Keys Game Notes 5-20-14

The Keys open up a three-game homestand against the Myrtle Beach this evening. The Keys have won four of six and will look to continue the success against the league-leading Pelicans, who come into the series boasting a 27-15 record and a 15-5 record on the road.

Frederick sends Carolina League Pitcher of the Week Parker Bridwell to the mound, who nearly threw a no-hitter in his last outing. The Keys are also getting hot at the plate, especially Tucker Nathans, who is coming off one of his best weekends of the year, going 9-16 in four games, and Michael Burgess, who comes into the series on a five-game hitting streak.

Tonight is also GUARANTEE WIN NIGHT! We GUARANTEE that the Keys will win, but if they don’t, your ticket from tonight’s game can be redeemed at the box office for a Monday-Thursday regular-season home game (based on availability) later in the season. Tonight is also Peanut Free Night, and no peanut products will be sold at the game.

Hope to see plenty of you out at Harry Grove Stadium tonight!

Below are some of tonight’s game notes.

TWIN-CITY TORMENT: Needing only one more out to force extra-innings, Matt Hauser misfired on a breaking ball to Winston-Salem’s Courtney Hawkins, while two batters later, Grant Buckner delivered an RBI single to right, as the Keys fell to the Dash 7-6 on Sunday afternoon at BB&T Ballpark. The walk-off defeat forced Frederick to settle for a series-split, after winning the two middle games of the four-game affair. In a contest that featured a combined 23 hits, Michael Burgess was the star. Ending a triple shy of the cycle, the Floridian went 3-for-3 with four RBIs. Seen as a possible pitching duel at the onset, Branden Kline tied a career-high with six runs as well as a career-worst 11 hits. His opponent Tyler Danish did not fare well either. Entering Sunday with the third-best ERA in minor league baseball (0.71), the righty allowed five runs on seven hits as well as two home runs.

TOUGH EXIT: The Frederick Keys suffered their fourth walk-off loss of the season on Sunday. It was the team’s first walk-off defeat since May 7 at Potomac, when Randolph Oduber stroked a game-winning double to give the Nationals a 4-3 triumph. Frederick also suffered a pair of walk-off defeats to the Lynchburg Hillcats on back-to-back nights in April. The walk-off single by Buckner served as payback of sorts, as the Keys earned a walk-off victory over Winston-Salem on May 10.

THE FLORIDIAN FORCE: Michael Burgess put together his third three-hit game of the season on Sunday afternoon. Going 3-for-3, the Tampa native finished a triple shy of the cycle, and became only the third Keys player to drive in four runs in a game this year. It was the most runs Burgess had recorded in a game since last May 13, when he tallied eight RBIs as a member of the Corpus Christi Hooks. The four RBI effort pushed the outfielder’s tally up to 31 for the season. He is currently third in the Carolina League, trailing only Winston-Salem’s Courtney Hawkins (34) and Myrtle Beach’s Joey Gallo (39). Additionally, Burgess has hit safely in each of his last five games. During that time he is batting.473 (9-for-19) with a home run, four doubles, nine RBIs and four runs scored.

NATHANS KNOCKING: Tucker Nathans recorded multiple hits for the third time in four games on Sunday. Finishing 2-for-5 with a run scored, Nathans also extended his hitting streak to a season-high five games. Over that stretch, he is hitting .500 (10-for-20) with three doubles, five RBIs and two runs scored. The two-hit effort comes on the heels of an outstanding Saturday for Nathans, who tied his career-high for hits (four) and RBIs (three) in a game. Thanks to the five-game jaunt, Nathans has seen his average jump from 173 to .238. In 13 May ballgames, the former Fairfield standout is batting .340 (he hit only .148 over 14 games in April).

KNOCKED AROUND: Although Branden Kline receiveda no-decisionon Sunday, it was another challenging day for the right-hander. Over five-plus innings, the Frederick native surrendered a career-high 11 hits, and tied a career-high with six runs allowed. It was the most runs Kline had given up in a game since last May 12, when he was pitching for Low-A Delmarva. Since tossing six shutout innings at Potomac on May 7, the righty has given up 10 runs on 17 hits over his last nine frames. That has pushed his ERA from 2.01 to 3.47, the second-highest it has been all year.

