My wife, by nature, is a planner. When we decide to go to a game, tickets are ordered well in advance. Very rarely, if ever, will we decide to go to a game at the last minute. Fortunately, for the purposes of this blog, she wasn’t feeling well enough to attend our son’s baseball game this past Thursday. Frankly, the 45+ minute drive didn’t have me too excited either, especially when you consider it was continuation of a game that was suspended the prior week. My son’s team had already clinched a playoff birth and were facing a team needing a win to qualify. Needless to say, it took me longer to get to the game than it did for our team to get run off the field after a 14-2 loss. So, now what to do? It was before 6:30 and we had the whole night free. Oh yeah! Aaron Nola’s AAA debut was taking place at Coca-Cola Park. With no Mom to foil our plans, off we went! Here’s what I saw.
Aaron Nola – We’ve seen Aaron on a few occasions in Reading, but none in 2015 so we were a little excited. We did miss all but one pitch of the first inning (walking tacos come first for my son) but did see four solid innings from Aaron. One thing we’ve all come to expect from Aaron is command of his fastball to all zones. Surprisingly, it seemed to be lacking for the most part. He seemed to be firing across his body a little harder than normal, leaving the ball low and away to right handers more often than I’ve seen in the past. I’ve often wondered if his side arm delivery would leave him open to outings like this, but I’ve never seen it before. To Aaron’s credit, he was able to escape damage by effectively mixing in curves, sliders, and changeups with both touch and command. He used his secondary pitches in any count, throwing them for strikes and inducing weak contact for most of the outing. My other take away from the game was that he wasn’t able to put hitters away as quickly as he had at Reading. We saw more two strike foul balls in 4 innings than we’d seen in his other starts combined. Well, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but it seemed like it. Was it from his lack of fastball command or was it that he was facing a lineup composed of some 7 players with major league experience (I thought I read it was over 1,000 games of experience in the lineup that night)? Regardless, he did what Nola does best, outsmart hitters and keep them off balance, even without his best pitch. If he was nervous, I’d hate to face him once he relaxes. The bottom line, this kid is going to be good.
Gabriel Lino – Another one of our old friends from Reading, I continue to like what I see from Lino at the plate. His approach is solid and he’s been making solid contact consistently. Admitedly, it’s difficult to get excited about 3 grounds out in his first three at bats, but when he sees 16 pitches in those at bats I’ll take it. The single he had in the 8th was also well stuck. Defensively, I’ll admit I wasn’t paying full attention to Lino. Hopefully, I can next time I’m there.
Sadly, that’s about all there is to report from Lehigh Valley. Prospects are in short supply there, unless you count Darin Ruf, which you shouldn’t. On a side note, Ruf isn’t driving the ball but is hitting well. But does it really matter? Until next time…
Photo by Chris LaBarge