Brandon Magee recaps the week that was down on the farm in the weekly minor league report. This week, the speed of play and Manuel Margot headline the happenings in the Boston Red Sox minor league system.
April 21:. McCoy Stadium, Pawtucket, Rhode Island
In the first game of a scheduled doubleheader, the Pawtucket Red Sox faced the Buffalo Bison in a matchup of the top two teams in the International League – North Division. On the mound for the Red Sox was Brian Johnson who came into the game with an impeccable 1.00 ERA. On the mound for the Bison was Andrew Albers, who had started ten games for the Minnesota Twins in 2013. It looked like a good matchup on paper.
Each pitcher had already faced the other team a week earlier in different games of a scheduled doubleheader. Brian Johnson faced the Bison in the first game. A poor second inning by both Johnson and the infield defense led to the only two runs of the game. Johnson allowed two singles and a walk and two fielding errors (one each by Garin Cecchini and Sean Coyle) and the first five batters reached base. Johnson would concede two more singles (one on a bunt) and a walk in the fourth to complete his scoreline: 4 IP, 2 R, 1 ER, 4 H, 2 BB, 7 K; 85 pitches, 59 for strikes.
In the second game, Andrew Albers faced off against Keith Couch. Couch allowed the only two runs of that game in the first inning, surrendering two singles and a walk with two outs, and then a double to drive in two while providing the third out at home. Those runs were all that was necessary for Albers. The only marks against him were a double in the first, a single in the second (with the runner erased on a double play), a single (with the runner erased on another double play) and a walk in the fourth, and a single in the sixth. In his six innings of work, he struck out five.
Now, on April 21, both pitchers looked as good as advertised in their first innings of work: each retired the side in order. Johnson got the first two outs of the second before giving up a single to Sean Ochinko. Caleb Gindl then hit a fly ball to left field that Jeff Bianchi failed to catch. With two outs, Ochinko was running on the play, but the relay from Jackie Bradley, Jr. to Deven Marrero to Blake Swihart nailed Ochinko at home to end the inning.
The Pawsox went down in order in the bottom of the second. The Bison got the first two batters of the third on with a walk and a bunt single. The next batter, Ezequiel Carrera, attempted to sacrifice the two runners over but Swihart fielded the bunt and cut down Munenori Kawasaki at third. The next Bison, Andy Burns, hit a liner to Bianchi who made the catch and threw to Jemile Weeks to double off Jonathan Diaz at second base.
The Pawsox got their first runners on base in the bottom of the third with consecutive walks by Coyle and Weeks. Bianchi sacrificed the runners over but a strikeout and a ground out ended the threat. There was no score after three.
And then… outs. Johnson and Albers retired the side in order in the fourth and the fifth and the sixth. Johnson set down the Bison 1-2-3 in the top of the seventh as well, retiring the final fourteen men he faced and setting up the dramatic bottom of the seventh.
The Pawsox came into the inning with no hits against Andrew Albers. They had been retired in order in five of the six innings played, but an excellent game like this deserved a dramatic ending. Travis Shaw came up first pitch swinging, lining a double to right field. Shaw was quickly replaced by pinch runner Quintin Berry. Bryce Brentz saw six pitches but struck out for the first out of the inning. Matt Spring, playing in only his third game of the season, swung at the first pitch and then took a ball. After a pick-off attempt, Spring looped the next pitch into center field. Berry, running on the play, easily scored.
Pawtucket 1, Buffalo 0. Two complete games thrown. Four hits, three walks, one error, two outfield assists. A baseball classic in a taut 89 minutes.
Margot Never K’s
Manuel Margot has never been a hitter who strikes out a lot. This year, he has started the year at even more an incredible rate.
In 2012, his first professional season, Margot struck out 25 times in 260 ABs for the Dominican Summer League Red Sox. In 2013, Margot struck out 40 times in 185 ABs for the Lowell Spinners. Last year, splitting the season between the Greenville Drive and the Salem Red Sox, Margot struck out 54 times in 440 ABs.
This season in Salem, Margot has had 61 official at bats. He has put the ball in play in all 61 at bats. He has ZERO strikeouts.
To put this stat into perspective, there are only two other players on all four Red Sox farm clubs who also have not struck out this season. Hector Lorenzana, who has played in one game for the Salem Red Sox, and Danny Bethea, who has played in two games for the Greenville Drive.
If we look at players who have around the same number of at bats as Margot, we find that Travis Shaw has the fewest strikeouts. In his 62 at bats for the Pawtucket Red Sox, Shaw has struck out seven times.
