Frederick Keys Game Notes 8-19-14

Tuesday, August 19, 2014 · Game #122 · Road Game #64

Frederick Keys (57-64/25-29) vs Carolina Mudcats (54-68/25-30)

RHP Parker Bridwell (5-9, 4.51) vs. LHP Ryan Merritt (12-3, 2.55)

BREAK OUT THE BROOMS!: Mark Blackmar tossed seven innings for the second straight start, while the Frederick Keys used two three-run innings to top the Lynchburg Hillcats 7-2 on Sunday afternoon at Harry Grove Stadium. The win gave the orange and black the three-game sweep, and moved the club within 2.5 games of Lynchburg for the CL North wildcard spot. Frederick has now claimed four straight games, going back to Thursday night. Blackmar was superb for the fourth straight Sunday. Scattering five hits, the righty allowed only two unearned runs to pick up his eighth win of the year. Offensively, five of the club’s seven runs came via the homer. Joel Hutter provided the decisive blow in the third, with a three-run shot off Lynchburg lefty Blair Walters. In the eighth, Tucker Nathans added a two-run shot.

SWEEP COMPLETE: On Sunday, the Keys earned their fourth sweep of the season and their second at home. Prior to Sunday, the Keys had earned a three-game sweep at Winston-Salem (April 16-17) and a four-game sweep (July 7-10) and a two-game sweep (June 10-11) of Salem. The only other home sweep was the two-game sweep of the Red Sox (the third game of the set was cancelled due to rain). Thanks to Sunday’s sweep, the team extended its winning streak to four games, tying the club’s second-longest winning streak of the year (the longest streak lasted six games from July 5-10).

POWER SURGE: Over their last four games, the Keys have hit six home runs. That has moved the club’s yearly total to 78, a mark which ranks second in the Carolina League (only Myrtle Beach at 100 has more) but is still well short of last year’s total (109). Since 2011, Frederick has hit 99 home runs or more in a season. Of the six deep flies, two have come from Trey Mancini and Tucker Nathans. Mancini homered on Friday and Saturday, while Nathans went long on Saturday and hit another blast on Sunday. Making these home runs more destructive is that four of them have come with men on base.

HO-HUM: Mark Blackmar pulled into a tie for the team wins lead with Branden Kline (eight) thanks to seven more strong innings in the season finale against Salem. Handing out only two unearned runs, Blackmar cut his ERA from 3.21 to 3.02, the lowest it has been all season. He currently sits sixth in the CL in ERA, and sports the third-lowest mark for a right-hander. Undefeated as a starter, the Texan is 7-0 with a 2.53 ERA as a rotation-hand, while he has a 0.45 ERA in three August starts (20.0 IP/7R/1ER). Currently, he paces all full-season Orioles farmhands in ERA as well.

NATHANS FAMOUS: Tucker Nathans registered his fourth three-hit game of the year on Sunday and his second in four contests. Over that stretch, he is batting .467 (7-for-15) with two homers, a double, four RBIs and two runs scored. In the process, Nathans has seen his average climb from .256 to .267, the third-highest it has been all year, and the farthest north it has been since April 4 (second day of the season) when Nathans was hitting .300. Equally effective from both sides of the plate, he is hitting .267 against lefties and righties, while over 13 games in August, he is hitting .326.

GO JOHNNY GO!: Johnny Ruettiger has been one of the team’s top run producers over the last week. On Thursday and Friday, he tied his career-high with three RBIs, while he has driven in 11 in his first 22 games with the orange and black. Thanks to a three-hit effort in the series opener against the Hillcats he is 6 for his last 18 with a homer, six RBIs and two runs scored, to move his batting average from .155 to .200.

MULTI-HIT MAN: Jerome Pena has tallied multiple hits in three straight games, going 2-for-4 on Friday-Sunday against Lynchburg. The strong homestand at the plate moved his average up 12 points (.246 to .258), while it marks the first time all season that he has registered three straight games of two hits or more. Last season, Pena recorded multiple hits in three straight games on two separate occasions. He has done it six times in his career, while he has recorded multiple hits in four straight games twice. Both instances came when he was playing for the GCL O’s in 2011 (with the last time coming August 17-23 of that year).

SCORELESS STREAK SNAPPED: Wynston Sawyer’s sac-fly in the fourth inning on Thursday ended a string of 20 scoreless innings for the Keys. Held off the scoreboard in both games of their doubleheader on Wednesday, the run was the Keys first since the fifth inning on Sunday, when Sawyer recorded a two-run single of Yender Caramo. The 20 innings marks the Keys longest scoring drought of the year. Frederick’s previous high without a run scored was 17.2 innings, which stretched from July 27-30 against Lynchburg and Winston-Salem.

BUNDY TO THE DL: Just before Thursday’s game against Wilmington, Dylan Bundy was placed on the seven-day disabled list with a right latissimus strain. Taking his spot on the roster was Branden Kline, who was received from Short-Season Aberdeen. In six starts with the orange and black, Bundy is 1-2 with a 4.78 ERA. In his last start 10 days ago, the Oklahoma native tossed 4.1 innings of shutout baseball against Carolina and struck out seven.

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.

TODAY’S OPPOSING PITCHER: Left-hander Ryan Merritt makes his 23rd start of the season on Tuesday and his third against the Keys. The Carolina League leader in wins (12), Merritt’s latest victory came last Wednesday at Myrtle Beach. Tossing seven innings, he gave up two runs (one earned) on five hits to go along with five strikeouts and no walks. The starting pitcher for the CL in the Carolina League-California League All-Star Game, Merritt is third in ERA (2.55) and has displayed superb command (113 SO/24 BB). Currently, he leads the league in innings pitched (141.1) is second in batting average against (.201), WHIP (0.93) and fifth in strikeouts (113). The author of the CL’s first complete game this season, Merritt tossed seven innings of one-run baseball against Frederick on April 21. Pitching the second game of a doubleheader, the lefty allowed one unearned run on four hits over seven stanzas. He struck out four and did not walk a batter. Against the Keys he is 2-0 with a 1.38 ERA (13IP/3R/2ER) in two starts. Merritt made a cameo with the Mudcats in 2013, posting a 5.00 ERA (9IP/5ER) over two late-August starts. He spent the bulk of his year at Low-A Lake County, where he went 6-9 with a 3.42 ERA over 24 games (23 starts). His ERA was the fourth-best among Indians farmhands. Utilizing pinpoint command, Merritt walked only 18 over 126.1 innings, the second fewest in the Midwest League last year. Closing out the year strong, the Texan allowed only 14 earned runs over his final 53.2 frames. Selected by Cleveland in the 16th round of the 2011 draft, Merritt was taken out of McLennan Community College. There, he posted a 1.23 ERA and struck out 88 over 88 innings. A second-team All-State selection out of Celina High School (TX), he tallied a 0.98 ERA and hit .455. A three-pitch pitcher, Merritt throws an upper-80s fastball, a curveball and a changeup.

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