Wrapping up Opening Weekend

Welcome back to the BlueClaws blog. This is Alex Gyr, one of the BlueClaws announcers. The first weekend of baseball is officially in the books and it was certainly filled with highs and lows, but unfortunately on the field, the negatives outweighed the positives.

The visiting Captains took three of four in the opening series, keeping the much-hyped BlueClaws offense in check. The main lesson from the first weekend of action? This team sure is young.

The BlueClaws dropped the season opener on Thursday night, 4-0. Drew Naylor gave up just three runs, all coming in one mistake-plagued inning, but took the loss as the offense was kept off the scoreboard by Kelvin De La Cruz and a pair of relievers.

The BlueClaws did manage eight hits in the game, but stranded 12 runners, including eight over a three inning stretch. The team combined to go 0-for-11 with runners in scoring position—surprising considering how hot the club had been in the final exhibition games in Florida.

The offense got it together for stretches in Friday’s 6-4 loss, but still looked shaky. Mike Durant showed his power potential, clubbing a deep home run to left field on a chilly night at FirstEnergy. But the offense again faltered when it mattered most and the Claws bullpen gave up three runs in the final three frames.

Tyson Brummett looked in control in his first start in a BlueClaws uniform, giving up three runs, but just one earned, in five innings. The former UCLA hurler struggled with his control early with two walks in the first inning, but rebounded with four strong frames to follow.

Control issues for BlueClaws starters were seemed to be the norm, but the problems really came to a head on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. Saturday’s starter Julian Sampson and Sunday’s starter Jacob Diekman each walked five in three and 3 1/3 innings, respectively. Sampson was let off the hook as the club rallied for a 7-6 victory, while Diekman was not so lucky, taking the loss in a 5-1 rain-delayed decision.

It is difficult to properly do justice to how bizarre the victory on Saturday was. The Claws were no-hit through the first five innings by Captains starter Chris Archer, before rallying for seven runs in a come-from-behind win. The final outcome was decided when Matt Rizzotti, a 6-foot-5, 245 pound first baseman hit a three-run inside the park home run to score the winning run.

Captains leftfielder Lucas Montero initially signaled for a ground-rule double on the play, but unwisely reached under the fence’s padding to pull the ball out, ensuring Rizzotti’s first-ever inside-the-park round-tripper.

Sunday’s finale had an ominous feel for the Claws from the start. The game was delayed 1:15 due to rain and there was a sharp wind blowing in straight from centerfield throughout. On a day that started in the low-40s, it must have been tough for everyone in the field.

Diekman’s start did not go as planned. The lone left-hander in the Claws starting five, Diekman lasted just 3 1/3 as he struggled to hit the strike zone with any sort of regularity. The Captains got all five of their runs in the first four innings, before the bullpen came in and kept the visitors hitless for the final 5 2/3.

The weather made any sort of come-back extremely difficult. Both sides rarely put the ball out of the infield and anything hit in the air was lucky to make it halfway to the fence. Ryan Miller, Mike Pontieus, and Dallas Cawiezell took advantage, limiting Lakewood to just six hits.

It was certainly not the start the BlueClaws were hoping for, but the good news is it is still very early. This is a young team with a lot of talent. As the season goes along, the nerves should subside and you have to think things will turn around. Remember, the 2006 team started the season 0-9 before winning the SAL Championship.

Next up for the BlueClaws is the Hagerstown Suns, who come to FirstEnergy Park for three games starting tomorrow. Naylor will make his second start of the season in the series opener, to be followed by Brummett and Sampson, before the team heads on the road for the first time this year.

Hagerstown won two of three in Delmarva, although Sunday’s series finale was rained out. The Suns are a more experienced side than the BlueClaws and we will see if that becomes a factor.

These teams will get very familiar with each other over the course of the season. They face each other 23 times between now and September 1, which in case you were wondering, is a lot. RHP Hassan Pena will start on Tuesday, RHP Brad Peacock will go on Wednesday and RHP Jeff Mandel will close out the series on Thursday.

Be sure to catch the series at FirstEnergy Park or listen in on the Shore Sports Network. Brendan Burke will be back on the air with me, so definitely check that out.

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