Saturday, April 22, 2006

Appier v. Fresno, Time

At some point in the 2006 season, you may hear banal cliches about Kevin Appier turning back the clock, or feeling young again between the lines in the PCL. Don't believe it.
Everything Appier did tonight, from his max-effort delivery, his breaking-ball heavy reportoire, to his lackluster velocity, evidenced a pitcher who knew exactly what he was capable of - a pitcher who knew exactly how old he was. Appier gave up three runs in the first inning on three hits and a walk - Fresno hitters battered his 'fast'ball, and when Appier had trouble locating his offspeed pitches, he was helpless.
Appier must know what he is at this point - a junkballer who's holding on for dear life. He must know that each shaky inning reduces his chances of ever pitching in the majors again by a non-negligible percentage. And, wonder of wonders, he showed in his last three innings that it's not completely hopeless. After giving up 4 runs (3 ER) in his first two innings, Appier pitched 123 innings in the 3rd, 4th and 5th. He retired his last 10 hitters: 8 GB, 1 FB and 1K. Of course, it's not generally considered OK to start pitching well only after 2 wasted innings.
Due largely to Appier's shaky start, the Rainiers were behind virtually the entire game: 4-0, 5-2, 8-4. But thankfully, they found that Fresno's bullpen is neither particularly talented nor desperate enough to have a stockpile of 'grit' and 'guile.'
Offensive stars included new catcher Guillermo Quiroz (4-4, 2b), Shin-Soo Choo (3-4, 2bb), Hunter Brown (3-4) and Adam Jones (1-5, HR - into the teeth of a strong wind to left - one of the hardest hit balls I've seen). A 6 run 7th turned that 8-4 deficit into a 10-8 lead. Sean Green was the only pitcher who emerged unscathed and picked up a well-earned win with 2 1/3 innings of 2 H ball. He was actually hit harder than I've seen in a while, and his 4-3 GB/FB ratio shows that something wasn't quite right.
Still, with the Mariners getting blanked by Nate Robertson (but a nice outing from GS52 - albeit in a LOOGY appearance), this was a great night to take in a PCL slugfest. Clint Nageotte gets the start tomorrow versus Matt Kinney of Fresno.


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