Game One: Down Under in Summit City
Fort Wayne, IN-- The Wizards winning streak came to an end at two with a 4-3 loss to the Lansing Lugnuts, as Australian starter John Hussey lasted only 3.2 innings, issuing four hits, three runs and four walks on 78 pitches.
Hussey was sent back to Eugene after the game to make room for pitcher Drew Miller coming off of the disabled list tomorrow.
“He’ll [Hussey] have it for a little bit then when he loses it, it’s hard for him to get it back,” said Wizards manager Doug Dascenzo. “He’s a teenage kid, his first time pitching before crowds, so he’ll be back it’s all part of the development process.”
The Wizards opened the scoring when center fielder Cedric Hunter doubled to right-center to bring home right fielder Kyler Burke who stole second after being walked in the bottom of the first inning. Designated hitter Michael Epping laid down a perfect bunt to bring home Hunter who advanced to third on first baseman Daryl Jones ground out to give the Wizards a 2-0 advantage.
Burke, who has struggled mightily in first few months in Low-A, is beginning to turn the corner, according to the Wizards staff. In the first game he was 1-for-2 with a double and a walk and in the nightcap he went 1-for-3 and more importantly swung at quality pitches. His night was only marred by hitting into a double play in the first game.
“My swing feels more like a swing instead of focusing on the mechanics,” said Burke. “The big thing with me has been laying off of the breaking pitches down in the zone and the fastballs away. A big part of that is staying back where you are able to see the ball better and getting to see the ball longer.”
The Lugnuts bounced back in the top of the second, scratching out a run off of a double. Then, in the top of the third, Hussey walked three batters and allowed a single, but somehow the Lugnuts were able to score only two runs. It was enough to put them ahead.
In the bottom of the third, Cedric Hunter turned a ducksnort to right field into a double with a hustling headfirst slide into second followed by Jones’ single to right to tie the game.
The Wizards took out Hussey in the fourth after an error by third baseman Jeremy Hunt put two on with the Blue Jays top prospect, right fielder Travis Snyder, up at the plate. Dascenzo brought in reliever Derek McDavid who battled Snyder for nine pitches before striking him with a nasty fastball up and in to keep the game even.
In the bottom of the fifth, the Wizards threatened again when catcher Brian Hernandez led off with a hard hit ball down the left field line but wisely held up at first followed by an excellent drag bunt by left fielder Javier Diaz to put two on. Burke then hit into a double play and a strikeout by Hunter killed the rally.
In the top of the sixth, New Zealander second baseman Scott Campbell, the first Kiwi ever drafted by way of Gonzaga University, singled home pinch-runner Raul Barron to put the Lugnuts on top for good, 4-3.
The Wizards rallied in the seventh [in minor league makeup doubleheaders both games only go seven innings], but Diaz struck out stranding second baseman Jordam Rivera on second to end the game.
Game Two: Wizards Take Nightcap
Wizards’ starting pitcher Stephen Faris got out of a big jam in the fifth, striking out two batters with the bases loaded as the Wizards rode two offensive innings too victory with an impressive seventh inning from closer R.J. Rodriguez.
The Wizards got on the board first in the bottom of the second, as Hunt walked and Burke following him with a hard double down the right field line to put runners on second and third. Shortstop Jesus Lopez then singled to left field to drive in one. Catcher Matt Stocco hit a booming double to drive in both Burke and Lopez.
In the top of the fifth, an error by Hunt on a pop foul down the third base line enabled center fielder Jonathan Baksh to reach first on a walk. A big triple off the bat of shortstop Raul Barron scored the Lugnuts first run of the evening.
Faris then walked the pesky Kiwi Scott Campbell and it was followed by a run scoring single by the designated hitter Chris Emmanuelle. Faris walked another batter to load the bases before bearing down and striking out the next two to minimize the damage and end the Lugnuts scoring for the night.
“I just tried to calm down and not try to do too much, too overthrow,” said Faris. “I was kind of fatiguing toward the end and just wanted to calm down mentally, take it one pitch, one batter at a time.”
In the bottom of the fifth, left fielder Sam Carter drove in Stocco and second baseman Jonathan Schemmel with the bases loaded, but a potential big inning was cut short when Hunter took too big a turn around second and was gunned down by the left fielder for the second out.
With two outs in the sixth inning, a misplay and an error by Lopez brought an end to Faris’ night, with relief pitcher Grant Varnell entering the game with two on. Varnell walked the next batter, but a near disaster was saved by Jones who stretched down the right field line to haul in an errant throw from Lopez, preventing him from making his second error of the inning.
Closer R.J. Rodriguez came in the seventh inning and struck out the first batter, got the second to fly out to right field and struck out the last batter for his 13th save of the year.
Rodriguez was able to touch 94 MPH with a running fastball on a few scouts’ radar guns behind home plate, which is quite a feat for his rather slight 5-foot-11 frame.
“I get a lot of power from my legs and mid-section and I just try to unravel my body toward the plate,” said Rodriguez “I try to throw over the top, but my arm angle is usually three quarters which has lot to do with the run on my fastball.”