My first game story for Pickin’ Splinters is now up. Be sure to check it out and read about the Wings’ loss last night as well as manager Matthew LeCroy’s thoughts on the game.
During the 2022 season, I’ll have occasional reports on games I’ve attended of the Rochester Red Wings, the AAA affiliate of the Washington Nationals.
Last night’s 3-2 loss to Syracuse was, for such a close game, a rather nondescript one, as the Wings were foiled by a lack of clutch hitting and a would-be tying run being thrown out at the plate.
So, instead, I’m updating my opening day look at the team by having one line on every member of the Red Wings who was not on the opening day roster. I am not including Alcides Escobar, who is on a rehab assignment.
Here we go:
- Cory Abbott was acquired by the Nationals off waivers from the Giants in May.
- Joan Adon is looking to get back to Washington after being sent down with a 1-11 record and 6.97 ERA thus far in the show this season.
- Luis Avilan is an MLB veteran of 458 games, primarily with Atlanta and the Dodgers.
- Matt Brill came to the Nationals organization after initially being with Arizona, and was moved from AA to AAA in early June.
- Zack Burdi, currently on the IL, saw some MLB time with the White Sox and Orioles last season.
- Sam Clay first made his Rochester Red Wings debut in 2019, during the Twins era.
- Matt Cronin had a minuscule 0.55 ERA in AA Harrisburg before being called up to the Wings in late May.
- This is Danny Dopico‘s first year in the Nationals organization, having previously been with the White Sox.
- Aside from Cade Cavalli, Cole Henry is likely the biggest pitching prospect in the Nationals system.
- Patrick Murphy has pitched in 35 career MLB games.
- Sterling Sharp is not related to former NFL player Sterling Sharpe, as should be clear by the fact their last names are spelled different.
- Mason Thompson has a 3.86 ERA in 25.2 career IP in Major League Baseball.
- Taylor Gushue had a cup of coffee with the Cubs in 2021.
- Curacao’s Junior Martina has leapfrogged AA to join the Red Wings.
- Ildemaro Vargas has seen MLB time with Arizona, the Cubs, Minnesota, and Pittsburgh.
- Josh Palacios‘ uncle, Rey Palacios, is both a former big leaguer and a longtime Rochester firefighter.
The Red Wings continue their series against Syracuse through Sunday.
During the 2022 season, I’ll have occasional reports on games I’ve attended of the Rochester Red Wings, the AAA affiliate of the Washington Nationals.
It is May 19, 2010. The second game of a day-night doubleheader. Over 12.5 thousand people pack Frontier Field to watch the best prospect in baseball face the Red Wings. His name is Stephen Strasburg. He is young, but already accomplished. He won awards at San Diego State, a bronze medal in Beijing, and a $15 million dollar contract with the help of Scott Boras. The world is seemingly watching, with national media in the stands and seemingly every camera in the photo city aimed at the clean-shaven kid. Among those cameras in mine. It’s a clear view from behind the visitor dugout, and I see it all as he dismantles the likes of Trevor Plouffe, Matt Tolbert, and Danny Valencia to the tune of nine strikeouts. He leaves the game to a round of applause from the fans of the team he held to three hits. Admittedly, the 2010 Red Wings end up not being anything particularly special, finishing 49-95. As he enters the dugout, some boo him for not tipping his hat. It’s a silly controversy which fades quickly, the Ghost of Strasmas Past.
Within a few weeks, Strasburg is striking out 14 Pittsburgh Pirates. Within a few years, he’s an all-star. Within a decade, he’s the World Series MVP.
