Closers will pretty much all agree on this much. After you blow a save, the one thing you really want to do is get the ball again right away. The good ones welcome the challenge.
On Sunday afternoon, Robert Korecky took a major step in learning how it might be if he gets to the Major Leagues. After falling apart in the ninth inning less than 24 hours earlier, Korecky was given the ball again in the ninth inning by manager Stan Cliburn, and once again he was being asked to preserve a one-run lead for the Red Wings, a team in desperate need of a victory.
After giving up a leadoff single, Korecky bore down, and retired the Bats to notch his fourth International League save, and allow the Red Wings to remain in 1st place in the Northern Division for at least one more day. Scranton had already taken two games from league-leading Charlotte to inch to within 0.5 games of the division lead.
Louisville had won the last five games against the Red Wings, and were becoming quite the pests. On Sunday, it looked like the Bats might make it six straight, and spoil another afternoon for Rochester. With two out in the ninth, and runners on first and second, Ray Almedo hit a tough chopper to shortstop Thomas Watkins. Watkins had no play at first, but alertly noticed that Brendan Harris had rounded the bag at third. Watkins fired a bullet to third baseman Glenn Williams, and he applied the tag to a somewhat surprised Harris to end the game. That play made a winner of Mike Smith, who pitched six innings and left with a 2-1 lead, which happily held up today.
Smith, who has taken over the role of staff ace upped his record to 9-4. He labored today, throwing 114 pitches (66 for strikes) in only six innings. He allowed only one run on three hits, walking three and striking out nine.
The game winning hit came off the bat of the awakening Kevin West, who smoked a long home run in the fourth for his eighth home run of the season.
This is going to be a difficult home stand, and the Wings will be very fortunate if they come up with a split in this series by winning on Monday. The Bats have already clinched the season series, but with Scranton being red-hot, the Wings need to hold on to their one game lead in the division. These next few games will demonstrate just what this young team is made of.
As with most young teams, there are a lot of growing pains. The Wings are not a real sound defensive unit, and they often make many physical and mental errors. Offensively, they get thrown out on the bases frequently, and they leave a lot of men in scoring position with less than two outs. But Cliburn has them working hard, as he and his brother are good teachers. Saturday, after Korecky’s meltdown, Manager Cliburn told him he wasn’t pitching inside enough, and he was nibbling the outside corners too much. It resulted in a damaging, run producing wild pitch, as well as five straight hits. On Sunday, Korecky corrected the problem, mixed up his pitches better, and came away with the save.
Red Wings Notes:Tommy Watkins 12 game hit streak ended.Erubiel Durazo returned to the lineup and went 1-4, breaking an 0-12 string.Chris Heintz had three hits, drove in the Wings first run, and now has his average up to .295. Word out of Minnesota is that Andres Torres is next in line for a promotion if one is needed. Congratulations to Red Wing grad Francisco Liriano on his 12th win of the season on Sunday.
Sunday’s bounce back win was very gratifying. This team is nowhere near as talented as the team we all were privileged to watch in April, May and part of June, and they may very well miss the playoffs unless some decent reinforcements arrive and a couple of veterans have super second halves. But one thing is for sure, Stan and Stu will have them working hard everyday, and believing in themselves. The atmosphere in the clubhouse, despite all the personnel changes, is excellent.