The Inland Empire 66ers won their 4th straight ballgame Tuesday night at home vs the Lake Elsinore Storm, pulling off the extra innings win in the 11th inning. With the go ahead run standing at 3rd base in a 2-2 tie, 66ers center fielder Jared Foster lofted a blooper into right field, scoring the winning run and securing another big win. After winning in extra innings on Saturday in Visalia, the 66ers used a 6 run 8th inning Monday night to pull off another big win, then won once again in extras on Tuesday. The game, however, could’ve ended 2 innings earlier but the Storm offense received a huge hit from one of their big boppers. The 66ers were 1 out away from shutting out the Storm but Padres prospect Josh Naylor hit an absolute moonshot off the scoreboard in right field, tying it up in the 9th inning. Sam Holland, trying to preserve a 1-0 win, left a sinking fastball over the plate and Naylor hit a no doubt shot to keep the game alive. The 2 sides exchanged runs in the 10th inning, sending the game to the 11th inning in a 2-2 tie, which then led to the walk off winner from Jared Foster.
Grayson Long, the #11 Angels prospect on AngelsWin.com, started the game for the 66ers and had a solid outing after allowing 12 hits and 8 runs in his 1st 2 starts, although his 3.43 FIP across those 2 starts painted a rosier picture. On Tuesday night, Long utilized a heavy fastball approach from his big 6’5″ 230 lb frame, using that 89-93 mph fastball 62.5% of the time and generating 5 strikeouts from that pitch, often times featuring some late cutting action. Early on, he used a fringe-average change up that settled in the 84-86 mph range. The pitch lacks the movement and late action to be a bat missing offering but it offers just enough separation from the fastball and he has good arm action to make it a useful pitch. The big pitch for him later on in his outing was an above average slider that features more vertical movement than a prototypical slider. The 79-83 mph pitch features slurve like action and Long utilized that pitch against righties for the most part as a put away pitch(2 strikeouts) but used it a few times vs left handed hitters too. Long looks the part of a durable, innings eating #5 starter and while he won’t be a flashy prospect for many, he has enough to offer to either be an up and down arm, or potentially stick as a #5 starter in the big leagues.
The 66ers offense pounded out 13 hits but 12 of them came in the singles department, as Michael Barash had the only extra base hit with a double in the 6th inning. Zach Gibbons had a 3 hit night, including the go ahead run scoring single in the 7th inning and scoring the game winning run in the 11th inning. Jared Foster had a 3 hit night as well, including the game winning hit in the 11th, although the 1st hit was arguably an error and the game winning hit was more or less a well placed hit. Matt Thaiss looked comfortable at the plate, singling once and walking 2 times, watching a lot of pitches in the process. He continues to show that he has an advanced approach at the plate, watching a lot of close pitches for balls and making contact with his pitches, although it hasn’t showed up in the season stat line yet.
Garrett Nuss came in and tossed 2 shutout innings following Grayson Long, flashing an above average low 80’s curveball and fringe fastball, striking out 2 hitters and allowing 1 baserunner via a Michael Gettys single. Conor Lillis-White came in to pitch the 8th inning, going 1-2-3 and only used 8 pitches to do so. Sam Holland and his sidewinding ways came in try to close the 9th but struggled a little in his 2 innings of work. He struck out 3 batters but allowed the game tying home run in the 9th and allowed the go ahead run in the 10th inning. Jeremy Rhoades worked his magic in the 11th inning, loading the bases with no outs but managed to escape the inning without any damage done.
With the win, the 66ers moved into a tie for 1st place in the California South League division with the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes. Here are some pre game quotes from various 66ers players and post game quotes from manager Chad Tracy.
On their 4 game winning streak: “First and foremost, our pitching is doing an incredible job. Our starting pitchers are starting to pitch deep into the game, into the 6th inning and beyond, as well as the 5th inning tonight with Grayson (Long). Our bullpen has been lights out for the last 4 days or so. That’s where it starts. We’re also doing really good things offensively late in the games. I actually thought we swung the bats a lot better tonight. We had an opportunity to be winning that game 3 or 4 to nothing late in the game. We just have to do a better job of getting men in from 3rd base with less than 2 outs. But we’re not quitting and we’re taking really good at bats in big spots. That’s basically been the formula for the last 4 games.
On Grayson Long’s performance Tuesday: “He looked great. He’s coming off of 2 rough ones. He made a couple of adjustments with Wuertz(pitching coach) over his side sessions in the middle of his week, trying to speed up his delivery a little bit. You could see the difference tonight. There wasn’t much life on everything he threw last outing. Tonight, he had life on the fastball and was getting swings and misses with it. He threw a lot of strikes. He was around the strike zone and worked ahead in the count. It was a big step forward for him.”
On Jaime Barria’s performance so far this year: “For a kid that’s just 20 years old, it’s not even the 16 scoreless innings or whatever he threw to start the year off, it’s the composure that he shows. He never seems fazed. His demeanor never changes on the mound. He’s got a boatload of confidence. He feels like he can pitch out of anything. To see him attack the strike zone at his age in this league, he’s just getting after it and doing great.”
RHP Adam Hofacket
On being a local kid playing for the Inland Empire 66ers and in the Angels organization: “It’s definitely fun. I have a lot of family come out. My mom and dad, my brother and sister, they come out to the games. A lot of my close friends come out, some who go to Cal State San Bernardino, they all come out and watch games. They’re here like every night. Monday, Tuesday, whatever night it is, they come out. It’s always good to have that kind of support. Living at home, saving some money, that’s also really nice.”
