Dust Devils' hot start continues at home

By Jack Millikin, Herald staff writerJune 24, 2009 

PASCO -- Kent Matthes is a Golden Spikes finalist for a reason.

The Colorado Rockies' fourth-round pick had a stellar senior season at Alabama, leading the Crimson Tide this year with 28 homers, 81 RBIs and 67 runs.

The Tri-City Dust Devils outfielder hasn't stopped producing at the professional level, going 2-for-3 and driving in all their runs in a 3-2 win over Vancouver on Tuesday at Gesa Stadium in front of 3,153 fans in the Dust Devils' home opener.

But the 6-foot-1 right fielder didn't necessarily need to drive in all three Tri-City runs -- which he did with a two-run double and a towering sacrifice fly -- to impress Dust Devils manager Fred Ocasio in the team's fourth straight win to start the season.

"The main thing was his last at-bat when the second baseman missed that pop-up, and he was standing at second base," Ocasio said. "A lot of young players don't do that. You have to tell them to run those out."

Matthes also provided the big hit of the night, doubling off Canadians starter Julio Ramos in the first inning to drive in Chad Lowe and Joey Wong to give Tri-City a 2-0 lead.

Matthes was looking for a fastball on an 0-1 count but got a changeup low and away, yet he drove it over the head of center fielder Tyreace House.

"I felt good today. (Hitting coach) Anthony Sanders has been working with me in the cage," Matthes said. "The first couple weeks, I'm just trying not to do too much."

Ramos (0-1) took the loss for Vancouver, allowing three runs on five hits in 4 1/3 innings.

Dan Perkins gave Tri-City 4 1/3 strong innings in his first start of the year. The 6-4 right-hander allowed just one run on three hits while striking out five batters. Perkins, who was limited to 75 pitches, got a nice ovation after leaving with one out in the fifth with a 2-0 lead.

He didn't go five full innings, so the 27th-rounder out of Delaware State couldn't collect the win, but he gave the Dust Devils what they needed -- a solid start. Kyle Walker (2-0) picked up the victory by tossing 1 2/3 scoreless innings.

"I don't want to ask too much. The coaches know what they're doing," Perkins said of the pitch limit. "I'm just thankful for the chance."

Perkins could have easily gotten rattled after throwing the ball away in the top of the third inning while trying to pick Wilfredo Sosa off first base. Sosa advanced to third on the play but did not score thanks to Perkins, who struck out Leonardo Gil and Rodney Rutherford, then got House to line out to Michael Zuanich at first.

"I felt in control," Perkins said. "I threw the ball away, and the guy was standing at third with no outs. But I've been there before. You just try to throw strikes."

Dust Devils closer Charlie Ruiz, a 10th-round pick out of Long Beach State, had pitched one inning in Tri-City's season-opening series in Boise, allowing two runs on three hits. But the 6-1 right-hander shut the door on Vancouver with a perfect ninth inning.

"His last outing he got hit because he was using just his fastball," Ocasio said.

Ruiz unleashed a devil of a pitch on Sosa with one out in the ninth, locking him up with an 0-2 split-finger fastball for his first pro strikeout. Ruiz then got Gil to ground out to Joseph Sanders at third base to get the save.

"(The pitch to Sosa) started high, but came back in," Ruiz said. "I was a little anxious, but also excited. You want to show yourself for the guys."

Dust Devils shortstop Joey Wong, a 24th-rounder out of Oregon State, scored a run and went 2-for-3 to raise his average to .571.


Tim Wheeler, the Rockies' first-round pick out of Sacramento State, was in uniform for the Dust Devils but did not make his debut Tuesday. He will make his first start today in center field.

Dust Devils 3, Canadians 2

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