It might not seem like much of a winning streak, but both the Quakes and 66ers are on streaks.
The Quakes held on for an 8-7 victory at Visalia on Friday, their third in a row. Meanwhile, the Sixers won their second straight, 6-2 over visiting Bakersfield.
It marked the first time since last July 3-4 that both the Quakes and Sixers simultaneously won back-to-back games.
On Friday, Darwin Perez was 4-for-4 and Roberto Lopez drove in four runs for the Quakes, but they almost let an 8-5 lead slip away in the ninth.
Visalia loaded the bases on a single, double and a walk with on outs against Eddie McKiernan, who entered the game with seven straight scoreless appearances. A fielder’s choice scored one run, and a balk scored another and put the tying run on second. But Kyle Hurst replaced McKiernan and retired the next two batters on a foul popup and a strikeout to earn his first save with the team. With a game time of 3:36, it went too long to make it into Saturday’s print editions.
The Sixers meanwhile, got 13 hits, including four from Nick Buss in the win over Bakersfield. Tony Delmonico homered and JonMichael Redding (2-2) allowed two runs in six innings.
The Sixers took three of four games in the series with the Quakes, their second series win at the Epicenter this season.
Here’s what we found out:
Charlie Haeger can pitch in A ball. Haeger, the Dodgers’ knuckleballer who has been with the Sixers on a rehab assignment (plantar fasciitis) working with pitching coach Charlie Hough, allowed five earned runs in 16 innings in three starts, while striking out 12. Will that translate back to the Dodgers? Who knows? A ball players have no experience or preparation for a knuckleballer. Hough said at the beginning of Haeger’s time that he’s on if he’s throwing his knuckler for strikes. He walked eight in his time with the Sixers.
Kyle Russell is red-hot and likes playing against the Quakes. In 11 games against the Quakes this season, Russell is batting .410 with six home runs, 10 runs and 18 RBIs. Overall, he has six home runs in his last six games.
The Quakes miss Dillon Baird. Baird is a power and RBI bat in the middle of the lineup and since he”s out with an injury after he was hit in the hand by a pitch. Jon Townsend seems to be a slight improvement on Baird defensively, but doesn’t provide the offensive punch.
The next week could be key for both teams. The Quakes are going on a seven-game North Division trip to Visalia and San Jose, never an easy trip. The Sixers are returning home, where they are 4-17 to face a Bakersfield team that before Monday had lost 10 in a row.
It’s been a whirlwind 14 months for Kenley Jansen.
In March of 2009, the native of the Netherlands Antilles was the starting catcher for the Netherlands team in the World Baseball Classic. He began the 2009 regular season with the 66ers and quickly became known as a catcher with a strong throwing arm, but no offense.
By midseason, Jansen had been converted to a hard-throwing pitcher and showed a lot of promise. He returned to the 66ers for 2010 and quickly proved he had outgrown the California League. He was 1-1 with a 1.50 ERA and 28 strikeouts in 18 innings this season, showing a mid-90s fastball.
After the Sixers’ 10th straight loss on Friday, Jansen was promoted to Double-A Chattanooga.
It was well-deserved. I would not be surprised to see Jansen in the big leagues by September.
It was no surprise to me when the 66ers took three of four from the Quakes to open the 2010 season. The Sixers had more prospects, and looked to have the better team overall.
That’s certainly not the case now.
When the Quakes defeated the Sixers 6-2 at Arrowhead Credit Union Park on Friday, the Quakes improved to 20-16 (their fifth straight win), and the Sixers dropped to 10-26, and suffered their 10th loss in a row. The last time they lost more, it was June 2005 when they lost 11. The franchise record was 13, set in 1997.
What are the issues? Well, what aren’t? Starting pitching hasn’t lived up to expectations. But when it does, they don’t hit. Starters Nate Eovaldi, Aaron Miller and JonMichael Redding are a combined 0-6 in 19 starts, yet each have ERAs below 4.00. The bullpen has 10 blown saves.
The team is not showing the power many expected. They’ve hit only three home runs at home and 14 in the season. It doesn’t help that they have 3B Pedro Baez, and OFs Preston Mattingly, Andres Perez and Alfredo Silverio all on the disabled list. It’s hurt more than could be imagined when Dodgers’ No. 1 prospect Dee Gordon skipped the Sixers and went straight to Double-A. Gordon is a leadoff hitter, and that’s a spot that has been unsuccessful for the Sixers.
The Quakes, meanwhile, have a deeper lineup than expected, with some speed and more power (24 home runs) than expected. The bullpen has been pretty solid, making up for some inconstent starts. Overall, they seem to play with more fire than the Sixers, something that couldn’t be anticipated before the season.
After the Quakes lost for the second straight night to Lake Elsinore, by dropping a game that was winnable in the late innings, they may have gotten some other bad news: an injury to lteam-eading home run hitter Dillon Baird.
With the Quakes trailing 5-3 in the bottom of the ninth with two on and two out, Baird, who homered earlier in the game, was due up. Instead, it was the newest Quake, Adam Younger, who pinch-hit for him. Younger replaced Carlos Colmenares on the roster Saturday after Colmenares was sent to Triple-A Salt Lake after Friday’s game. Younger was coming from low Single-A Cedar Rapids (where he was batting below .200), so his first Cal League at-bat was with the game on the line. Lake Elsinore’s Brad Brach predictably struck out Younger to earn his league-leading 11th save and third in the last four days.