It is June 3, 2022. Over a dozen years have passed. Now, the great Stephen Strasburg returns to Rochester. He’s no longer the wonderboy of 2010. Time and injuries have forced him to go from the high heat to more finesse. Where once he could seemingly send it at 95 on demand, now his most dangerous pitch is likely the curve. Regardless, he is Stephen Strasburg, hero of the 2019 World Series. Over 10.5 thousand people pack Frontier Field to see the now-bearded veteran. While the eyes of the world have turned elsewhere, there are still plenty of cameras. One of those cameras is mine, shooting around the protective netting that slightly obstructs the view behind the visitors dugout. The Buffalo team Strasburg faces is a far better opponent than the Wings team he faced in 2010. The Red Wings he’s rehabbing with are better, too. The two Western New York teams are in a fight for the lead of the International League East. When he leaves the game after six innings, the Wings are leading 1-0 thanks to a Donovan Casey solo shot off a nearly-as-dominant Max Castillo. Strasburg has thrown 83 pitches, 50 of them for strikes. He has struck out four, walked one, and given up just a single hit. Early on, he humiliates the Blue Jays’ top prospect, Gabriel Moreno. Outside of a few at-bats that saw deep counts and a few possible would-be hits that are prevented by Rochester gloves, he never really struggles. The Bison eventually tie the game, but the Red Wings win it in the bottom of the ninth as Joey Meneses gets a bases-loaded single that just falls out of the third baseman’s glove. The win extends Rochester’s lead in the division to 2.5 games. By then, I imagine, Strasburg is already on a flight back to join the Nationals. After all, when he leaves the game after the sixth to applause he does some fist-bumps, talks to coaches quickly, and then disappears into the clubhouse. Gone. The Ghost of Strasmas Present.
And so now, he is gone, likely to never see Frontier Field again barring any future injuries. What the future holds for him is anyone’s guess, but in the near-term, it almost certainly sees him stepping on the mound in Washington once again. It will be a far cry from that night he struck out 14 Pirates as the world watched. Still, he is Stephen Strasburg. The best pitcher on a team having a horrific year. The greatest pitcher to spend the vast majority of his career in Washington since Walter Johnson. Beyond that, who knows? Perhaps this is the twilight of his career. Perhaps he’s just one more injury away from hanging it up. Or perhaps this is still just the end of the beginning or middle stage. Perhaps he has many years left in him. Perhaps it even leads to Cooperstown. Right now that feels iffy, but who knows how the career of Stephen Strasburg will end? Nobody knows, save perhaps the Ghost of Strasmas Future.
The Red Wings (without Stephen Strasburg) finish up their series with Buffalo over the weekend.
During the 2022 season, I’ll have occasional reports on games I’ve attended of the Rochester Red Wings, the AAA affiliate of the Washington Nationals.
For two batters on Tuesday night, it appeared that the Rochester Red Wings were going to win their 10th straight game and further solidify their place at the top of the IL East and one of the bright spots for the Washington Nationals organization. For two batters on Tuesday night, Cade Cavalli was the best pitcher in the minors.
Alas, the game did not end after two batters. After striking out Matt Vierling and Austin Wynns in quick succession to begin the game, it all fell apart. While Cavalli maintained the high speeds that have made him the Nationals’ best pitching prospect, the control left him and the Lehigh Valley IronPigs (Phillies) found themselves able to sit on the pitches he was able to get in the zone. Four hits, two walks, and eventually five earned runs later, and the Wings found themselves down 5-0 after the first inning, with Cavalli only going 0.2 on the day as his ERA increased to 7.62.
It was undoubtedly a disheartening display for prospect-watchers. Cavalli has yo-yo’d a bit in quality this season. At times, such as a 5.1 IP no-hit performance in late April, he has been every bit the future MLB fireballer that Nationals fans are hoping for. On other nights, such as Tuesday, he has been a messy pitcher who calls to mind Nuke Laloosh early in Bull Durham, with plenty of pure talent but none of the refinement needed to make it to the show. Whether he settles into one or the other as far as results is one of the things that Nationals fans and Red Wings fans most want to know.
While the Wings lineup was able to make it something of a game again later, the deficit was just far too great to truly make it competitive, as they fell 11-5. Outside of two good two-inning stints by Jace Fry and Andres Machado, the pitching just couldn’t hold off the IronPigs enough to allow for another comeback.
