Longtime VEB-er (he’s got a UID of 410 for those of us who remember UIDs) bgh was at the Iowa-Memphis game to see Clayton Mortensen’s start first hand. What follows is his account of the game (and some notes from Friday and Saturday’s game as well).
I’m sad to say that I didn’t keep score for Friday or Saturday night because I went with friends, but I was sure to be there early to keep score for the Mortsensen start. Boy, was I depressed by how the game today unfolded. Here are my thoughts and observations from memory.
First, the stadium radar gun is either the only accurate gun in America or a few MPH low. Todd was sitting 87-89 according to it. Hawksworth was lucky to get to 88 (as well Samardzija). I’m convinced it was off a little bit.
Matt Pagnozzi’s offensive ineptitude cannot be overstated. His horrendous .171/.256/.286/.542 stat line does not adequately represent how in-over-his-head he is with a bat in his hands at the AAA level. In fact, I’d be willing to bet that if he were in the Quad Cities, he could not hit for a .225 average or manage to get on base at even a meager .300 rate. He started Friday night, which frustrated me because I wanted to see Bryan Anderson hit and catch, but Pagnozzi’s performance in the number 8 spot in the order was so awful that I went from disappointed to outright anger. I haven’t seen a player outside of Little League swing so late on a pitch with a runner on first that he shoots the ball directly to the first baseman, who then does not have to move (because he was holding on the runner) before fielding the ball, stepping on first and throwing to second for the tag play on the runner who was out by five to seven steps. I now have. And in AAA, no less. All due to the bat of Pagnozzi. How anyone, let alone one of the winningest managers in the history of baseball, could dub this man a “number 3” big league catcher is completely and utterly beyond me. Pagnozzi may very well be the Izturis of catchers, only worse at hitting.
Blake Hawksworth threw very, very, very well Saturday night. It is the best Redbird performance I’ve seen in Des Moines since, well, since I can’t remember. He manhandled the Cubs throughout the game getting many a swing-and-miss (hence the 10 strikeouts). Then, all of a sudden and without warning, Mr. Hyde took over for four batters. He absolutely could not throw a strike and then, when he did, it was a grand slam to the slick-fielding Andres Blanco. (As an aside, Blanco showed tremendous range and arm strength at SS this series and a decent stick. I know nothing about him, but he raised my eyebrows with his play this weekend. After all, three games is a wonderful basis for judging a player.) After the grand slam, just as quickly as the storm brewed, it was gone. Hawksworth promptly retired the next three I-Cubs in order to end the inning. It was a truly bizarre turn-of-events.
Brian Anderson looked great at the plate, clubbing a homer on Saturday off Samardzija and a double on Sunday (as well as walking and scoring a run on Mother’s Day). He hit in the number two slot. I’d never have thought of a catcher as the proverbial “table-setter” but he really performed well at the plate. On defense, however, it was clear that the I-Cubs had a scouting report encouraging them to steal on Anderson. And they did, without much resistance. On Sunday, a blocked breaking ball in the dirt did away with even an attempt to throw out a stealing Cub in the sixth; however, in the seventh, on the lefty Ostlund, the Cubs’ leadoff hitter Fuld easily swiped second on Anderson. The throw was high, but even if it were knee-high, Fuld would have easily been safe at second.
Salas pitched well Saturday night. After tying the game Saturday night in the top of the ninth, Salas threw a scoreless bottom of the inning to force extras. Todd came in after Stavinoha’s go-head blast to left-center and gave a performance reminiscent of Jason Isringhausen. The first base-runner reached thanks to Stavinoha’s stone hands. Then, a walk and another. With one out and the bases juiced, Mortensen wriggled out of the jam and got the save with a K and groundout.
Clayton Mortensen got shelled. The Cubs sprayed his offerings all over the outfield, and beyond. Every hit came with the crack of a well-struck ball. In the first inning, he gave up a tough-luck run when his only walked batsman of the game scored from second on a poorly played ball by the shortstop Folli. The second inning came and went with the only occurrence of interest being a sensational diving catch by Allen Craig which smeared and kicked up the chalk of the left field line. (I came in with no expectations for Craig as an outfielder. With that lowest of bars, Craig clear easily. He wasn’t bad at all, and even made some decent and good plays. However, Shorey in right field was a procession of misplays.)
The third inning proved an ominous indicator of what was to come from Mortensen and his opposition. The pitcher struck out on three pitches. Then, Fuld singled. Camp promptly whacked a 2-1 offering out of the ballpark to give the Cubs a 3-2 lead. Deeds followed with a double. Mortensen then struck out the cleanup man Dubois and got Snyder to fly out to Jay in center to end the inning. He worked efficiently in the fourth, retiring the Cubs one-two-three with two groundball outs, but the fifth brought about more extra-base hits. Like the third, the opposing pitcher struck out on three pitches. Fuld then hit a gapper, which Jay misplayed, giving the troublesome leadoff man an uncontested triple with one out. Camp grounded out sharply down the line to Stavinoha at first, scoring Fuld. Then, Deeds doubled off of Mortensen, just as he did in his second plate appearance just two innings before. However, Mortensen induced an inning-ending groundout to the shaky Folli at short to strand Deeds at second for the second time. In the sixth, Snyder led off with a homer over the towering right-center wall, to the joy of those few souls in the bleachers beyond the wall and beneath the scoreboard. Then, Robinson singled, stole second when Mortensen threw a 1-1 breaking ball in the dirt, and then was moved to third on a groundout to second by Matulia. A groundout to Stavinoha scored the second run of the inning and sixth overall off of Mortensen. With Otslund warming up in the Redbirds’ ‘pen, Mortensen got another inning-ending groundout to Folli at short for his final out of the game. Mortensen left after having put up this line: 6 IP/9 H/6 ER/1 BB/4 SO. Of those nine hits surrendered, five went for extra bases and two of those five were home runs.