last nine outings.
His early career success has not made him forget about the areas he wants to improve as a pitcher—and Saturday night’s start was a reminded of where he hopes to develop.
“I need to work on a lot of things, like holding runners, and to get comfortable with my pitches,” he said. “I’m a feel pitcher and my off-speed has to feel right. I basically want to get to that point where I know I have all my pitches and I know I can throw them all for strikes, no matter where it is in the count. And that has a lot to do with the mental part of the game too.
“That’s what I try to work on the most and that’s what’s going to help me the most, I think, is the mental side.”
With starting pitchers being limited to three or four innings of work, Mark Pope relieved Rea to begin the fourth inning of a scoreless game. With fresh meat, the Dust Devils struck quickly, as Taylor Featherston’s solo home run broke up the tie game.
That one-run proved to be all the run support Gagnon would require.
One night after scoring 10 runs against the Dust Devils, the Ems first hit came 3 2/3 innings into the game on a bunt single from Whitmore.
Ems outfielder, Orr, finds himself in the midst of a disastrous slump. He is batting .129 (4-for-31) in his last 10 games—he has struck out 15 times in his last 31 at-bats. He is also without a multi-hit game during that stretch.
“Swung the bat better tonight. Swung the bat better last night, but he’s been scuffling,” Murphy said. “He’s been working very, very hard with Chris Prieto (Emeralds hitting coach), and he’s a tough kid. It’s not unusual for a kid in his first year in pro ball to go through that after 35, 40 games. We need Lee to pick it up and keep it going.”
Jace Peterson, who is batting .333 in his last 10 games, had a five-game hit streak snapped on Saturday after going 0-for-4. On July 23, Peterson had a batting average of .213, but has since raised his average to .242.