Luis Garcia, who remains by far the position player on the Wings most likely to become a mainstay in Washington, also had a rough game, going 0-3 and leaving four on base before being pulled later in the game. While the hitless game wasn’t entirely his fault (Lehigh’s Vierling made a nice diving catch to rob him in the first), the same couldn’t be said for his fielding. Often mentioned as his weakest tool and one reason why he hasn’t become a permanent fixture in the bigs yet, Garcia sadly lived down to that complaint on Tuesday, committing his fifth error of the season while also showing a lack of range at shortstop. On a few occasions, there were balls hit up the middle that a top-level shortstop may have been able to make a play on, but Garcia wasn’t able to. Some (but not all) of these may have been because of shifts in play, but it was still concerning. Shifts or no shifts, though, it is pretty concerning. While hardly something that justifies him staying in the minors (after all, Derek Jeter was infamous for his inability to get to balls hit to his left), it does show some of why the Nationals are concerned about his play in the field.
In some ways, the loss on Tuesday was inevitable. The Wings had been soaring this month, but there had been some big caveats. As I mentioned in my previous article, they’d been playing teams under .500 (with Tuesday’s loss they actually have a losing record against teams with winning records). What’s more, some of those wins during their now-ended nine-game winning streak were perilous, involving comebacks and at times shaky play that forced the Wings to win narrowly. It also felt a bit too good to be true for Rochester sports. Last week, the weather was beautiful (so, of course, the Wings were on the road) and the local hockey team, the Amerks, were storming to wins in the playoffs. Between the Wings win streak and the Amerks’ success on the rink, good vibes were at a high for Rochester sports. On Tuesday, though, the weather was cold and bitter, so perhaps it wasn’t surprising that the Wings lost and the Amerks lost on the same night.
However, the ultimate reason is the probably the simplest. The thing you say after any loss:
“You can’t win them all.”
The Red Wings continue their series with Lehigh Valley for the rest of the week.
This isn’t about any specific game- I didn’t do a post on the doubleheader I went to on Saturday. Instead, it’s about the season thus far for the Red Wings.
And, to be blunt, the season so far has been… very good! Earlier this month I said that the team could be good. Now, I feel safe in saying that the team as it is now is good. As of the morning of May 12, the Wings are 20-12 and first in the bizarre new International League East division (MLB’s takeover has made everything weird). They also are currently in a three-way tie for second-best record in all of AAA (only Milwaukee’s Nashville affiliate has a better record). They have a five-game win streak and have won eight of their last ten. They are 12-6 at home even without poor weather keeping the crowds lower than they should be.
The hitting has held up. As a team, they remain second in batting average and fifth in OPS. Luis Garcia, as mentioned before, has been extremely impressive, but other hitters have also contributed. Longtime minor league 1B/OF Joey Meneses is hitting .316/.354/.538 with 6 HRs, behind only Garcia on the team. OF Nick Banks hasn’t seen too much playing time, but what he has had he’s used well, slashing .355/.395/.566 in 81 PA. Andrew Stevenson, who has a long history of bouncing between AAA and the bigs, is unexpectedly tied for the league lead in stolen bases with 12.
What has really powered the Wings to their current first-place spot, though, has been the pitching. It has improved sharply since earlier in the month. Since May 2, the team’s ERA has plunged from 5.37 to 4.50, sending them from 17th in the league up to eight. At the start of the month, they were 19th in WHIP (second-to-last), now they have moved up to 10th. The opposing batting average of .237 is fifth in the league. While they still have been walking too many people (4.40 BB/9, 15th in the league), that is still an improvement over the 5.20 BB/9 they had back in early May. The relief corps especially has been impressive: the team’s relievers have a 2.88 ERA, third in the league. They are fifth and fourth in WHIP and opposing Batting Average, respectively.
