The Manchester experience in 16 moving pictures
It's been a while since I've posted anything over here. This is something I put together for my own site and seemed appropriate for a FanPost because, hey, everyone here loves GIFs. Don't expect any particularly insightful commentary below, there are better sources of that over in AA proper.
Less than two months into the 2014 season, the B-Mets already have played their last regular season game of the year in Manchester, NH. They leave New Hampshire with a 7-3 record at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium after shutouts, blown leads, big hits, occasional downpours, and a 14-inning finale. Through all of it, the Binghamton roster has remained almost completely unchanged. Only backup catchers changed places, with Blake Forsythe (on the DL for his entire 2014 B-Mets stint) dealt to Oakland and Nelfi Zapata (who did not appear in a game in Manchester) replacing Xorge Carrillo after the latter's call-up to Las Vegas. That's effectively a stable 25-man roster to work with.
While I try to cover minor league games with as much useful information as possible, I have my limits. When it comes to giving an illustrated first-hand account that goes beyond what the box score will tell you, I can at least fake competence. But when people start asking about mechanics, I've got nothing. I don't like watching games from behind home plate and I can't tell a curve from a slider. I can juggle multiple electronic devices and capture photos and video while live-tweeting a game though. So I added a video camera to my usual game pack and quickly realized that getting sharp video at night games just wasn't happening. Oh well. What does it all add up to? Damned if I know.
Let's kick things off with Wilfredo Tovar enthusiastically grounding into a double play. Is this something he learned during his stint in the big leagues last year? Wherever he got it from, that's a heck of a follow-through.
As far as pitchers go, I only have GIFs of five of the six starters. Between the lack of light and kids inevitably congregating in front of me in the late innings, relievers weren't an option. And while I'll be at the park rain or shine, I draw the line at a stadium full of screaming kids. That made Manchester Schools Day a non-starter, which means that I missed Greg Peavey's complete game shutout, easily the best pitching performance of the ten games.
I give up. The Vox Post Editor keeps breaking this one, so if Gorski is just standing at the edge of the mound, it's because Amazin' Avenue hates Darin Gorski. Two freaking hours to lay out something that I had already posted elsewhere and then this happens... Should have (of? Do people get the ironic "should of" bit around here?) just posted a link to my site as a FanShot, unwritten rules be damned...
This was a common sight on Opening Day in Manchester. Darin Gorski, no stranger to this park, ended four of his six innings on swinging strikeouts. He didn't overpower with velocity but still managed to keep the Fisher Cats to one run scored.
Robles pitched effectively in his first outing in Manchester, but he allowed quite a few baserunners and only lasted five (shutout) innings. He initially looked better his second time out, allowing only one baserunner and hitting 93 on the radar gun in his first two innings. Then his velocity dropped to 90 and the Fisher Cats jumped all over him for five runs over the next 3 1/3 innings.
Rainy Friday night games seemed to be the norm for these two teams, though this time it was only due to the weather. With the more aptly named Rainy Lara still one spot away in the rotation, Matthew Bowman drew the short straw and got this mess dumped on him. Bowman allowed just two singles and a walk over five of his six innings. In the 3rd inning however, the sky opened up and nobody could keep a good grip on the ball. The result looked a bit like this, with the Fisher Cats scoring six runs on a triple, a wild pitch, and a grand slam. Bowman bounced back from the worst weather faced by any B-Mets pitcher and the Mets rallied against the New Hampshire bullpen to get the first win in a series of near-defeats.
Ouch. Even I can tell that those mechanics look a bit suspect. Still, they worked well enough to keep the Fisher Cats off the board for 10 straight innings across Lara's two starts. While he got lucky in a shaky 7th inning during his first game, Lara lost it in the 7th the second time around and was pulled after giving up three hits while recording only one out. That nearly blew the Mets' 4-run lead (both of the runners Lara left behind would go on to score), but the bullpen held on from there to win another close one.
