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Short Stop

Saturday, July 8, 2017 – Hadlock Field, Portland

Fightin’ Phils 4, Sea Dogs 3

After a span of four Red Sox games in six days, I had a gap of almost three weeks before I’d be back to Fenway.  So while the big leaguers went on a ten-game road trip that would be followed by the All-Star break, it was the perfect time for me to head to Portland to watch the Double-A Sea Dogs.

The grounds crew watered the field with rainbows before the game.

The grounds crew watered the field with rainbows before the game.

The last few years we’ve been seeing the Sea Dogs in June, but this year we were a little later.  All year I had been following the exploits of top prospect Rafael Devers, figuring there was no way he’d still be in Double-A in July.  Sure, he was only 20 years old and they didn’t want to rush him, but they were having so many issues with third base in the majors, so a promotion to at least Triple-A seemed imminent.  I was happy when Pablo Sandoval was sent on a rehab assignment, because it meant he’d be playing third in Triple-A most nights, leaving Devers in Portland where he could play every day.  The plan worked – he was still on the Sea Dogs’ roster when my July game rolled around, but I was disappointed when I got there and he was out of the lineup for the day.  (It didn’t dawn on me until I saw some tweets later that night about the All-Star Futures Game the next day; Devers was one of the minor leaguers chosen to participate in that showcase, and he had the day off because he was on his way to Miami, where the All-Star festivities were taking place.)  I did have another Sea Dogs game coming up in a couple of weeks, but surely he would be promoted by then.

Michael Chavis played third base but went 0-for-4 at the plate.

Michael Chavis played third base but went 0-for-4 at the plate.

With Devers away, the highest-ranked prospect in the lineup was probably Michael Chavis, who had just been promoted from Single-A Salem a couple of weeks earlier.  He had been playing first base with Devers entrenched at third, but was at third base tonight.  Another recently-promoted player was shortstop Chad De La Guerra, who came up from Salem along with Chavis.  He got the game off to a good start with a solo homer in the first inning.

Shortstop Chad De La Guerra went 1-for-3 with a walk and a home run.

Shortstop Chad De La Guerra went 1-for-3 with a walk and a home run.

Starting for the Sea Dogs was Elih Villanueva.  At age 31, he’s not exactly on the prospect charts, and I had to look him up online to get the scoop.  He signed with the Sea Dogs in June as a minor league free agent.  He had made his Major League debut in 2011 with the Marlins (giving up 8 runs in 3 innings in one spot start), and last pitched in 2015 in the Orioles organization.  He was granted free agency at the end of ‘15 and didn’t play at all in ‘16.  So it was a pleasant surprise when he had a very good outing.

Elih Villanueva had a strong start, with 1 ER and 7K in 6+ innings.

Elih Villanueva had a strong start, with 2 ER and 7 K in 6-1/3 innings.

Villanueva worked a quick 1-2-3 first.  He let in the tying run in the second on a double and a single, but got out of it nicely by inducing an inning-ending double play.  After that he went on cruise control.  There was one baserunner in the third who reached on an error, and then no one reached base again until a two-out single in the sixth.  He was working really quickly, too.  In the middle of the fifth, he had thrown just 57 pitches.  Even more amazingly, the clock read 6:55 at the half-way point in the game – and the game had started at 6:00.  I had been to so many four-hour games at Fenway this year that even a three-hour “average” game would have felt fast to me, but this one was positively flying!  It was hard to keep up, between taking lots of pictures, scoring the game, following the end of Red Sox’ 4:00 game in Tampa (a frustrating 1-0 loss), and then juggling all of that when the vendor who sells “Sea Dog biscuit” ice cream sandwiches came by.

we had great seats in the second row behind third base, but we really had to pay attention for foul balls.

We had great seats in the second row behind third base, but we really had to pay attention for foul balls.

Danny Mars went 0-for-4 at the plate but made a nice diving catch in left field.

Danny Mars went 0-for-4 at the plate but made a nice diving catch in left field.

Most players used Sea Dogs batting helmets, but for some reason DH Henry Urrutia used one with a Red Sox logo.  I wondered if he had just joined the team, but he had signed in mid-June, which should have been plenty of time to get him an official one.

Most players wore Sea Dogs batting helmets, but for some reason DH Henry Urrutia used one with a Red Sox logo. I wondered if he had just joined the team, but he had signed in mid-June, which should have been plenty of time to get him an official one.

The Sea Dogs took the lead in the fifth, when first baseman Mike Olt reached on an infield single, moved up on center fielder Cole Sturgeon’s groundout, and then scored on second baseman Deiner Lopez’s hit.  Villanueva allowed a one-out single in the seventh, and was replaced by Luis Ysla, who I remembered from Spring Training.  Ysla walked the first two batters he faced to load the bases, and two scored on a fielding error by Olt.  Left fielder Danny Mars saved them from more damage by making a diving catch for the second out, and a groundout ended the inning.  But now the Fightins had the lead, and they added an insurance run off Ysla in the ninth.

Luis Ysla was charged with 2 runs (1 earned) in 2-2/3 innings of relief.

Luis Ysla was charged with 2 runs (1 earned) in 2-2/3 innings of relief.

Jeremy Barfield, son of Jesse Barfield, who played for the Blue Jays and Yankees in the 1980's and 90's, was 1-for-3 with a walk and a home run.

Jeremy Barfield was 1-for-3 with a walk and a home run.

Right fielder Jeremy Barfield, the son of Jesse Barfield, who played for the Blue Jays and Yankees in the 1980’s and 90’s, hit a home run in the bottom of the ninth to pull the Sea Dogs within a run, but that was all they got, and ended up losing 4-3.  The game ended just after 8:00, and I saw in the box score later that the official time for the full nine innings was two hours and eight minutes!  That’s got to be the shortest game I’ve ever been to – it certainly beats the 4 hour and 32 minute nine-inning game I sat through on Mother’s Day.   The whole thing took less time to play than it took for me to drive up to Portland.  Most years, I get good sunset pictures at Hadlock Field, but this one finished about 20 minutes before sunset, and I was already on the highway on my way home before the sky lit up.

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