Individually, long-time MLB reliever Carl Edwards Jr. was recently called up (although his debut didn’t go well), and looking at his stats it’s not hard to see why: he was absolutely shutdown. He had a 0.63 ERA and 0.49 WHIP in 14.1 IP. His call-up came after a perfect week that also saw him get a World Series ring from the Braves for his short stint with them last season.
The relievers that remain in Rochester, though, are hardly slouches. Sam Clay has gone 9.2 IP on the season thus far and still hasn’t given up an earned run. Francisco Perez has gone nearly as far (9.0 IP) without an earned run outside of his stint with the big club. Alberto Baldonado, Reed Garrett, and Jordan Weems haven’t given up runs in over two weeks. Old Nationals mainstay Tyler Clippard‘s season 4.73 ERA is a bit deceiving and is the result of two particularly bad games back in April: he has a 0.75 WHIP and non-existent ERA in May.
In my post early in May, I said that ultimately the Red Wings fortunes would depend on the hitting remaining good and the pitching improving. That has happened. Now the question becomes: can it keep up?
There is surely no way to answer that, and there are definite causes for concern. Sooner or later, Garcia will finally get called up for good, and the bullpen will presumably regress to the mean. What’s more, the teams that the Wings play will be better: the last 15 days have been against Scranton, Syracuse, and Worcester. All three of those teams are under .500 right now. The Wings are currently only .500 against teams with a winning record. So while it is safe to say that the team is good, just how good is still an open question, as most of their wins have come against weaker opponents.
So when will we get a better idea if the Wings truly belong with the big boys of the IL? The start of that answer will come next week against Lehigh Valley (Philadelphia), who are above .500, but the real answer may not come until the start of next month, when Buffalo (Toronto) comes to town. By that point, the roster may be different, and we’ll get a better idea of just how the Wings may do in the pennant chase.
Like many people, I’ve been watching the HBO show Winning Time, about the start of the Showtime-era Lakers. Not surprisingly, one of the main subjects of the show is Pat Riley, played here by Adrien Brody.
In one episode, Riley is shown to have a mental breakdown that leads him to smash much of his shed with a baseball bat. He then tells his wife (played by Gillian Jacobs) that he’s haunted by the missed opportunity of his father (who the bat belonged to), who was only able to have one hit in the majors despite playing the game for years.
While I have no idea if that actually happened, what Pat Riley says about his father is true. Lee Riley (also known as Leon Riley) played professional baseball for 22 seasons, but only briefly made it the majors. It was at the old age of 37 during the 1944 series for the Phillies, and even then it was largely because most of the younger players had joined the war effort. In 12 plate appearances over four games, the outfielder got one single hit: a double off Boston’s Ira Hutchinson in late April.
|1 Yr||1 Yr||1 Yr||1 Yr||4||12||12||1||1||1||0||0||1||0||0||0||0||.083||.083||.167||.250||-30||2||0||0||0||0|
Of course, that was just his MLB career. His minor league career was far longer. While somewhat incomplete, you can see what Baseball Reference has below:
|1927||20||2 Teams||2 Lgs||D-A||33||103||103||23||4||3||2||.223||.379||39|
|1932||25||2 Teams||2 Lgs||A-AA||151||546||546||184||40||11||15||.337||.533||291|
|1933||26||2 Teams||2 Lgs||A||STL||130||450||450||114||21||11||7||.253||.396||178|
|1934||27||2 Teams||2 Lgs||A-C||STL||105||373||373||100||15||6||11||.268||.429||160|
|1939||32||3 Teams||3 Lgs||A-A1-AA||81||204||204||58||8||3||7||.284||.456||93|
|1942||35||2 Teams||2 Lgs||B-A1||PHA||132||414||414||107||16||8||7||.259||.387||160|
|AA (||AA (||AA (||AA (||Minors||116||309||309||82||12||5||7||.265||.405||125|
|A (1||A (1||A (1||A (1||Minors||1269||4664||4532||69||1399||284||120||131||70||2||117||54||.309||.511||2316||4||11|
|A1 (||A1 (||A1 (||A1 (||Minors||81||271||271||88||10||6||6||.325||.472||128|
|B (2||B (2||B (2||B (2||Minors||71||211||211||43||8||4||3||68|
|C (5||C (5||C (5||C (5||Minors||296||998||961||21||336||54||18||52||17||1||35||12||.350||.606||582||1||1|
|D (5||D (5||D (5||D (5||Minors||432||1734||1411||245||470||92||42||49||240||29||290||104||.333||.562||793||26||7|
Lee Riley would ultimately die in 1970 at the age of 64, living long enough to see his son win stardom in the NCAA and begin his NBA career.
