Ask a true baseball fan why he loves the game so much and he or she will tell you that for six months, you get to watch your favorite team play virtually every day. No other pro sport offers that opportunity. One night your guys get clobbered into submission, and the very next night, often the very same eight (or if your team has the DH, nine) players will totally turn the tables and blow the opposition away. You don’t have to wait long to right a wrong; to extend a winning streak; to watch your favorite player go 4-4.
Two nights ago Syracuse scored 23 runs on 25 hits. Last night, they scored five runs on nine hits. But tonight, they were completely shut down by a four-hit, 11 strikeout masterpiece by one-time Toronto prospect Mike Smith. Smith was in total control from first pitch to the final out. In fact he finished with a flourish, striking out the side in the ninth, as the enthusiastic crowd of over 5,500 stood as one to salute the new Red Wing Ace.
Since the Twins Era began in Rochester in 2003, no Red Wing had pitched a complete game nine inning shutout, until Pete Munro did it about a month ago. And now, Mike Smith joins Munro, as the Wings righty improves his record to 8-4 on the season.
For six innings, it was a real duel between Smith and Syracuse starter Dustin McGowan. The only run over that span was a solo home run hit by enigmatic Garrett Jones, which was his team-leading 13th. But the Wings broke it open with five runs the seventh, and Smith did the rest.
Scranton also won tonight, so Rochester’s lead remains at 2.5 games. The Wings and the SkyChiefs play a doubleheader tomorrow starting at 5 pm, as Boof Bonser and Pete Munro take the hill for Rochester. I’d be tempted to say we’ll win them both, as the Wings have won all four doubleheaders they have played so far this season, but I won’t, and I hope I didn’t jinx them.
Wings Players to Watch:
It is very encouraging to see Alexander Romero looking very much more comfortable these days. His batting average is finally over .200, but more importantly, he is getting some key hits.
Tommy Watkins, who has been kicking around the minors for eight years without ever getting to AAA, is really heating up now that he has been pressed into everyday service. Hitting .298, he has shown some power, and has been driving in a lot of runs lately. A very pleasant surprise.
Erubiel Durazo is also on fire. He collected two more hits tonite, including a double, which was his third since joining the Wings. He is showing no sign of rust in getting his stroke back.
Garrett Jones has his batting average up to .230, which is nothing to write home about, but he has been wallowing between .200 and .220 most of the season. He leads the team with home runs and 61 RBI, but for the most part, he has been inconsistent and disappointing.
Mike Smith has lowered his earned run average to 3.54 and he leads the team with eight wins.
Rochester still could use another bat with the tough schedule coming up, but tonight, they looked like a million bucks. Naturally, it could all change tomorrow, and I’ll be watching. Thats why I love this game.