Looking at the league-wide statistics, there are four other players in the Carolina League that have come up to the plate and have yet to strike out, all with two or fewer games played. Ben Carhart of the Myrtle Beach Pelicans went 28 at bats before recording his first strikeout on Tuesday. There are only five players in the South Atlantic League who have yet to strike out, none with more than three games played. The Eastern League has a large number of players with no strikeouts but none with more than seven at bats. In the International League, Sean Kazmar of the Gwinnett Braves has had 35 at bats without striking out.
This theme carries on as one checks all the leagues currently in season. A look at the Pacific Coast League shows Ramiro Pena (of the El Paso Chihuahuas) with three strikeouts through 56 ABs. Breyvic Valera of the the Texas League’s Springfield Cardinals has two strikeouts in 60 ABs. The Florida State League’s Jin-De Jhang of the Bradenton Marauders has two strikeouts in 51 ABs. None of these players have zero strikeouts like Margot.
Joe Sewell holds the Major League Record for consecutive at bats without a strikeout, going 442 at bats without one in 1929. However, it was a different time. The average American League team averaged fewer than three strikeouts each game. In 2014, that average was over 7.5 strikeouts each game. In 1997, Ichiro Suzuki had a 216 at bat streak with the Orix Blue Wave of the Japan Pacific League. Teams averaged a little over six strikeouts per game in that league. While a more modern comparison, the baseball culture of Japan and seventeen years of strikeouts becoming more acceptable make any comparison with Margot difficult.
As the article was being finalized, the Salem Red Sox were also playing a game. In his second at bat of the game, Manuel Margot struck out swinging against the Frederick Keys’ Jarrett Miller. Margot’s streak ended on Wednesday night at 62 consecutive at bats.
Minor League Roundup
Overall team records are shown as of the end of play on Tuesday, April 28th. This week’s record is from Wednesday, April 22nd through Tuesday, April 28th
Pawtucket Red Sox (Overall: 13-7 Week: 4-3)
The Pawsox week was defined by the pitching. In their four wins, they allowed a single run three times and two runs once. In the losses, they allowed eight runs twice and seven runs in the third.
The offense was consistent, scoring three runs and four runs three times apiece and six runs once.
Brian Johnson was named the International League Pitcher of the Week for his complete game effort chronicled above. He then pitched on Monday and surrendered a single run on two hits over 5 innings, increasing his ERA to 0.86.
Eduardo Rodriguez pitched a seven inning complete game in his only appearance of the week, allowing a run on three hits against the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. In his three starts this season, Rodriguez has only walked a single batter while striking out 16.
The Pawsox begin May with a three game series at McCoy Stadium against the Durham Bulls before heading out to Ohio for three against the Toledo Mudhens.
Portland Sea Dogs (Overall: 7-12 Week: 2-5)
Jonathan Aro had a 0.77 ERA in four relief appearances before entering play on Tuesday. In his fifth appearance, he allowed seven runs (four earned) in three innings pitched. His ERA jumped to 3.07.
Aro wasn’t the only pitcher having trouble this week. In the team’s five losses this week, the pitching allowed an average of 9 runs, hitting double digits three times. The starters have been particularly hard hit as William Cuevas sports the lowest ERA in the starting rotation at 4.73.
Jantzen Witte had a very good week, going 10/25 with three doubles, a HR and 4 walks (.400/.483/.640).
The Sea Dogs begin May with a road trip, starting with three against the Reading Phillies before moving on to face the Binghamton Mets in a four game series.
Salem Red Sox (Overall: 9-8 Week: 5-1)
Teddy Stankiewicz has allowed six runs, five earned, over three starts. He has a 2.60 ERA. Unfortunately, the offense has scored exactly one run in each of his starts and Stankiewicz has an 0-3 record.
Pitching drove Salem this week, allowing no more than four runs in each of the six games played.
Margot drew four walks this week. In four of the five games Margot has gone hitless this season, he has drawn a walk. He has reached base in fourteen consecutive games.
Salem will be at home to start the month of May with a four game, wrap-around series against the Potomac Nationals before heading to Myrtle Beach to face the Pelicans for four games in three days.
Greenville Drive (Overall: 11-8 Week: 5-2)
Michael Kopech was named the South Atlantic League Pitcher of the Week. In his last two starts, Kopech has pitched ten innings, giving up only four hits while striking out seven. In the process, he lowered his ERA to 1.98.
The pitching was excellent this week, allowing no more than four runs in all seven games.
The team went 3-1 in one-run games this week and are now 5-4 in one-run games for the season.
The Drive travel to Maryland for a four game series against the Hagerstown Suns before heading back home to face the Savannah Sand Gnats in a three game set.