After the game, manager Keith Johnson confirmed that Baird did come out of the game due to injury. Baird was hit in the hand by a pitch in the eighth inning, but remained in the game.
“The next inning on defense, he had some trouble throwing,” Johnson said. “So we took him out just to make sure.”
Johnson said it was “unlikely” that Baird, a third baseman, would be in the lineup for Sunday’s 2:05 p.m. game. He said there are no plans for x-rays, but “we’ll see how he is tomorrow.”
If Baird is out for any extensive length of time, that’s a big bat to be missing out of the middle of the Quakes’ lineup.
Here’s the eighth-inning tabulation 66ers bullpen against the Lake Elsinore Storm the last two nights: 5 pitchers used, each of whom allowed at least 2 earned runs, 22 batters faced, 11 hits allowed (eight of which came with runners in scoring position), 14 runs surrendered (all earned), four walks, one hit batter, one wild pitch, and two blown leads.
On Wednesday it was a 9-4 lead and the Sixers gave up six and lost 10-9. On Thursday, it was a 7-3 lead and they gave up eight and lost 11-7. The Sixers (10-18) are now 1-5 against Lake Elsinore (16-12) this season. Brad Brach has earned the save in all 5 of those Lake Elsinore wins and leads the league with 10 saves.
Who were the big bats combined on Wednesdays and Thursday’s eighth innings for Lake Elsinore? Ex-Quake Michael Collins was 3-for-3 with three runs and an RBI, Allan Dykstra was 2-for-2 with two runs and five RBI. Vince Belnome was 1-for-1 with two walks, two runs and two RBIs.
Suddenly the Sixers bullpen just looks awful. Who’s reliable? Kenley Jansen, Cody White and Kyle Smit, none of whom pitched in the eighth inning either night. Brandon Mann, who had a 2.08 ERA prior to Thursday, gave up the first two runs of the eight-run debacle Thursday and saw his ERA rise to 3.07.
I’ve always felt a Cal League team is only as strong as its bullpen. With several weak links in the Sixers’ bullpen right now, it’s no wonder the team is 10-18.
Manny Ramirez, appearing in his second game for the 66ers as part of a rehabilitation assignment for a strained right calf, went 0-for-1 with a walk, a run scored and a strikeout before coming out of the game for a pinch-hitter. It appears to be his last rehab game with the Sixers. Prior to the game, he was expected to be activated from the disabled list by the Dodgers on Saturday.
If he does nothing more in his career, Clay Calfee can say he once pinch-hit for Manny Ramirez. Of course, people don’t need to know that it was in a Single-A rehab game. Calfee pinch-hit for Ramirez in the fifth inning. Ramirez played left field, but did not have a single ball hit to him.
He did have an adventure on the basepaths. After Ramirez walked in the first inning, Justin Sellers also walked. With one out, Travis Denker hit a line drive right back at Nick Schmidt.
Schmidt couldn’t catch it, but knocked it down. Ramirez, apparently thinking it had been caught, stayed close to second. Schmidt didn’t realize it and threw to first to retire Denker.
That’s when Ramirez took off for third. First baseman Allan Dykstra noticed that and tried to throw him out. But the throw sailed high over third baseman Vince Belnome and Ramirez trotted home to put the Sixers up 1-0.
Manny Ramirez IS with the 66ers in Lake Elsinore. He just finished stretching and is about to take batting practice. He is set to bat leadoff and play left field as he rehabilitates from a right calf injury.
He played on Tuesday in the first game of his rehab assignment and was 1-for-3. He originally was expected to play Wednesday and tonight, but he just took batting practice with the Dodgers Wednesday. Undoubtedly there were some fans who showed up Wednesday in Lake Elsinore expecting to see Manny. The Storm promoted it and I could see several Ramirezs jerseys among the crowd. But he is here tonight in what is expected to be his last appearance with the Sixers.
One day after hearing that Dodgers right-hander Jeff Weaver (back) would be rehabilitating with the 66ers in the opener of a three-game series at Lake Elsinore on Tuesday, the team received a bigger piece of news.
Manny Ramirez (right calf), who played for the Sixers last year, is also expected to be playing for the Sixers on Tuesday on a rehab assignment. It’s been reported in several places, including Dodgers.com. There is no word yet how long Ramirez’s rehab assignment would be, but he’s likely not coming to San Bernardino. After three games in Lake Elsinore, the Sixers play four games at Lancaster. The team returns home May 11.
Last year, Ramirez played for the Sixers at the end of his 50-game suspension for failing a drug test. That first game was also at Lake Elsinore, where he went 2-for-2 with a walk and a home run. He then played the next two days in San Bernardino, going 1-for-5 with a walk.
Not too bad for the Storm. Two years in a row, they get a home game with Ramirez rehabbing for the Sixers. Last year, it was on a Saturday, when there was already going to be a big crowd (over 8,000 ended up turning out). This year, it’s on a Tuesday, so an otherwise light night will be quite a bit busier.
Dodgers reliever Jeff Weaver, who has been on the disabled list with a lower back strain, is scheduled to make a rehab start for the 66ers on Tuesday, when the team plays at Lake Elsinore.
In Weaver’s 13-year professional career, he has never before pitched in the California League.
Weaver is 0-1 with a 5.06 ERA in nine appearances for the Dodgers this season.