Three things stick out in my head from last night’s Wings victory over Scranton:
- Luis Garcia continues to impress. The SS accounted for both of the Red Wings’ runs in the victory. First, he took Scranton Luis Gil deep in the first inning on a solo shot. It was a home run to right of which there was no doubt. As soon as the bat hit the ball, the very sound it made could tell you it was going to be gone. Later, he tripled in the fourth before scoring on a Jake Noll sacrifice fly. For a hot second, the thought on everyone’s mind was that maybe we’d see a cycle. While that wasn’t to be (he struck out his other two ABs), it says something about how Garcia’s season has gone thus far that it felt as if it were a possibility. He’s now hitting .351/.406/.650 with 6 HR.
One worry about Garcia has been his fielding. In fact, it’s one of the reasons why he has not yet been called up. No such fielding issues existed on Thursday, as he cleanly handled everything hit at him and made some nice throws to get a few close putouts at first.
What’s more, Garcia just brings an energy to the lineup. Whenever he has stepped to the plate this season, there is just a vibe that something good could happen. There have been other more touted and more talented prospects to come through Rochester, but in the still-young “Nationals Era,” Garcia is unmatched.
- Of course, a team doesn’t win a 2-0 game unless the pitching does well. And for the most part, that was true on Thursday. Outside of one runner reaching third in the 4th only to be left stranded and a hairy 7th inning that saw Scranton load the bases with two outs before Alberto Baldonado came in and forced an inning-ending groundout, the Wings pitching held up. Particular praise should go to the starter, Jackson Tetreault. Tetreault struck out four while going 5.2 innings of three-hit ball. He also picked off a man. This was by far his best start of the season, and hopefully is a good sign of things to come.
Aside from a poor performance by Patrick Murphy in the 7th (0 IP, H, 2 BB), the bullpen was completely shutdown, culminating in an easy 1-2-3 inning by Carl Edwards Jr. to get the save. Sam Clay and Reed Garrett also had scoreless frames.
- Finally, the time of game last night was one of the shortest 9-inning games I’ve been to in person in a long time. In the stadium, it was announced as two hours and 13 minutes. On MiLB.com, they say it was two hours and 15 minutes. Regardless, it was a quick game. While part of this was because of the low-scoring pitching duel that occurred, some credit must also be given to the increased emphasis on the pace of play and pitch-clock rules in Minor League Baseball this year. The dead time between pitches is severely cut, the action happens more, and it all happens quicker. And yet, despite worries by some, it is not discernibly lesser for it. The faster pace isn’t stopping pitchers from pumping out fastballs in the mid-to-high 90s, nor is it stopping hitters from hitting. It just all happens overall in about a half-hour to an hour less time. That said, one does have to wonder if team executives may get worried that the shorter game times may hurt concession sales! I’m sure, though, that that is a problem that people like Red Wings GM Dan Mason would love to have should those shorter game times mean that more and more people overall come to games once the weather warms up.
The Red Wings continue their series against Scranton through the weekend, including a double-header on Saturday.
The idea of whether a minor league team is “good” is a hard one to answer.
For one thing, there’s the basic fact that the ultimate purpose of a minor league team is not to win games but to develop players for the parent club. Sure, an MLB team would prefer that their affiliates are doing well, but that’s at best a secondary concern. I, however, am going to go with the more on-the-field and in-the-standings definition of “good,” since that’s easier to figure out.
