“Pitching and defense are the keys to winning ball games.” An old and hallowed baseball cliche to be sure but Ottawa manager John Russell’s comment after the third Lynx win in a row on their current home stand has been an absolute. Ottawa came off a miserable road trip which took them through Rochester, Buffalo and Syracuse and began their 2007 home schedule with a 2-5 record and sitting in last place in the Northern division of the International League.
“With the weather being what it was it was tough to get in any kind of rhythm and tough to get the pitchers stretched out to where you would like them to be.” commented Russell after the Lynx home opener 3-2 victory. “It’s tough not knowing day to day if you’re going to be able to get the game in or not. We need that consistency.”
The miserable early April weather finally abated and proved to be just what the doctor, or in this case, the manager ordered. The Lynx climbed back to the .500 mark with victories Tuesday, (3-2), Wednesday, (7-4) and Thursday, (5-4), over the Charlotte Knights, three games which clearly demonstrated what will be the strengths of this years ball club-defense and pitching.
Ottawa doesn’t seem to have many home run threats on the team this year but that is working out just fine so far. Lynx stadium has never been kind to the long ball which should prove to be an advantage for this pitching and defense oriented team. What was clearly evident in the Lynx three victories was that the team is very strong up the middle. Joe Thurston has been rock solid at second base and at times spectacular. He and double play partner Danny Sandoval have consistently turned the double play this home stand and have been making all of the routine plays, allowing the pitchers to work out of any tight jams, keeping the team in the game.
“It allows the pitching staff to relax and pitch their game knowing that the defense is making all the plays.” offered Russell.
Chris Roberson has been making all the plays. The Ottawa center fielder has tremendous speed which allows him to get to hard hit balls up the alley or quickly cut off balls holding the batter to a single. The outfield on this home stand have been catching the ball and consistently hitting the cutoff men preventing runners from advancing that extra base and often keeping the double play in order. Pitching and defense.
Twenty four year old Jason Jaramillo has started seven games thus far as has done a strong job of running the game from behind the plate as well showing off a strong arm and accurate throwing arm. It is his first full year at Triple A after spending most of last at Reading.
“The starters have been giving us a chance to win the games and not forcing us to overuse the bullpen,” explained Russell. “If your starters can get you deep in the game you’ve always got a good opportunity to win.”
In game one of the series, J.A. Happ was once again dominating, pitching 5.2 innings, ( his stats to date two starts, 10.2 innings with no runs allowed giving up only two hits), leaving the game with a slim 1-0 lead. With the game tied 1-1 going into the bottom of the eighth, Ottawa gained the lead scoring two runs..Lynx third baseman Brennan King was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded and Jason Jaramillo followed with a single, putting Ottawa ahead 3-1. Eddie Brito, (1-1) held the Knights scoreless in the eighth to get his first win of the season and Brian Sanchez gave up a run in the ninth but held on for his second save. The Lynx infield turned double plays in the third and fourth innings and Jarmaillo threw out Josh Fields attempting to steal second in the fifth. Left fielder Lou Collier made a key in that same inning, throwing out Andy Gonzalez attempting to advance to third. In the eighth inning, Collier the third place batter and fourth place hitter Chris Coste each attempted sacrifice bunts. The strategy was successful as it helped bring home the third Ottawa run.
“I want all these guys to be able to do anything we ask of them. The game situation will dictate the strategy and not necessarily who is at bat.” explained manager Russell. “If they are in Philadelphia, we want them to be able to do what’s called for no matter the situation.”
Game two of the series saw another strong outing from Brian Mazzone, (1-1), marking the second straight start he has gone seven innings. In this game, the Lynx scored often and early, Mazzone leaving the game holding a 7-3 lead. Yoel Hernandez pitched a perfect ninth for his first save.
Despite his impressive performance Mazzone didn’t seem totally happy with his performance. “I didn’t feel comfortable warming up or out on the mound the entire game but I managed to make the pitches when I had to.” “The defense helped me out and we scored early.”
Matt Childers started the third game of this series and pitched a strong six innings John Ennis, (1-0) entered the game in the eighth inning but couldn’t hold the lead. However, the Ottawa comeback, (Jim Rushford singling home the go ahead run in the bottom of the inning), gave Ennis his first win of the year and the Lynx their third win in a row and putting their record at 5-5.
Gary Burnham leads the team with an average of .400. Chris Roberson has ten RBI. The team is now second in batting with a .280 average but still have yet to hit a home run. Ottawa is thirteenth in overall team ERA, (4.87) despite the strong performance over the last three games. Their 5-5 record places them 2.5 games back of Buffalo in fourth place.
The Philadelphia Phillies activated Kyle Davis today, (April 19th), and released veteran Justin Miller. Ottawa plays the fourth game of their series against Charlotte tonight and play single games Saturday and Sunday against Scranton/Wilkes Barre before traveling to Scranton for three beginning April 24th then returning home on April 27th to face Indianapolis in a four game series.