On growing up as an Angels fan: “Always grew up as an Angels fan since I was really little. I was never any other fan other than an Angels fan. It was really cool being drafted by the Angels and playing here. I’ve been to so many Angels games and all that stuff. I also grew up going to Lake Elsinore games too but never came out here(Inland Empire) very much, since Lake Elsinore was a lot closer to home.”
On making any changes for the 2017 season: “My biggest thing was wanting to keep the ball down. Attacking the zone. That’s always been my biggest thing. As long as I’m keeping the ball down, I’m good to go. If my ball is up, my stuff kind of flattens out. I’m not a high spin rate guy. I’m more of a sinker guy who gets the ball down. I get a lot of ground balls, not a lot of strikeouts but I get a lot of ground balls and have quick innings, getting the defense back to hitting.”
On his interest in advanced stats and technology like Statcast: “I’m not big on spin rate and all of that. I’m more old school I guess, you know going in there and getting early contact, putting guys away pretty quickly.”
On his best pitch and the pitch he wants to improve: “My best pitch right now is probably the curveball. That’s my best swing and miss pitch. If I want to strike out a guy, I’ll go with that. The pitch I need to work on the most is the change up. I actually threw a lot of change ups in Visalia(last series) and I got some broken bats with that so that was huge. I kind of lost that pitch from college. I actually had a really good change up in college and I lost it.”
On what would make this season a success: “Getting promoted would obviously be a bonus but it’s geared more towards day to day things, outing to outing. Getting quick outs, attacking the zone, being efficient, everything like that. It will all work out in the end.”
Favorite player growing up and favorite current player: “Growing up, I loved Vladimir Guerrero. He was the man. Right now, oh man that’s tough. It’s different having a favorite player now while playing pro ball. I like the way that (Madison) Bumgarner competes, for sure. I’m a big competitor too.”
On his time at big league camp: “It was cool. You know, going up there and throwing a couple of innings here and there. It was really cool, just being immersed in that kind of atmosphere. It’s really, really exciting. It boosts your confidence. Coming into the season, it definitely helps you throw well. A lot of the bullpen guys were really helpful, just sitting in the bullpen the whole game. We just talked about situational things and what the pitchers did to work their way up. (Cam) Bedrosian was really cool, I had a lot of talks with him.”
OF Jared Foster
On how his season is going: ‘Things have been a bit slow so far but I feel like things are picking up. Today might even be the day that I get back on track and getting it going again. You never know.”
On his 1st big league camp: “It was cool. It was nice getting up there. I got some experience and got in some games so it was fun.”
On being a 2 sport athlete in college and how it benefitted him: “Growing up, I played everything I could play. That’s what I suggest for anybody to do, play as many sports as you can. You know there’s so many opportunities and chances to get. If you’re good, then it will make you a better baseball player in the end.”
On his growth from 2015 to 2016: “I worked on a lot of different stuff at the plate. Just using the whole field. I was mainly a pull hitter. Getting used to a full season and getting that under your belt. Being comfortable up there is the main thing. Once you’re getting comfortable up there, you let the game come to you and understand it’s a process. Just go from there.”
On what would make this season a success: “It’s always nice to get promoted but you gotta stay where you are and where you’re playing at the moment. Get better every day, improve on the little things they want you to improve on. Making it to the next level would be nice but if you don’t, just get better every day and do what you need to do.”
OF Brendon Sanger
On how his current start to the season: “I’m struggling at the plate a little bit. Pretty much my entire career, I start slow. It’s just asking myself what I can do to snap out of it. I’m on the right track. I made a few adjustments in BP today.”
On his advanced approach at the plate: “I could always see the ball pretty well. It’s always been about trying to find consistent barrels at the plate. It’s obviously a struggle I’ve had early on in this season. I take pride in my walks. I like to have the 1:1 if I possibly can, trying to have as many or more walks than strikeouts. It’s kind of something I’ve tried to do my whole career.”
On utilizing launch angle, exit velocities, etc: “I honestly had never heard of launch angle until (Josh) Donaldson came on and talked about it. It had never been a part of my game. I’ve always just tried to go out there and put up the best swings I possibly can and whatever happens with that happens. Launch angles are definitely starting to be a bigger part of the game. It’s something I might look into but it’s not something I’ve looked into yet.”
On what would make this season a success: “I feel like if I play the game the way I’m capable of, hit doubles, drive in some runs, play the game hard, it will be a success for me. Whatever happens with going up a level, staying here, as long as I’m playing my game to the full potential, that’s a successful year for me.”
On facing pitchers, like Cal Quantrill or Walker Buehler, who are advanced pitchers for their age: “I think you gotta have success early. If you try to wait for that perfect pitch, that’s when those guys get more comfortable. They’ll start painting the outside corner or start doing things that got them drafted high in the first place. You can take pitches if you want, but if you try to get to them early, that’s when you’ll be more successful.”
On his favorite players growing up: “My favorite player was Cal Ripken Jr. I grew up near Baltimore and always watched him as a little kid. I like that he played the game the right way. He played the 2,000 plus consecutive games. That’s pretty tough to do. Just like the wear and tear of baseball and playing that many games is cool. He’s a guy I liked to watch because he did things the right way.”