On Tuesday I made it out to see the Oilers one last time when they came up to play the Miners in Palmer. The Miners ended up taking the game by a score of 5-2. At that time it was an important win for them, and one that must have stung for the Oilers, though now we know that it was of little consequence as the Oilers have since gone on to capture the league title.
So obviously it’s been a while since this game and I’m just now getting down to typing up my notes. My apologies on that. I wanted to include the photos from the game…I got a TON of them…but I’m having some technical difficulties. Plus I have a 25 GB monthly cap on my internet and I’m already up to 24.5. so I’ll probably just leave the photos aside until August and then throw the rest on my Picasa gallery. I figured I’d better go ahead and crank out the notes in the mean time, though.
Jordan Mills got the start for the Oilers; he cruised along well through the first five innings before the Miners rallied on him and his relief in the 6th. Watching him from a 90-degree angle I was able to detect what looked like a little bit of a sink on his fastball and he looked like he could throw an offspeed pitch with a big drop in velocity. Miners batters were way out in front of it. I think a lot of pitchers at this level neglect, or are unable, to throw a good offspeed pitch so that’s a plus in my book. The other end of the battery was Ryan McChesney. Besides having a glorious mane of awesome hair, McChesney has a plus pop to second base. His throw down to the bag is sub-2.0 seconds, which I take to be the dividing point for MLB catchers. It looked like part of his strength in this area is not just his throwing arm but his instincts and ability to quickly transfer the ball from his glove and get in position to throw. The negative, though, is that he lets a lot of his throws go high and runners are still able to slide in under the tag. He needs some practice putting the ball in the right spot; if he can get that, he’ll be deadly against would-be base stealers.
Other notes on the Oilers: Patrick Wisdom showed some really good gritty play. He got the jersey dirty and I like that. Chris Mallory displayed his ability to knock the ball the other way when he zipped a line drive right into the right field gap. And the obligatory Mike Miller props; of course he can hit for average but it really is fun to watch that guy on defense. Watch his hand and foot work on the bang-bang play. Great soft hands and glove-to-hand transfer.
For the Miners, I want to start off by putting Michael Gerlach squarely in the spotlight for laying down the best diving catch I have seen in the Alaska Baseball League, and one of the best I’ve seen anywhere in my life. If he had made that play on an MLB club, it would be an ESPN Web Gem for sure. He did well at the plate as well. I thought he looked like he was really good at working the count and choosing pitches to hit; that might be why he went 3-for-4 with 3 RBI’s.
David Gibson got the start for the Miners but only went 2 innings; I was a little concerned at first but it turns out it was a staff night and they were giving everyone a short shift so they could conserve arms and get a fresh rotation going. I noticed that Gibson has a very deceptive move to first base; he got Mallory straying too far from the bag and caught him in a pickle, and just about nailed some other Oilers with a very good pick-off move. The other Miners pitcher that stood out to me was Brendan Lobban with another big, slow change-up. He made some Oilers batters look foolish. It was like the character Doc from Major League: Back to the Minors. Finally, it was really fun to watch Colin Cloud come in and make short work of the Oilers. They got back at him in the next inning but I have to be biased toward an Alaskan local.
Other Miners of note: thumbs up to Stephen Branca for a great down-in-the-dirt stab. Love it when fielders get their jerseys dirty. Cam Kneeland and Ryan Ford both laid down excellent, excellent sac bunts. And Wesley Jones showed off a very strong arm from deep center field; runners were wise to not challenge his throws. He’s also not too shabby on the basepaths, beating down to first base on a 4.10 second clip (that’s about a 7 out of 8 on the 2-8 scale, in my book). I clocked Dominick Francia at about 4.15s as well, which isn’t too shabby, but we know he can run since he has like a million stolen bases.
So there you have it. The Oilers will be headed out to Wichita Sunday night. I won’t get to see them again in person but I will definitely be following their progress closely as they represent Alaska in the NBC World Series tournament. The Miners are wrapping up their season here in the next couple days; I’m going to see them play the Bucs tomorrow. Don’t know how much “work” I’ll get on the game since I’m taking the wife, the kids, my cousins, my in-laws, and everyone for a big ol’ honkin’ family outing (that’s what it’s all about, right?) and I even promised to leave the cameras at home. But I may sneak out a few tweets here and there. Oh, and by the way, it’s fan appreciation day so if you’re in the valley, you should know that the gates are wide open and everyone is free. After that I intend to wrap up the season with a Glacier Pilots & Bucs game, probably on August 2nd, the second game of the Mayor’s Cup series. If anyone wants to meet up before the season ends, give me a shout. I’m always glad to meet anyone — players, parents, coaches, broadcasters, random fans, panhandlers in the parking lot…