Crow was dominant on Wednesday
The Omaha Royals and Wilmington Blue Rocks both kept pace with their division leaders on Wednesday, winning their games behind excellent pitching. Unfortunately, the Burlington Royals lost game one of their playoff series against Johnson City and now must win both of the remaining games in the best-of-three series. Click inside to read the full report.
AAA: Omaha 5, Round Rock 1
W: Matt Herges (8-4, 4.86)
HR: Mike Moustakas (14), Scott Thorman (22)
Mike Moustakas continued swinging a hot bat, smacking his 14th home run for the O-Royals as they defeated the Express, 5-1. Scott Thorman went 3-for-4 with a double and a home run, while Irving Falu had two hits and a pair of RBIs. The rehabbing Brian Bannister pitched 3.1 scoreless innings before giving way to Matt Herges, who gave up one run and six hits over the next 2.2 innings. Louis Coleman and Federico Castaneda held the Express scoreless over the final three frames.
Despite the win, the O-Royals’ playoff chances took a hit, as both Iowa and Memphis won their games. Omaha remains three games behind the Cubs with five left to play. The O-Royals finish their series against Round Rock on Thursday in the final game at Rosenblatt Stadium.
High-A: Wilmington 3, Myrtle Beach 2
W: Aaron Crow (2-2, 4.81)
Aaron Crow was dominant on Wednesday, pitching 6.2 scoreless innings on just three hits while ringing up 13 batters in the Blue Rocks’ 3-2 victory over the Pelicans. Ryan Dennick followed Crow, giving up two runs on three hits in one inning before Manauris Baez entered and shut out the Pelicans over the final 1.1 innings. On offense, Patrick Norris went 2-for-4 with a double, and Rey Navarro cracked a double of his own. Adrian Ortiz and Adam Frost both had multi-hit games. Wil Myers finished 1-for-2 with a pair of walks.
With the win, the Blue Rocks remain 1.5 games behind the first place Potomac Nationals, who also won on Wednesday. Wilmington wraps up its series against the Pelicans Thursday night.
Low-A: Cedar Rapids 15, Burlington 3
L: Matt Mitchell (1-9, 5.69)
HR: Whit Merrifield (4), Carlo Testa (12)
Burlington was blasted in the fifth inning, giving up 11 runs en route to a 15-3 loss to the Kernels. Matt Mitchell allowed four runs on six hits over four innings before he was replaced by Rodolfo Encarnacion, who allowed all five base runners he faced to reach base safely. Starling De La Rosa allowed all of Encarnacion's runs to cross, plus six of his own before finishing out the inning. Matt Morizio and Ryan Wood held the Kernels scoreless over the final three frames. On offense, Carlo Testa had two hits, including a home run, while Whit Merrifield also went deep.
Burlington plays the second game of its series against Cedar Rapids Thursday.
Rookie: Ogden 6, Idaho Falls 2
L: Greg Billo (4-7, 5.05)
Greg Billo struggled Thursday as the Chukars lost the Raptors, 6-2. The right-hander pitched five innings, allowing six runs on seven hits. Allen Caldwell and Alexander Rivers closed out the game, combing to throw three scoreless innings. At the plate, Justin Trapp collected two hits and a double, while Cameron Conner added a double.
Idaho Falls finishes its short series against Ogden Thursday night.
Appalachian League Playoffs: Johnson City 8, Burlington 4
The Burlington Royals on Wednesday dropped the first game of their playoff series against Johnson City, falling to the Cardinals, 8-4. With the loss, the B-Royals are now one game away from elimination in the best-of-three series.
The Cardinals wasted little time jumping on Burlington starter Jonathon Keck, who lasted just two-thirds of an inning while surrendering four runs on four hits and three walks. Daniel Hernandez entered the game with two outs in the first and induced a ground ball to second base to end the threat.
The B-Royals got on the board with a run in their half of the first, but Johnson City came right back in the second. Catcher Cody Stanley launched the first of his two home runs on the game, a two-run blast to left field that gave the Cardinals a 6-1 lead.
The score stayed that way until the bottom of the third, when Burlington tallied its second run on a Michael Liberto RBI single to left. The Mizzou product was one of the few offensive bright spots for the Royals, finishing the game 3-for-5 with a double and a run scored.
Johnson City added single tallies in seventh and eighth innings against relievers Cole Lohden and J.J. Leaper, pushing its lead to 8-2. In the bottom of the ninth, the B-Royals mounted a small rally with the help of a defensive miscue by the Cardinals, plating two runs in the frame. Unfortunately, the comeback attempt fell short, and Ryan Jenkins struck out to end the contest.
The series now shifts to Johnson City, where the B-Royals will have to win both games to advance to the Appalachian League Championship Series. Toeing the rubber for the Royals on Thursday will be Willian Avinazar. The 21-year-old right-hander was one of Burlington’s best pitchers this year, finishing the regular season with a 6-3 record and a sparkling 2.63 ERA.