Andrews pitches ‘immaculate inning’ for LumberKings

J.D. Osborne homered for the LumberKings in Clinton’s 8-6 win over the Lake County Captains on Wednesday. (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

Clinton LumberKings RHP Tanner Andrews did not have a good start against the Lake County Captains on Wednesday. But for one inning, he was immaculate.

In the top of the 2nd inning, Andrews struck out the side on nine pitches — a so-called “immaculate inning.” That was easily the highlight of the night for him, as he gave up a run in the 1st, four runs in the 3rd, and another run in the 5th. Clinton, however, scored five runs in the 1st and two runs in the 4th, so the LumberKings had a 7-6 lead when Andrews left after six innings.

Clinton scored once more in the 8th, and held on to win 8-6 and give Andrews a victory.

Evan Edwards hit a 3-run homer and J.D. Osborne hit a solo shot for the LumberKings. Peyton Burdick also drove in two runs for Clinton, and Christopher Torres had three hits and one RBI.

Jose Fermin and Ruben Cardenas each drove in a pair of runs for the Captains.

CR’s winning streak ends at 8

The Great Lakes Loons beat the Cedar Rapids Kernels 6-2 on Wednesday, ending CR’s winning streak at eight games.

Prior to the game at Veterans Memorial Stadium, four people were inducted into the Cedar Rapids Baseball Hall of Fame: former major-leaguers Hector Cruz (1970-72 Cedar Rapids Cardinals) and Jerry Reuss (1967 Cedar Rapids Cardinals), former Kernels manager Jake Mauer (2013-16), and Gary Keoppel, who served as a member of the club’s executive committee for 26 years. You can read more about each of their contributions to Cedar Rapids professional baseball here.

Bieber named All-Star Game MVP

Indians RHP Shane Bieber was named MVP of Tuesday’s MLB All-Star Game at Cleveland’s Progressive Field. He earned the honor by striking out the side in the 5th inning, fanning Chicago Cubs catcher Willson Contreras, Arizona Diamondbacks middle infielder/centerfielder Ketel Marte, and Atlanta Braves outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr.

The American League won the game 4-3.

Bieber made five starts for the Captains in 2017, posting a 3.10 ERA and 31 strikeouts while walking only one batter in 29 innings in the Midwest League.

Posted in Cedar Rapids Kernels, Clinton LumberKings, Great Lakes Loons, Lake County Captains, Midwest League | Leave a comment

Former Lugnut Vladimir Guerrero Jr. stars in MLB HR Derby

In a first-time matchup of rookies in the final round of the MLB Home Run Derby, New York Mets first baseman Pete Alonzo beat Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 23-22.

But the general consensus is Guerrero — who played in the Midwest League just two years ago — was the real winner of the night.

“Vladito” blasted a record 91 homers during the derby, going deep 29 times in each of the first two rounds. (I’m not sure if he technically hit 40 home runs in the second round thanks to three exciting tiebreakers against Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Joc Pederson, but all those homers definitely count toward his overall total for the event.)

Guerrero gave those of us viewing at home exactly what we hoped he would in the showcase event, and hopefully will continue to do exciting things on the diamond for many years to come.

Guerrero played for the Lansing Lugnuts in 2017, batting .316 with seven homers, 21 doubles, one triple, and six stolen bases in 71 games. He also participated in the Midwest League Home Run Derby that year — and finished second to then-Great Lakes Loons outfielder Carlos Rincon. (Read my post about that here.)

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. played for the Lansing Lugnuts in 2017. (Photo by Rikk Carlson)

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Angels pitcher and ex-MWLer Tyler Skaggs dead at 27

Fans made a makeshift memorial to Tyler Skaggs outside Angel Stadium after hearing of the pitcher’s death Monday. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz/Orange County Register)

Los Angeles Angels LHP Tyler Skaggs was found dead in his hotel room Monday afternoon, just two days after his last start for the Halos.

Skaggs, a former pitcher for the Cedar Rapids Kernels and the South Bend Silver Hawks, was 27. While a cause of death hasn’t been released yet, a police spokesperson told reporters that neither foul play nor suicide are suspected.

Skaggs was drafted 40th overall by the Angels in 2009, and made his professional debut that year. He spent his first full pro season (2010) in the Midwest League, mostly with the Kernels, but finishing with the Silver Hawks after the Angels traded him to the Arizona Diamondbacks as part of a deal to acquire pitcher Dan Haren. (The trade took place on July 25, but Skaggs technically wasn’t included in it until August 7 because of a then-rule preventing players from being traded before the one-year anniversary of when they signed their first contract. It was known he would be included in the deal once that date was reached, so he sat on the Kernels bench for about two weeks waiting for the transaction to be completed.)

