Interesting note regarding tonight's pitchers: Tri-City starter Chris Jensen, the Colorado Rockies' sixth-round draft pick out of University of San Diego, is making his professional debut. He's going against another rookie — Vancouver's Kramer Champlin — making his Northwest League debut.
Champlin, a 29th-round pick by the Toronto Blue Jays out of Arizona State, made his pro debut on July 22 for Bluefield of the Appalachian League. He made just one appearance, though, allowing three runs on six hits in just 1 1/3 innings.
Both pitchers have shown some pretty good stuff so far. Jensen's first pitch was clocked at 96 mph on the Gesa Stadium radar gun, and he stayed in the 90s for much of the inning. But he's been tagged for three runs so far — two of them scored by speedy leadoff man Jon Berti.
Dust Devils general manager and vice president Derrel Ebert just visited the press box. He told me that in his 10 years in professional baseball, he's never had a team with a winning record. In fact, he's never even experienced a winning half-season.
Until now, that is.
He was up in Yakima on Sunday, watching the Dust Devils clinch the first-half title at County Stadium with a 10-4 victory. It was a special day for Ebert in more than one way. He was also celebrating his 32nd birthday.
Happy belated, Derrel. Hope you get a ring this year to go with that champagne bath.
Dust Devils trailing 3-1 heading into the bottom of the fourth. Tri-City wasted a one-out double by Tim Smalling in the first and then stranded him again after his leadoff double in the third.
But the Dust Devils are threatening here in the fourth with runners on the corners and one out.
Excitement on the basepaths!! How many times does a catcher get credited with a steal of home?
Well, Ryan Casteel can tell his grandkids about this one. He was on third and Jayson Langfels at first when Langfels took off for second with Jaron Shepherd at the plate. The throw from catcher Pierce Rankin bounced short of second base, which made it tough for Berti to make a return throw home. The throw back to Rankin was so late that Casteel crossed the plate standing up.
After a wild pitch by C's reliever Travis Garrett sent Langfels to third, Brian Humphries flied out to center and Langfels scored easily to make it 3-3.
Have to give a shout out to DJ Luke over there to my right. I called him out in a blog a couple weeks ago for being a little late stopping the music after a mound visit by pitching coach Dave Burba.
Tonight, I asked if he could play "Solsbury Hill" by Peter Gabriel during a break today. Sure enough, when Burba came out to chat with Jensen in the third, there it was. As soon as the first few bars of the song came on, I walked over to Luke to acknowledge the gesture.
He pointed at me and said, "I got your back."
Thank you Luke. The best damn DJ in the Tri-Cities.
Dust Devils pull ahead 6-3 as Vancouver's relief pitching falls apart in the bottom of the sixth. Brandon Kaye gets the first out of the inning but then walks Casteel, Taylor Featherston and Langfels in order to load the bases. Upon relieving Kaye, the first thing Vancouver lefty does is throw a wild pitch to score Casteel. Jaron Shepherd then walks, and Humphries blooped an RBI single to right to make it 5-3. With the bases still loaded, Pepe walked Tyler Massey to bring in yet another run.
6-3 Tri-City heading into the seventh.
Ben Alsup walks the leadoff batter in the seventh, Rankin. I've heard the percentage of leadoff runners who reach base and eventually score is frighteningly high — between 60-70 percent. Now I don't always swallow statistics whole. That could just be an old wives tale to scare pitchers.
However, Rankin does come around to score on a sacrifice fly by Matt Newman to cut the Dust Devils' lead to 6-4. So tonight that percentage was 50 percent (2-of-4) against Tri-City.
The Dust Devils get a run back in the seventh on a two-out triple by Langfels, who is 3-for-3 with a walk, two runs and two RBIs.
I'd sure like to know why Craig Bennigson is still in Tri-City. In three seasons here, all he's done is take care of business.
In 2008, he led the NWL with 8 wins and was named to the all-star team. In 2009, he led the team with seven saves before blowing out his shoulder. This season, he's one of the team's most dependable relievers with a 1.93 ERA in 12 appearances.
Tonight he got his second save of the year with a scoreless ninth.
What the heck do I know, but I think he deserves to move up and I'm shocked that he hasn't. If it has to do with him recovering from his shoulder injury, that I understand. I'll try to find out more for you later.
It's a final! Dust Devils win it 7-4.