Baseball was a reality for Fort Wayne on Monday. After the opening series was snowed our, the Wizards sent Nathan Culp to the hill to take care of business. Boy did he. In 25 degrees weather, Culp tossed six perfect innings – perfect, no hit, no walk baseball – before being removed. Through six frames he had tossed just 47 pitches – using mostly his fastball and never throwing more than ten pitches in an inning. Culp induced ten ground ball outs and four fly outs (only one was hit into the outfield), whiffing four of the minimum he faced in registering the win. The left-hander pitched in seven games for the Wizards last year, going 4-2 with a 4.09 ERA. Three times he went five-plus innings without allowing an earned run.
"Everyone knows when that stuff is going on," Culp said after the game. "You don't do anything different whether you have a perfect game or otherwise. You still try and get that guy out. Whatever happens, happens. Everyone knows what is going on."
The perfect game was broken up with one out in the ninth inning off closer R.J. Rodriguez. He surrendered a single to Justin Fuller and would allow one more base hit before closing the door. Grant Varnell and Rolando Valdez were perfect in the seventh and eighth inning, respectively.
The vote of confidence paid off early for Kyler Burke. The outfielder matched his homer total from the year before with a solo homer to leadoff the fifth inning, putting the Wizards on the board for the first time this year. He had gone 37 games without a homer dating back to last year. Burke singled in his next at bat, as a diving outfielder could not come up with the acrobatic catch, ending his night with a 2-for-4 performance and accounting for the lone run of the game. Burke hit .209 over 45 games for the AZL Padres last year, striking out 56 times and drawing 26 walks.
Tom King went 2-for-3 with a walk and a stolen base in his first Midwest League game. The second baseman had just three steals last year for the Eugene Emeralds. While he hit .231 last year, King did manage to collect 18 multi-hit games and reached base three or more times in a game on eight occasions. Both his hits came off left-handed pitching; King his .286 off lefties a year ago and .210 off righties.
Portland won 5-1 over Sacramento (A's)
Justin Germano allowed one run over five innings, giving up five hits while striking out six to pick up the win. The right-hander, claimed off waivers from Philadelphia this spring, threw 81 pitches with 53 strikes. Germano went 10-6 with a 3.48 ERA with two different teams in the Triple-A International League last year. He also went 0-1 with a 5.40 ERA over two appearances with the Cincinnati Reds. Germano entered the year with a career mark of 69-51 with a 3.69 ERA in the minors.
Oscar Robles went 3-for-4 on Monday with a double, triple, run scored and an RBI to give him six hits in 16 at bats in the early going. Robles made things interesting in camp during the spring, losing out on his roster spot to Paul McAnulty in the end. But he was a worthy adversary because of his .292 average, going 14-for-46 with seven RBIs and seven runs scored, and his stellar defense.
Royce Ring struck out two and walked one in an inning of work to give him six K's in three innings to begin the year. The left-hander allowed four runs on 10 hits over 7.1 innings during spring after being acquired from the New York Mets in an off-season deal. Ring has a career mark of 16-9 with a 3.06 ERA as a minor leaguer and has a 0-2 record with a 3.47 ERA over 26 major league appearances.
San Antonio won 6-2 over Wichita (Royals)
Josh Geer allowed one run on six hits over 5.2 frames to earn the victory. He did not walk a batter and struck out six but did plunk two hitters. The right-hander allowed one run or less in five of his 15 California League outings last season and threw shutout ball in five of his 11 Midwest League starts, including a stretch of 22 scoreless in June. Geer hit eight batters all of last season.
Chase Headley collected four hits in five trips to the dish, doubling and scoring a run. He has hits in four of his five games this year and has been on base in each. His last four-hit game came on May 20 last season while playing for Lake Elsinore – the only other time he has accomplished the feat in his minor league career. The third baseman had one hit in six at bats in Spring Training.
Sean Kazmar went 2-for-4 with a walk, a double, a run scored and an RBI, extending his hitting streak to five games to open his Double-A career. The second baseman went 9-for-15 in big league camp – a .600 average. He actually accomplished a rare feat, posting an on base percentage less than his average at .579 thanks to several sacrifice flies. Kazmar also clubbed two homers and knocked in eight runs.
Lake Elsinore lost 11-10 to Lancaster (Red Sox)
It wasn't a good day to be a pitcher in the California League. By the end of the top half of the first, every single Storm player except Chad Huffman had reached base safely – and he batted twice. Huffman would get sweet redemption with a two-run homer in the fifth inning. Every member of the Storm would notch a hit and Mike Baxter was the only player not to score a run – he got caught stealing preceding a David Freese homer. Unfortunately, ten runs and 16 hits were not enough for the Storm.
Matt Antonelli led off the game with a homer and continued the assault by going 3-for-5 with four RBIs and two runs scored, matching his hit total over the first four games of the year. The second baseman had five three-hit games last season for the Eugene Emeralds but set a new career-high with his four RBIs. He had not driven in more than two in any contest and his six RBIs early in the year are more than he had in August last year.
Wade LeBlanc, on a strict pitch count that limited him to less than the 75 that the rest of the staff had, lasted 3-plus, giving up five runs, four earned, on five hits and two walks in a no-decision. The left-hander went 5-1 with a 3.02 ERA over 14 appearances, including 10 starts, over two different leagues. He did not allow five runs in any game last year and allowed four earned runs just once.
Brandon Higelin took the loss, giving up three hits and an intentional walk in the bottom of the ninth inning. After pitching a scoreless inning to open the year, the left-hander has surrendered two runs on five hits in the last inning and a third. Higelin allowed runs in just 14 of his 53 outings last year and only three times did he allow runs in successive outings.