Skaggs went 8-4 with a 3.61 ERA, 82 strikeouts and 21 walks in 82.1 innings (19 games/14 starts) for the Kernels. He went 1-1 with a 1.69 ERA, 20 strikeouts and four walks in 16 innings/four starts for the Silver Hawks.

Skaggs was roommates with Mike Trout when they both played for Cedar Rapids. (Read about that here.) Trout, now arguably the best player in baseball, won the Midwest League MVP and Prospect of the Year awards that season.

Skaggs was sent back to the Angels as part of a three-team trade in December 2013. He pitched in parts of seven seasons for the Angels and the Diamondbacks.

Posted in Cedar Rapids Kernels, Midwest League, South Bend Silver Hawks | Leave a comment

Franco getting promoted to Florida State League

Wander Franco is moving up to the Florida State League on Tuesday, after starting the season in the Midwest League with the Bowling Green Hot Rods. (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

Bowling Green Hot Rods shortstop Wander Franco — considered by many to be the top prospect in baseball — will be promoted from the Midwest League to the high-A Florida State League, where he will play for the Charlotte Stone Crabs.

According to numerous reports, the Tampa Bay Rays prospect will join the Stone Crabs on Tuesday, when the promotion will be made official. There are no games scheduled in the Midwest League on Monday.

Franco batted .318 with 27 extra-base hits, 29 RBI and 14 stolen bases in 62 games with the Hot Rods this season. He struck out only 20 times and drew 30 walks in 272 plate appearances. He went 1-for-4 with a triple and a walk in his final MWL game, against the South Bend Cubs on Sunday. Ironically, the star prospect was the only Hot Rods player in the lineup who didn’t collect an RBI in Bowling Green’s 11-10 loss to South Bend.

He played in the MWL All-Star Game last week, starting at shortstop for the East team and going 0-for-3 at the plate.

The Dominican Republic native turned 18 on March 1.

Franco made his professional debut last season with the Princeton Rays of the short-season Appalachian League. He batted .351 with 28 extra-base hits, 57 RBI, 27 walks and 19 strikeouts in 61 Appy League games.

Posted in 2019 All-Star Game, Appalachian League, Bowling Green Hot Rods, Charlotte Stone Crabs, Florida State League, Midwest League, Princeton Rays, South Bend Silver Hawks | Leave a comment

Betts wins Home Run Derby, is named MVP of All-Star Game

Bowling Green Hot Rods catcher Chris Betts blasts a homer during Monday’s Home Run Derby. (Photographer unknown; photo shared by Betts on Twitter)

Bowling Green Hot Rods catcher Chris Betts won the Midwest League Home Run Derby on Monday, then was named the MVP of the MWL All-Star Game a day later after he blasted the game-winning homer for the East Division team.

His game-winning homer wasn’t a typical one. The All-Star Game was tied 3-3 after nine innings, so a sudden-death home run derby took place to choose the winning team. Betts represented the East team, while Kane County Cougars infielder Blaze Alexander took aim for the West team. Each player was allowed 90 seconds to hit as many homers as he could.

Alexander went first and went deep only once. Betts followed that with two homers to give the East team the victory.

Betts made two plate appearances in the actual game, walking twice. Four players had two hits in the game: Clinton LumberKings outfielder Jerar Encarnacion (who hit a two-run homer in the 4th inning), Cougars third baseman Buddy Kennedy (who doubled and stole a base), Lansing Lugnuts first baseman Jake Brodt, and Great Lakes Loons third baseman Miguel Vargas (who hit an RBI double). West Michigan Whitecaps outfielder Ulrich Bojarski didn’t get a hit in the game, but drove in two runs on a pair of sacrifice flies.

Next year’s Midwest League All-Star Game will be played in Bowling Green.

Players and coaches stand lined up on the field during the national anthem shortly before the Midwest League All-Star Game began. (Photo tweeted by the Clinton LumberKings)

Posted in 2019 All-Star Game, Bowling Green Hot Rods, Clinton LumberKings, Great Lakes Loons, Kane County Cougars, Lansing Lugnuts, Midwest League, West Michigan Whitecaps | Leave a comment