Mesa Loses AFL Title Game, 8-2

The game started with so much promise for Mesa, with Victor Robles (pictured above, greeting the Braves’ Ronald Acuna) leading a salvo of back-to-back-to-back singles to open the game and take a 2-0 lead early.

But it was all Peoria after that as the Javelinas scored eight unanswered runs to win the 2017 Arizona Fall Championship game, 8-2.

Robles singled again in the 8th to finish the game at 2-for-4 and go 12-for-45 in 14 AFL games. He was joined in the lineup by Kelvin Gutierrez, who once again played 1B to make room for former Nats farmhand Sheldon Neuse. Gutierrez went hitless, but still had a much stronger fall (10-for-44, 7BB, 9RBI in 14G) than most would have expected after an injury-shortened 2017.

Dakota Bacus also appeared in the game but retired just one of three batters faced and was charged with the final two Peoria runs.

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Sad-SpicklesAnd that’s a wrap on the 2017 minor-league season, No. 8 for this space, and the sixth for which Lee Magehenim has added pictures far better than the one- or two-hundred word summaries on how the Nats did in Arizona.

Saturday Smorgasbord

No AFL update, but if you need a breathless preview of today’s title game, here you go.

As we’re all familiar with the offseason cycle, with the AFL’s end comes the Rule 5 protection deadline (Monday, 8 p.m.) This, of course, has become less and less meaningful as the Nats system has thinned while the big club has become a contender (and a favorite of MADD, because they’re done after one round).

Todd Boss breaks it down at NationalsArmsRace and about the only thing I’d disagree with is protecting Drew Ward – he can’t be hidden on a bench as he’s not a viable defensive replacement and is not very fast. About the only intrigue is learning which of the IFAs the Nationals feel (fear) might be the next Felipe Rivero.

No news on the transaction front but if you’re of a mind to see where the recent free agents re-sign, you can visit BA’s free-agent tracker, which is better-looking but a little more cumbersome than its previous iterations. Spoiler alert: just three FAs have signed as of this writing.

Speaking of Baseball America—and looking at you MLB—the line between editorial and advertising is getting blurred. Let’s just say that when I write an article, I put my name on it. When I write advertising, I don’t.

AFL Update: Nov. 17, 2017

The Solar Sox ended the regular season with a thud, losing to Suprise, 10-5.

Three Nationals saw game action.

Daniel Johnson led off and played center field, going 1-for-5 with a two-run double and two strikeouts. Defensively, he had three putouts.

Kelvin Gutierrez (pictured) took third base and had an assist and an error. At the plate, he went 1-for-4.

Austen Williams was lit up for five runs again – this time on five hits over 2/3rds of an inning. In nine AFL appearances, he’s had just two outings in which he did not allow a run.

Today’s an off day before tomorrow’s obligatory Championship Game between the Solar Sox and the Javelinas. The game will be broadcast on the MLB Network and at 3 p.m.

AFL Update: Nov. 16, 2017

The Solar Sox clinched the AFL East with a 5-2 win over Surprise.

Like yesterday, there were just two Nats in the starting lineup.

Victor Robles reached base twice without getting hit by a pitch as he drew walks in 7th and 9th innings. Defensively, he had two putouts in centerfield.

Daniel Johnson ended an oh-for-ever streak (Ok, fine – 25 AB’s) with a two-out double in the 5th. Pictured is his reaction to the bench cheering for the hit. He fielded just one ball in right field, a single to lead off the bottom of the 1st.

The two teams rematch and play the final regular-season game this afternoon in Mesa.

AFL Update: Nov. 15, 2017

Glendale got two in the 1st and never trailed as they handed Mesa another loss, 5-1.

Just two Nationals played in yesterday’s game:

• Kelvin Gutierrez got the start at first base, where he played error-free and took par in a double play. At the plate, he was 0-for-3 to lose his modest hit streak but drew a walk to reach base for the 10th time in the last 10 games.

• Jimmy Cordero (pictured) pitched two innings, giving up a run on three hits and a walk. He threw 40 pitches, 22 for strikes.

Despite the loss, the Solar Sox still hold a 1½ game lead with two games to play. They play the Saguaros this afternoon with a chance to clinch a spot in Saturday’s title game with a win.

AFL Update: Nov. 14, 2017

Mesa is still on track to the Finals, but it was over early as Glendale lit up both Kyle McGowin and Austen Williams for five runs in a 10-3 loss.

McGowin got knocked from the box in the second after giving up five hits, including a three-run homer an a solo shot. Williams got the last out of the 2nd on a strikeout and the first two of the 3rd but was lit up for five hits before he hit the showers. McGowin took the loss, his first of the fall.

