I want to break down Friday night's game, in which the Greenville Drive beat the Savannah Sand Gnats 5-4, to sweep the Divisional Championship Series two game to none, on a much more detailed level than I treat most games and pull up some things you won't find in the box score.
The Gnats' troubles began in the top of the first when the Drive scored twice off RHP Taylor Whitenton (pictured).? The Drive, the most patient team in the league were a tough matchup for Whitenton, whose command was erratic.? Sure enough, Friday night, he walked the leadoff batter.? Whitenton was second in the SAL in the regular season with 68 walks issued.? The Drive are a Red Sox affiliate and led the SAL in walks drawn in the regular season with 485.? (Organizations like the A's and Red Sox both draft patient hitters and preach patience constantly.? For reference, the Gnats were 11th in the 14-team SAL with 377 walks.)? Whitenton then induced a hard-hit ball to shortstop that by all rights should have been a double-play.? However, the ball took a late bad hop over the shoulder of Robbie Shields at short.? I don't think there was anything? Shields should have done differently on the play.? The play was hit hard enough that he didn't really have time to charge it.? Instead of two outs and no one on, Whitenton had to work around first and second with no outs.? He struck out the third batter, 1B Reynaldo Rodriguez (more on him later) for the inning's first out.
Then we move on to another theme for Whitenton, which is related to command: finishing hitters.? The 22-year old went to an 0-2 count against the clean up man, lanky 6'5" Drive 3B Michael Almanzar. He tried to finish him off with a fastball up and in, which Almanzar will often chase.? However, Whitenton ran it too far inside and plunked Almanzar to load the bases with one out.? Then, with the bases full, he got ahead of Sox first-round pick Kolbrin Vitek 1-2, before losing him to a walk to force in the game's first run.? The next batter, speedy Drive CF Reymond Fuentes bounced one up the middle.? Shields fielded the ball behind the second base bag and shoveled it to 2B Luis Nieves, who caught it with his back to home plate, and then spun and fired the ball on one hop to first where 1B Travis Ozga made the pick.? The first-base umpire ruled Fuentes safe.? Ozga jumped up and down in disbelief.? Gnats manager Pedro Lopez argued briefly, but the call stood and the Drive had a 2-0 lead.? I thought Fuentes was out, but on this play, the reactions of Ozga who was at first, and his manager speak for themselves.? That extra run mattered in a game that came down to one run.