After getting lit up in his first start (7 runs, all earned, in 4 2/3 innings) and knocked around in his second (3 runs, 1 earned, in 5 innings), it looked like the third time was the charm for Pill. He managed to get through five innings without allowing a run, mostly relying on a low-velocity arsenal in the 75-82mph range. Pill's luck changed when he leaned on his 87-89mph fastball in the 6th and he gave up two runs before being pulled with two outs. That cut Binghamton's lead to five runs, all of which would be given up before a single out was recorded in the next inning. With the Fisher Cats looking for a walkoff, the B-Mets' bullpen put up six straight scoreless innings. Some offense was all it would take to win this one, too bad someone kept telling these guys to bunt...
Manchester Schools Day? No thanks. I may be a die-hard, but even I'm not going anywhere near that. Sorry, Greg.
This weak groundout does not do Kyle Johnson justice. Not only is he the only hitter on the team who can lay a bunt down properly, but he also put the bunting in the final game to rest with a one-out double in the 14th that put him in position to score on a pair of singles, which would be enough to finally win the game. With the outfielders on this team, you would think he would be getting more playing time...
Part of the Binghamton 1B/DH tandem, Jayce Boyd hasn't been spectacularly good or bad this year. On May 6 however, Boyd went 4-4 with two doubles and a home run. And just one RBI. This would be a turning point for Boyd, who was batting .175 coming into the game. This was Boyd's second double from that game.
What he lacks in youth, Brian Burgamy makes up for in power. He really gets under pitches and lifts them deep into the outfield, though that usually (as is the case here) turns into outs in a big park like Northeast Delta Dental. Burgamy did hit three of them out in his first two games, but then cooled off with just one more home run over the other eight.
Two B-Mets batters were hitting below .200 by the end of the Manchester finale. Unlike the other one, Dustin Lawley has improved since then. Still, this fly out on an 0-4 night does not inspire confidence.
The logjam of mediocre outfielders in Binghamton has kept Travis Taijeron from getting a lot of playing time. He only appeared in half of the Manchester games as an outfielder and capped the final series with an 0-6 showing as the DH. Before that though, he crushed this pitch deep to the left field corner, missing a home run by mere inches.
When he isn't repeatedly grounding out to third or arguing balls and strikes with the umpire after striking out looking to end the game, Kevin Plawecki has been driving in runs. This single knocked in two.
Also among the hot hitters in Binghamton is Matt Reynolds, a prospect many had given up on after last season. Here he is reaching for a single to drive in Brian Burgamy from second.
I'm not really sure what to make of Darrell Ceciliani. He's more known for his glove than his bat, but he made some bad plays in the spacious center field in Manchester and hit his first (and so far only) home run of the season in the final game. This is not it. Unlike his earlier home run to right, this is a simple line drive out in the same direction. Which was particularly frustrating because it came right after...
Here's Cory Vaughn lining out to right just before Darrell Ceciliani did the same exact thing. Maybe it's contagious. Among the five Binghamton outfielders, Vaughn is the bottom of the barrel. If you need to guess who went 0-for-4 for the B-Mets last night, Cory Vaughn is a safe bet. He did that four times over ten games in Manchester, compared to just five hits. After replacing Matt Clark as DH in the penultimate game, Vaughn had a hot streak with doubles in consecutive at bats across the final two games. And then he went 0-4 over the remainder of the final game. Things only got worse for Vaughn after leaving New Hampshire, with just two hits over his next nine games. I'm being generous here with a simple out for Vaughn's GIF; I've got a few really bad swings I could have used if I wanted to be mean. He's been taking a lot of ugly hacks and is getting the results you would expect. If you were wondering why he wasn't showing up on anyone's top Mets prospects list, this is why.
Speaking of Matt Clark, I just missed getting video of one of his home runs. And then he left the 5/17 game early after a nasty HBP, which also kept him out of the 14-inning finale. So I have nothing for him.
And that brings us back to Wilfredo Tovar, who was red hot in the beginning of the season. Lately though, he's managing barely a hit per game. That's still not bad, but for someone who had been an RBI machine just a few weeks ago, it is troubling. Tovar's frustration at the plate is evident with every foul ball he hits. He was fairly calm for this one, probably because of the entertainment factor. Usually he flips his bat around and looks like he's going to break it over his knee. Maybe he's just getting bored being back in AA after getting a taste of the majors last year. I can't blame him, I was getting a bit bored myself watching a bunch of guys who found themselves stuck in AA for a second season, knowing that the big roster changes wouldn't happen until after the B-Mets left Manchester far behind.