For another, the composition of a minor league team changes drastically over the year. During the season, players are called up, sent down, injured, released, traded, or in some cases even begin or end their careers. By the end of the season, the team may only superficially resemble the squad that began the campaign.
Take, as an example, the two people in the picture below: Luis Garcia and Dee Strange-Gordon. Dee Strange-Gordon, as mentioned before, is only in Rochester on a rehab assignment. Garcia is one of the Nationals top prospects and has been tearing up opposing pitchers, so it is doubtful he’ll still be here when the season ends.
That said, there is reason to believe that, at least as the team is now, the Rochester Red Wings are good. Or at the very least good enough to have a good shot at a winning record.
First, the obvious: the Red Wings are 13-11 after yesterday’s 8-3 win over Syracuse, one game back of Buffalo in the International League East. That is, obviously, a winning record.
Even looking beyond that, though, the Red Wings have been doing well. As a team, they are second in the league in batting average (.270, behind only Jacksonville’s .271). They are fifth in OPS and sixth in runs scored. They have the fourth fewest strikeouts, and are fourth in total bases. All very good places to be, even if the team’s best hitter (Garcia) is unlikely to remain in Rochester very long.
However, the pitching has been a cause for concern. The team has a 5.37 ERA, an ugly 17th in the 20-team league. They are 19th in WHIP, and tied for 12th in opponent batting average. They’ve walked too many people and are 18th in the league for BB/9, averaging 5.20 walks every nine innings.
Given that the hitting has been good and the pitching hasn’t been good, it is perhaps not a surprise that the team isn’t too far away from being simply .500.
It also speaks to how the rest of the Red Wings season will turn out. If the hitting falters, the team will too. If the pitching gets better, so will the team.
It’s that simple.
It was a cold night on Tuesday as the Red Wings played the Syracuse Mets in front of a small but hardy crowd. That crowd grew thinner as the night went on and the temperature dipped ever-closer to 40, and it didn’t help matters that the Red Wings fell behind 8-1 in the first half of the game. Ultimately, though, those who stayed received a treat in the form of an epic comeback.
That, however, is not what this report is about. At least, not really. No, this is about how the past and future were both in Rochester on Tuesday.
To call Dee Strange-Gordon the past is perhaps not fair. He is still very much a present player. He’s no longer the All-Star he was in the mid-2010s, nor does he possess quite the quickness that makes him the active stolen-base leader. He’s moved into a more utility role at the age of 34, primarily playing in the outfield, unlike in the earlier parts of his career where he was mostly a middle infielder. Since leaving Miami after 2017, he’s hit .265/.292/.342 in 1094 plate appearances, a definite downgrade from the .293/.329/.367 of his career before. He spent 2021 entirely in the minors, and there was some thought that he’d start this season in the minors as well until he won a job in spring training.
Still, he’s Dee Strange-Gordon (the Strange added to his name in honor of his late mother). While never a superstar to the public (no doubt hurt by the fact he was traded to Miami from Los Angeles, as well as a suspension in 2016), most baseball fans know him, and for a few years he was one of the premier infielders in MLB. So when it was announced he’d begin a rehab from an undisclosed illness in Rochester just a few hours before game time, it was a pleasant surprise.
Wearing the number 1 once worn by his half-brother Nick Gordon during his time in Rochester as a Twins prospect, Dee was well-covered for the cold and wore his Nationals helmet to the plate for the game. Playing at shortstop for the first time this season (having been in the outfield and once in a garbage-time mound appearance in the big leagues), he was 0-2 with a strikeout and a walk at the plate, but still made an impact as he scored twice and reached base in the fifth on a fielders choice. He also made an impact in the field, taking part in a double-play.
It was clear that he wasn’t going to steal when he was no base (this was, after all, a minor league game to which he was essentially a special guest coming through on his way back to the show), but his speed still played a definite factor in keeping the fielders choice from becoming a possible double-play. He left the game in the 6th, but stuff like this is common for rehab appearances, particularly early on in the rehab stints. One game isn’t much to go on, but he seemed to be perfectly healthy and it is presumably only a matter of time before he joins the Nationals once again.
