The Threshers rebounded from their season opening home loss against the Dunedin Blue Jays by beating them in their own home opener. The payback didn’t come easy as the Threshers were no-hit through 5 innings and scored their first run without benefit of a hit. But fortunaetly they scored enough to reward David Whitehead with a win for the solid effort he produced. Lee Ridenhour was perfect in a set-up role, and Ulises Joaquin persevered to save the victory.
The game again featured rehabbing major leaguers, Michael Saunders as DH and leadoff hitter for the Blue Jays and RF Domonic Brown batting third and playing 5 innings for the Threshers. Neither figured in the scoring.
Friday’s line up.
David Whitehead pitched a solid 6 innings for the Threshers. His fastball was 90-93 most of the night. When he dipped below 90 in the last 2 innings, he was able to reach back and find the extra velocity when he needed it. He used an effective curve ball to record half of his 8 strikeouts.
Whitehead started out strong. After a one-out double down the LF line in the first inning, he recorded 2 strike outs, catching both batters looking at called third strikes.
David retired the Jays on 8 pitches in the second inning, the first two by strike out before a ground out to Mitch Walding at third.
In the third inning, Whitehead got two more ground balls to Walding. Saunders followed with single off Zach Green in the hole between first and second. A fielder’s choice ended the inning.
The Jays hit a couple of balls hard in the fourth inning – a fly ball to D. Brown on the warning track in RF and a line drive to Drew Stankiewicz at second. A routine fly ball to right ended the inning.
The fifth inning began with a chopped single over Walding. An errant pickoff throw allowed the runner to reach third with no outs. Behind in the count, 2-1, Whitehead bore down and threw a 91 mph fastball and a 75 mph curve ball past the batter for the first out. He got the next batter swinging at another curve ball. He ended the threat with a fly out to Aaron Brown in center.
The Jays mounted another rally in the sixth when Saunders doubled into the left field corner. Whitehead walked the next batter on 5 pitches. Once again, he bore down and struck out the next two batters on 6 pitches. He followed that up with a routine ground out to Stankiewicz.
Whitehead left with a 2-0 lead and this line –
- 6.0 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 8 K, 81 pitches, 56/25 strikes to balls
Lee “Rocket Arm” Ridenhour took the mound and dominated for the next 2 innings. The Rocket retired 6 straight batters in 17 pitches. He threw fastballs on 14 of those pitches and all were 92-93 mph. The first slider he threw resulted in a strike out to end the seventh inning. His third slider had the same result to end the eighth inning. His line –
- 2.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K, 17 pitches, 13/4 strikes to balls
Ulises Joaquin earned the save but made it interesting. He allowed a broken bat bleeder up the middle, Lohman had no chance at throwing the runner out. Joaquin has some nasty movement on his slider. His first fastball was clocked at 94 mph and resulted in a 6-4-3 double play. Joaquin threw an array of off-speed pitches and fastballs to the next two batters but conceded a line drive single to left and a ground single to center. Joaquin quickly got ahead of the next batter and struck him out with a 95 mph fastball.
Joaquin’s fastball runs 93-95, but he is equally confident in his off speed pitch which comes in at 84-85 mph His line –
- 1.0 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K, 20 pitches, 16/4 strikes to balls
Defensively, the Threshers were flawless behind Whitehead. The only error was his errant pickoff throw.
On offense, the Threshers were stymied for most of the game. There only base runner was Andrew Knapp who walked to lead off the second inning.
Mitch Walding gave the Threshers their second base runner when he walked to lead off the sixth inning. Manager Greg Legg had Devin Lohman sacrifice him over to second base. With Drew Stankiewicz at the plate, Walding advanced to third on a wild pitch. Here’s where it gets interesting.
Stankiewicz ripped a hard ground ball up the middle. The Jays pitcher stuck his glove out and snagged the ball in such a way that his glove was knocked off but the ball was in his bare, ungloved hand. He tossed it to the catcher and Walding was trapped. He retreated to third and tried to keep the rundown going until so Stankiewicz could advance. But the catcher ran him aggressively (and correctly) back toward third. However, Walding ducked under the tag. The catcher wheeled to throw home but nobody was there. The pitcher had gone to retrieve his glove and nobody covered home. Walding scored and Stankiewicz slid under the tag at second. At this point, the Threshers’ line for the game was – 1 R, 0 H, 1 E.
The Jays brought in a reliever to replace a starter with a no-hitter. (The recap on the MiLB site is wrong. So much for it being more accurate than my box score.) He was greeted with a double by Andrew Pullin, into the LCF gap.
After Pullin’s double, the Jays bullpen shut down the Threshers again. They managed 2 more singles and a walk, but 5 batters struck during the Jays 3.2 innings of relief.
The Threshers drew 3 walks tonight. I don’t recall them getting very many walks last season.
The Threshers’ pitchers struck out 11 Jays and walked only one.
The box score for this game is here.
Brandon Leibrandt starts tomorrow in the third game of the series back in Clearwater. It is fireworks night, always draws a big crowd.