Biscuits Blank The Wahoos

July 15, 2019

They went to rival colleges in the Pac-12 Conference, entered professional baseball in the same year, so Caleb Hamilton was well-familiar with Montgomery Biscuits pitcher Matt Krook.

“I had an idea of what he was doing, but he was still pretty nasty,” said Hamilton, the Blue Wahoos’ versatile catcher-infielder.

So nasty, in fact, that Krook struck out four of the six batters he faced in order Sunday, including Hamilton, in his role to pitch the first two innings as an “opener.” This is a concept the Biscuits’ parent club, the Tampa Bay Rays, introduced to baseball a year ago.

On the same day when the Rays used an opener (Ryne Stanek), then starter Ryan Yarbrough to nearly pull off the first combined, perfect game in baseball history, the Biscuits used their own tandem to help blank the Blue Wahoos in a 4-0 win at Blue Wahoos Stadium.

Krook threw two perfect innings, then scheduled starter Kenny Rosenberg followed to work the next six, improving to 9-1 – tied for the most wins in the Southern League — after allowing just three hits and three walks.

It gave the Biscuits (59-35, 15-9 second half) their third win of a six-game series which concludes Tuesday. The Blue Wahoos (49-45, 11-13 second half).

As an organization, Tampa Bay is credited for starting a baseball trend that the Blue Wahoos and Minnesota Twins have tried at times.

The Rays’ perfect game bid was broken up in the ninth inning of their 4-1 win against the Baltimore Orioles, spoiling a feat that has never happened with two pitchers in MLB history.

”From my perspective, it’s you throw a closer role out there to open up the game to face the lineup’s best hitters, so the starter doesn’t have to face them three or four times,” said Hamilton, a Southern League All-Star and former Oregon State player, who went 2-for-3 Sunday and walked in another at-bat.

“So it’s always tough when you have a dude that’s pretty nasty up there… and in the beginning of the game… to go through once or twice,” said Hamilton, who was part of the 2016 draft with Krook. “It’s pretty tough to hit and then the actual starter comes in. You have to adjust and as hitters, we don’t want to adjust.”

It’s the 10th time this season that Krook, a former Oregon Ducks star, has worked as an opener. The Biscuits are 9-1 in those games.

Since returning July 6 from the injured list, Krook has struck out eight of 12 batters in two games and not allowed a baserunner in two appearances.

The two Biscuits pitchers held the Blue Wahoos to four hits and three walks. Neither team made an error. A night earlier, the Blue Wahoos broke out with 12 hits in their 5-3 win.

Sunday’s loss spoiled a second consecutive quality start by the Blue Wahoos Jorge Alcala. He worked into the sixth, allowing five hits and three earned runs. Alcala gave up a mammoth, solo home run blast to Brett Sullivan into the wind at right field in the fifth inning.

In the sixth, Alcala ran into trouble after issuing a leadoff walk, then giving up a one-out single that brought Blue Wahoos manager Ramon Borrego to summon reliever Andrew Vasquez.

But Alcala’s outing was another positive sign that the touted, hard-throwing right hander is on the right track.

“He is commanding three pitches,” said Hamilton, who was Alcala’s catcher Sunday. “Command is what comes down to his success.

“If he has no command, he gets hit around and he walks guys. He just needs confidence. That comes from the first pitch, that comes from the (warmup) bullpen.”

Vasquez, who began this season with the Twins in their bullpen, struggled in his first Blue Wahoos appearance.

After an intentional walk with two outs, loading the bases, Vasquez then walked in a run and gave up a two-single by Lucius Fox.

That was all the scoring in the game.

Just like the previous three games in this series, the wind from Pensacola Bay was a factor. Sullivan’s homer was the only one of the series and would have left any ballpark.

But the Blue Wahoos Lewin Diaz had a fourth-inning shot to right field that got knocked down to allow a warning track catch. In the ninth, Joe Cronin drove a pitch deep in left-center, but it was curtailed by the wind.

“It is always tough when you have a ball that can’t get out of the ballpark, but you have to adjust to it,” said Hamilton, in summation for the team. “And it almost makes the stadium quiet, because all you hear is wind.

“You can’t hear anything else. But you have to adjust. Baseball is a game of adjustments, so we can’t control weather.”

The loss was the Blue Wahoos’ eighth in their last 10 games. Montgomery, meanwhile, has won nine of its last 12 games.

But Hamilton put the game in perspective, after signing autographs for a group of young children, when assessing the team’s position.

“We are just trying to have some fun. The moment you are not having fun playing baseball is when it all goes downhill. We’re just going out there every day… to do our best and making adjustments to different pitchers but at the end of the day it’s just having fun and playing a kids’ game.

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