Frederick Keys Game Notes 8-20-14

Wednesday, August 20, 2014 · Game #123 · Road Game #65

Frederick Keys (57-65/25-30) vs Carolina Mudcats (55-68/26-30)

LHP Matt Taylor (5-2, 2.83) vs. RHP Dylan Baker (3-2, 5.27)

STREAK SNAPPED: The Carolina Mudcats halted the Frederick Keys four-game winning streak on Tuesday night, thanks to a terrific start from Carolina League wins leader Ryan Merritt and an early offensive surge. Aided by five walks from Parker Bridwell, the Mudcats jumped out to a 5-0 lead after two innings. Ex-Key Torsten Boss provided the initial blow, with a two-run ground rule double off the Texan. One inning later, Jerrud Sabourin stroked a three-run homer over the short porch in right. That was plenty for Merritt of support for Merritt, who gave up just one run on four hits over seven innings. Only one of those hits left the infield. Going back to the club’s last encounter in Frederick, the Mudcats have won three straight against the Keys, and own an 11-5 edge in the season series.   

WALK THIS WAY: On Tuesday, Frederick handed out 10 walks, one-shy of the club’s season-high. Parker Bridwell handed out five free tickets (one short of his career-high) while Brady Wager and Jimmy Yacabonis walked five over six innings of relief. The only game this year where the Keys have give away more free rides came on April 23, when the team walked 11 in a 21-6 defeat. The primary beneficiary of the Keys wildness was the Mudcats Yandy Diaz, who walked four times (tied for the most times an opponent batter has walked against Frederick this year) and scored a pair of runs. This season, the orange and black have walked 444 as a staff, second-most in the CL (Myrtle Beach leads the way with 521 free tickets).  

POWER SURGE: Over their last five 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.

AVOID THE BACKSLIDE: Oftentimes this season, Keys winning streaks have been followed by backslides. In the second-half, Frederick has enjoyed a season-best six-game winning streak (June 5-10) but it was followed by a four-game losing streak. This also occurred during the team’s most recent three-game winning streak (July 21-23). Following a win over Winston-Salem and two against Myrtle Beach, the team dropped six in-a-row to Lynchburg and Winston-Salem. The most extreme example though, came at onset of the second-half. Going into the All-Star break on a three-game streak, the Keys dropped eight of their first nine to open second-half play (that included a season-worst seven-game losing streak).

CALLED UP: On Wednesday, Branden Kline was officially called up to Double-A Bowie, becoming the eighth member of the Keys to advanced to the Eastern League in 2014 (Michael Burgess, Glynn Davis, Mychal Givens, Mike Yastrzemski, Zane Chavez, Sammie Starr and Ashur Tolliver were the others). It is Kline’s first promotion to Double-A. Rated the No. 20 prospect in Orioles system according to Baseball America, Kline went 8-6 with a 3.84 ERA over 23 starts. At the time of his call-up, the Frederick native ranked ninth in ERA (3.84) and four among starters in walk/nine innings pitch ratio (2.27).

HO-HUM: Mark Blackmar now leads all active Keys pitchers with eight wins 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 has registered multiple hits in three of his last five games. Over that stretch, he is batting .473 (9-for-19) with two homers, a double, four RBIs and four runs scored. In the process, Nathans has seen his average climb from .256 to .270, 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 .269 against lefties and .271 against righties, while over 14 games in August, he is hitting .340.

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 23 games with the orange and black. Thanks to a three-hit effort in the series opener against the Hillcats he is 8 for his last 22 with a homer, six RBIs and three runs scored, to move his batting average from .155 to .204. On Tuesday, he was one of three players who finished with two hits, as Ruettiger, Nathans and Esposito accounted for six of the team’s seven knocks.

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: Right-hander Dylan Baker makes his seventh Carolina League start and his third against the Keys. His most recent outing came last Wednesday at Myrtle Beach. Picking up the win, Baker tossed 5.1 innings, surrendering four runs on five hits. He walked three and struck out five. It was the Alaskan’s second straight victory, after defeating the Keys six days before. In that start on August 7, he gave up two runs on five hits over six innings. In two contests against the orange and black, the righty is 2-0 with a 1.50 ERA (12 IP/2R). Taking the Carolina League by storm, the 22-year-old retired all 18 Keys he faced in his Carolina League debut, an outing where he sat between 98-101 mph on the radar gun. However in his next start at Potomac, Baker never took the mound, as he fractured his right ankle while taking the field on April 3.  The injury cost him more than 3.5 months. The right-hander spent all of 2013 at Low-A Lake County righty allowed only 124 hits, while in the second-half he was nearly untouchable, going 5-1 with a 2.93 ERA in 15 games. Baker made his professional debut with the AZL Indians in 2012, ending 0-1 with a 4.13 ERA. A virtual unknown from Juneau, AL, the 22-year-old went undrafted out of Douglas High School. Following graduation, he moved to Tacoma (WA) Community College, and compiled a 3-3 record and a 3.47 ERA. Staying only one season, Baker’s stock soared when he transferred to Western Nevada Community College for his sophomore year. There, pitching coach Jeremy Beard helped the right-hander increase his velocity by tweaking his mechanics and introducing him to a new long toss program. Armed with better command and more effective secondary pitches as well, the results were immediate. Putting together the best season in WNC history, Baker went 13-0 with a 1.91 ERA to go along with 126 strikeouts in 84.2 innings. Named the Scenic West Athletic Conference Pitcher of the Year, Baker was selected by Cleveland in the fifth round of the 2012 draft, making him the highest selection in WNC history. He also just missed becoming the highest drafted player in Alaska history (Brian Montalbo was selected by Atlanta in the fourth round of the 2000 draft). Baker throws a mid-90s fastball, a slider, a curveball and a changeup.

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