Jack Cassel’s 23 consecutive innings without allowing an earned run came to an abrupt end Thursday night at home, as the Portland pitcher struggled early to find outs. Cassel escaped a shaky first inning to increase the streak to 23. But, back-to-back hits to lead off the second inning proved to be the undoing as both runners would come around to score, and the Beavers found themselves down 3-0 before the inning ended.
Referring to his struggles early in the season, Cassel said: “I put a lot of pressure on myself out the gates. Coming off second half and winter ball, I felt really good and was given the opening day start, and I put a lot of pressure on myself.” To fix the problems, Cassel worked with pitching coach Gary Lance and manager Rick Renteria, who have seen his good and bad outings throughout his professional career, and they told him simply to relax and have fun on the mound. It worked, as Cassel allowed just one run in six appearances coming into Thursday’s game, including three relief appearances.
“When I went to the bullpen, I was working at getting one guy at a time,” said Cassel. “That allowed me to work more on out by out, and therefore pitch-by-pitch, as opposed to okay I need to go six or seven innings today. The relief appearances let me get back to pitch-by-pitch and hitter-by-hitter, as opposed to thinking about the grand scheme of things.”
After the second inning, Cassel started cruising. He struck out the side in the third and was helped out by his defense on picture perfect double plays up the middle that ended both the fourth and fifth innings.
Cassel’s counterpart, Las Vegas starting pitcher Miguel Pinango, was on the hill for only his second appearance in Triple-A ball. He had been with the Dodgers High-A club prior to being moved up to the 51s, even though he was not so impressive on paper. He was 1-3 with a 4.61 ERA, but had shown control by walking just six batters in his 27.1 innings of work. The organization must’ve seen potential in Pinango, and he proved them right in his first start with the 51s, when he picked up the win in five scoreless innings against New Orleans. He scattered four hits, struck out five and walked nobody in the debut.
Pinango continued that dominance Thursday against the Beavers, as he picked up his second win in as many starts, finishing the game allowing only three hits and one run in six innings. The one run came on one swing of the bat in the fifth; otherwise, Pinango was untouchable and showed impressive poise on the mound in every situation all night.
To begin the bottom of the fifth, Luis Cruz turned on a 0-and-1 offering from Pinango and skied over the fence in left to score the only Beavers run. Pinango would allow another hit to Vince Sinisi and a walk to Craig Stansberry, but escaped the fifth inning, still leading 3-1.
Larry Bigbie singled to start the sixth, but Cassel paid no attention and continued to cruise as he got Choo Freeman to ground out and racked up his seventh and eighth strikeouts in the game to end the inning. Aaron Rakers replaced Cassel after the inning. He finished the game having walked one and allowing just two earned runs in six innings, but it was enough for him to pick up the loss, his third of the season.
“I felt good,” said Cassel, about his performance. “Our game plan was to just kind of stay down and use their aggressiveness to our advantage, having them put our pitches in play as opposed to flirting with trying to mess around, trying to make perfect pitches.”
Rakers would get rocked, as he allowed a leadoff single to Pinango to start the seventh and then a triple off the bat of Tony Abreu, who came into the game leading the Pacific Coast League in hits. Abreu scored on a sacrifice fly. Bigbie would homer off Rakers to lead off the next frame to increase the Las Vegas lead to the eventual winning margin, 6-1.
Sinisi and Cruz were the only Beaver batters pick up hits. Cruz homered and doubled, while Sinisi singled twice on line drives up the middle.
Jack Cassel talks about his season:
Listen to Audio
Manager Rick Renteria on Jack Cassel:
Listen to Audio