Strange-Gordon reaching base in the 5th, in hindsight, would prove very important, because the next batter was Luis Garcia, who was playing 2B on Tuesday. He’s the future in this tale. While he’s already played in parts of 110 MLB games, he’s still not even 22, and is almost certainly the top position player prospect on the Red Wings this year.
If his play on Tuesday was any indication, he probably shouldn’t be on the Red Wings much longer. Having already singled twice in the game, Garcia went deep in the fifth off Jake Reed, bringing home Strange-Gordon and himself to make it 8-3 in a much-needed sign of life for the Wings.
His next at-bat would come in the 7th, when he drew a walk. Little did we know at the time, but that would be start of the true comeback rally. A 2-out single by Joey Meneses moved him to third, and he then scored on a Josh Palacios hit right after. The next batter, Donovan Casey, then hit a home run to deep center (at first it was called a double, but that changed) to drive in three more and make it 8-7 Syracuse.
Finally, in the 8th, the culmination of the comeback and the culmination of Garcia’s jewel of a game came. Tres Barrera tied it with a solo shot to left with one out, leading to pandemonium among the small-but-hardy crowd. Then, after a fielding error allowed Alfredo Rodriguez (who had come in for Gordon) to reach, Garcia stepped to the plate again and hit his second home run of the night to make it 10-8. His totals for the night: 4-4, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 3 R, 10 total bases. His batting average now stands at .360, his OPS at 1.020.
The Wings would ultimately hold on to win 10-9, moving to 10-9 on the year in the process in what may forever be known as the Luis Garcia Game. The future is bright.
Someone Not to Forget
Although much of the attention no doubt goes to Garcia, Strange-Gordon, and the other hitters who got the Wings back into the game, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Sterling Sharp. In four innings of relief, he gave up only two hits and two walks while striking out four. His shutout innings kept what was a Syracuse blowout from becoming even more out-of-hand, allowing the comeback to take place. He received no win for the performance, but in some ways it can be argued he is the one who deserved it.
The Red Wings continue their series against Syracuse throughout the week.
Cade Cavalli is the top pitching prospect of the Washington Nationals. Some lists have him as top prospect for the Nationals overall. For four innings on Thursday, he showed why. Working in the high 90s with off-speeds in the 80s, Cavalli struck out seven Buffalo Bisons while walking only one and giving up an earned run on four hits.
That Cavalli would rack up K’s (including three in the 3rd) isn’t surprising. He led the Minors in 2021 with 175 across three different levels while also being chosen for the Futures Game. However, he has struggled in AAA and didn’t have a good spring with the Nationals this year, including one game where he gave up 10 earned runs to the Cardinals.
The Cavalli of the first four innings on Thursday appeared to have put that behind him. The problem for Cavalli, though, is that he didn’t stop pitching in the 4th inning. He also came out in the 5th. There, the Bisons jumped on him for four straight hits. He was taken from the game after 82 pitches. A few batters later, Samad Taylor hit a grand slam off Jace Fry to put Buffalo up for good. Cavalli’s final line: 4+ IP, 8 H, 5 ER, 1 BB, 7 SO, season ERA after two starts: 9.00. The final score would ultimately be 10-1 Buffalo as the Wings fell to .500 on the year.
Despite how the game ended, however, Thursday spoke well of Cavalli and his future. He’s only had a small sample size of two starts this year, but his strikeout-to-walk ratio has improved (last season across three levels: 2.92 strikeouts for every walk, this season so far: 5.50 strikeouts for every walk). Plus, he certainly seemed more comfortable and less “raw” on the mound, although admittedly that is an intangible thing that is in the eye of the beholder. Doubtless he and the Nationals are hoping that he’ll be MLB-ready by mid-year. Until then, though, he’ll be in Rochester.
The Red Wings continue their series with Buffalo through the weekend.