 TAYLOR TO THE DL: On Monday left-hander Matt Taylor was placed on the seven-day disabled list retroactive to May 19. No reason was given for the DL move. One of the Carolina League’s top starting pitchers this season, the Georgian is currently tied for the circuit’s lead in wins (five) and is third in ERA (1.94). Winner of three straight starts, Taylor’s most recent triumph came last Wednesday against Potomac, where he allowed five runs over five innings. The Orioles have not made a corresponding roster move.

ATTACK OF THE BATS: The last six days have been very good for the Keys offensively. During that stretch, the Keys have averaged seven runs a game, earned a shutout victory, and set a new season-high for hits in a game. Frederick’s run of good luck started on Tuesday night. In addition to Parker Bridwell throwing a near no-hitter, Frederick touched up P-Nats lefty Brett Mooneyham for seven runs over five innings. On Wednesday morning, the Keys ambushed MLB rehabber Ross Ohlendorf. In only 2.1 of an inning, the orange and black tallied 11 hits and seven runs, as Frederick equaled its largest scoring output of the season (a 12-5 win). Additionally, seven of the nine starters ended with two hits or more. Following a setback in game one of Friday’s doubleheader, the Keys bounced back with an 8-2 win courtesy of five Winston-Salem errors, before tallying 13 knocks on Saturday in a 5-1 triumph. Frederick also recorded 10 hits on Sunday, but fell in the series finale to the Dash. In the month of May, Frederick is hitting .270 as a club over 18 games.

 ON THE WAY HOME: Glynn Davis sawhis string of games with a run scored come to an end on Friday. Entering game one of the doubleheader with a run scored in nine straight, Davis never advanced past second base. He made up for it in the backend of the twinbill though, scoring twice. The Baltimore native has now come home 14 times in his last 12 contests, while he is second in the league in that department (37). One of the CL’s top threats at the plate, Davis is also tied for third in the league in batting average (.338), is second in hits (53) and fourth in total bases (72). He has at least one hit in 31 of the 39 games he has played this season.

NAME THAT PUJOLS!: Luis Pujols becomes the 20th manager in Keys history, after spending 2013 as the skipper at Low-A Delmarva. He takes the reins from Ryan Minor, who went 61-78 in his lone season as Frederick’s head man. The cousin of Angels star, Albert Pujols, the 58-year-old has considerable experience as a player, manager and coach in the majors and minors. Since spending nine years as a big league catcher with Houston, Kansas City and Texas, Pujols has worked as a bench/first base coach for Montreal (1993-00) and San Francisco (2003-06), while he served as interim manager for the Detroit Tigers in 2002, after Phil Garner was fired six games into the season. He has also managed for Double-A affiliates in the Detroit and Houston systems.

PROSPECTING: This year’s Keys team does not lack for talent. Frederick’s Opening Day roster features five of Baltimore’s Top 30 prospects according to Baseball America. Shortstop Adrian Marin (12) highlights the list and is joined by right-handed pitchers Parker Bridwell (19), Branden Kline (20) and Mychal Givens (23). Glynn Davis (29) rounds out the group. Of the five players, only Givens (one game in 2010) and Davis played at the Advanced-A level prior to 2014.

 TODAY’S OPPOSING PITCHER:Right-hander Alex “Chi Chi” Gonzalez makes his ninth start of the season and his second against the Keys in  2014. The No. 5 prospect in the Texas farm system according to Baseball America as well as the Rangers top pitching prospect, Gonzalez has won each of his last four starts. His most recent victory came last Tuesday against Winston-Salem. Over six shutout innings, the right-hander allowed only three hits, walked one and struck out five. Over the four-start stretch, Gonzalez has given up only four runs in 27.2 innings, cutting his ERA from 3.92 to 2.42. He is currently sixth in the Carolina League in ERA and fifth in WHIP (1.03). Not new to the Carolina League, the former Southland Conference Pitcher of the Year pitched in five games for the Pelicans in 2013. Splitting time between the Birds and Short-Season Spokane, Gonzalez went 0-4 with a 3.80 ERA. Selected by Texas with the 23rd pick in the 2013 draft out of Oral Roberts, the 22-year-old went 9-5 with a 1.83 in 15 starts. During that time he struck out 126 and walked only 27. Gonzalez throws both a four-seam and two-seam fastball, a curveball, slider, cutter and changeup. The cutter is his bread and butter pitch, and was described by ESPN’s Keith Law as the best cutter in the 2013 draft. He developed the pitch his sophomore year in college with then-head coach Rob Walton. Known as “Chi Chi” by his teammates, Gonzalez received the nickname from his great uncle who also gave nicknames to Chi Chi’s sisters (nina and nene).

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