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PostPosted: Sun Sep 24, 2017 2:35 pm 
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Pitching Staff Coming Together?

Much was written about the gaudy performance of the Yellow Springs Nine in July. They went 20-8 and rose up to take a lead in the best division in baseball. Fans were worried, though. That pace (.714) translates to 117 wins over a season, and starting third baseball Earl Jackson had been put on the shelf for the rest of the year. How could their guys sustain?

It turns out they were right to worry. The team hasn’t been able to maintain. Instead, they’ve gotten better. After dropping three of four in a Seattle road trip, the Nine are currently 12-4 in August, including taking four of five from division rival Twin Cities, sweeping the Kraken from Carolina, and—best of all—sweeping the dastardly Sluggers from Losey-ville.

STATE OF THE STAFF IMPROVING

Perhaps it’s not too surprising that this surge has come at a time when the team’s pitching staff is finally beginning to round into shape.

The club’s current ace has been Jose Chavez, who has ripped off three straight wins in the clutch to run his record to 13-3, and drop his ERA to 3.34. His FIP- is a better than solid 77. Fact is that Chavez has been the team’s go-to workhorse all year—the guy they put out there to set all things right. He continued the tradition this week, beating Louisville 7-3.

The team has needed Chavez to step up, partially that’s because he’s been that good and that consistent, but also partially because his right-handed counterpart, Lawrence Columbus LaLoosh struggled so mightily in the first half of the season. That seems to have changed. LaLoosh also stepped to the mound and beat Louisville this week, running his record to 11-10, and finally dropping his ERA under 4.00. Since July, he’s been much more LaLooshian than not, having gone 7-1, and posted a 3.05 ERA.

These two alone would be enough to make any team tough to beat, but perhaps the best news overall is the gritty performance of oft-injured veteran Alberto Sanchez (10-2, 3.62), who beat Twin Cities and Louisville in his last two outings, giving up only 2 runs in 14 total innings. Sanchez has been beset by an ugly string of nicks and cuts, but keeps going out and shutting opponents down. “He’s a true Nine,” one fan said. “I’d buy him a beer anytime.”

Then there’s Rick Ward, the right-handed veteran who lost a couple months of the season to a labrum issue, came back and got lit up in the pen for a couple weeks, but who’s turned in a pair of gems in a row, shutting out Twin Cities for six innings while striking out 9, then going eight innings to beat the Kraken and register his third win of the season while dropping the ERA to something almost respectable. The team has been quite patient with the 30-year-old, and it seems to be paying off. If Ward and Sanchez are solid in the #3 and #4 hole, the rotation becomes something close to the beast it was last season when fans took to calling the collection the “Nasty Five.”

Which brings us to left-hander Tim Oliver.

Or right-hander Glenn Avery.

The two of them have been sharing the 5th starter role, with Oliver getting the bulk of the starts. Regardless, the two together have been about as brilliant as any Nine fans have a right to ask for—Oliver sitting at 7-6, 3.63 in 119 innings and Avery 6-3, 3.78 in 95 innings. Yes, they’re young. Or, rather, since they are both 27-year-old rookies we should say “inexperienced.” Oliver beat Twin Cities this week. Avery got lit up by Carolina, but the team’s league-leading offense saved him. While neither are going to step directly into Eduardo Lopez’s cleats, but given the salary discrepancy, the team can surely take it.

“If Oliver manages to drop his walk rate, even just a little, he might make fans completely forget about Lopez,” one scout said.

BULLPEN STEADY AS SHE GOES

If there’s an unsung hero around the clubhouse, it’s probably the collection of guys who man the firehoses. It’s not a splashy group, but it effective.

Closer David Cantu (2.89, 34 saves) came from Atlantic City last season, and has been lights-out. At 33, he’s a solid pitcher who is success in the 9th is letting him climb the organization’s all-time save list. The set-up role has been split between Miguel Macias (2-3, 3 SV, 3.43, acquired from Havana) and veteran Cesar Sandoval (0-2, 1 SV, 2.65). Macias, a closer with the Sugar Kings, had a hard time settling into his role in the season’s first month, but has been brilliant since May.

The meat-and-potato guys have been just as good. 24-year-old lefty Jose Souza (8-4, 4 SV, 3.73) and veteran righty Steve Russell (3-2, 2 SV, 3.81) have been dependable workhorses, Souza tossing 111 innings to date in relief is almost a 7th starter. The lefty specialist role has been filled by stalwart veteran Hermenegildo Padez to such an elite level (1.27 ERA in 35 innings) that he became an All-Star for the first time ever. Only Randall Thomas has struggled—and to be fair, he’s had moments where he led the team, and his ability to throw in any role has been valuable.

PEAKING AT THE RIGHT TIME?

As it stands now, the team’s overall pitching stats put them firmly in the upper third of the Frick League. Fourth in Strike outs, fourth in walks, 6th and 5th in starter and bullpen ERAs, but third in runs allowed. But this is a staff that has been coming together slowly, and is perhaps better than those ranking will suggest.

It’s a staff that, knock on wood, is healthy now. It’s a staff that is deep and talented. It’s scattered with youth and vets. It’s got a pitching coach that’s growing in reputation.

And, in the case things go a little off-track, it’s also a staff that’s got a set of bats that lead the Frick league in runs scored.

We’re not sure what to expect going forward, because, well, you know … the future. But for now, Nine fans are beginning to look at these guys and get excited.

Who can blame them, eh?


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PostPosted: Sun Sep 24, 2017 7:20 pm 
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Naw, Y'all are peaking too early and will be soon fading fast, allowing TWC to sneak back into .... something


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PostPosted: Sun Sep 24, 2017 7:40 pm 
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The River Monsters' time is coming.


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PostPosted: Sun Sep 24, 2017 7:50 pm 
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You can take Louisville's place as second or third. :D


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PostPosted: Sun Sep 24, 2017 8:22 pm 
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9 sizzle in sweeps, but how do they look in heels?

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PostPosted: Sun Sep 24, 2017 10:19 pm 
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Sounds like a rumor in the making.

Or, maybe that's a Louisville thing.


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