Victor Robles walked, singled, and scored a run to improve his fall line to .263/.388/.526 in 12 games. He had three putouts in centerfield.

Kelvin Gutierrez had an infield single to drive in a run and extend his hit streak to five games, but fell below .400 with the 1-for-4 effort. He played third but had no defensive chances.

The Desert Dogs also lost yesterday, which keeps the Solar Sox’s lead at 2½ games with three games to go. Mesa and Glendal switch venues and rematch this afternoon.

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Some sad new to pass along: former Nats farmhand Richie Mirowski passed away earlier this month at the age of 28. Folks who don’t feel comfortable posting to Facebook should probably express their condolences here.

I’d also like to ask folks to not speculate on the manner of his death out of respect for his friends and family, and in particular, his parents.

AFL Update: Nov. 12, 2017

Mesa went to town on Salt River with a seven-run 5th en route to a 16-2 demolition to take one giant step closer to securing a spot in next Saturday’s championship game.

Victor Robles (pictured from Friday afternoon) was the only National to appear in the game. The 20-y.o. reached base twice with (*gasp*) a hit-by-pitch and a walk and scored twice. He also drove in a run with a sacrifice fly and stole his seventh base in his eleventh AFL game.

The Solar Sox return to action on Monday with a visit to the Desert Dogs, the first of just four games in this, the final week.

AFL/Offseason Update: Nov. 11, 2017

A pitcher’s duel went into extras, but Mesa’s two runs in the final inning (by rule) were matched by Salt River for a 3-3 tie in 11 innings.

Victor Robles, who signed for eBay investors the fans prior to the game, led off the game as the DH with a infield single and homered for the third time this fall in the 8th to tie it up at 1-1.

Kelvin Gutierrez has yet to cool down as he put up another 2-for-5 effort and his fourth multihit game while playing first base again. He did, however, strike out twice and got thrown out trying to steal third base.

Daniel Johnson’s hitless streak extended to six games with an 0-for-4 game and one walk. Defensively, the centerfielder had one putout.

Jimmy Cordero worked around two hits in the 7th and struck out in his lone inning of work. He threw 19 pitches, 11 for strikes.

With the tie, the Rafters and Solar Sox remain 1½ games apart in the AFL East with five games left to play. They rematch this afternoon for the final time this season.

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Minor-league free agency began this week with a fairly sizable contingent of guys – 26 though that does include a couple of player-coaches:
RHPs РGabriel Arias, Taylor Hill, Kevin Jepsen, Jaron Long, Rafael Martin, Gilberto Mendez, Sean O’Sullivan, Neil Ramirez, Andrew Robinson, Cody Satterwhite, Kyle Schepel
LHPs – Tim Collins, Neal Cotts, Braulio Lara
C – Devin Ivany, Andruth Ramirez
IF – Michael Almanzar, Emmanuel Burriss, Benji Gonzalez, Corban Joseph, Mario Lisson, Matt Skole, Brandon Snyder, Neftali Soto
OF – Joey Butler, Chad Huffman

Eyeballing it, there’s roughly half-a-dozen homegrown players here, including the two player-coaches so we’re not looking at sizable farewell here for longtime farmhands.

Just ahead of the free-agency, the Nats made the following moves:

Released – OF Matt Page, C C.J. Picerni, RHP Michael Rishwain
Re-signed – IF Irving Falu, IF Dan Gamache, C Jake Lowery

For some reason, the Nats decided to hold onto 24-y.o. Picerni this season after a 2-for-8 showing in the GCL last summer. Our semi-annual reminder that “our guys” are treated like cattle (chattel?) when it suits the organization.

A fair amount of Nats in the Winter leagues are now ex-Nats in the winter leagues, so here’s a selection the more notable minor-leaguers, all in the Dominican Winter League except Aldrem Corredor, who’s in the Venezuelan Winter League:

  • Osvaldo Abreu .267/.313/267 in 6G
  • Rafael Bautista .125/.214/.357, 4SB in 7G
  • Jose Marmolejos .231/.324/.354, 2HR, 7RBI in 18G
  • Raudy Read .267/.267/.667, 2HR, 4RBI in 4G
  • Pedro Severino .125/.200/.125 in 3G
  • Aldrem Corredor .091/.130/.091 in 11G

AFL Update: Nov. 10, 2017

Mesa couldn’t hold a 2-1 lead late and and couldn’t outslug Peoria as they fell in 10 innings, 5-4.

Just one National appeared in the starting lineup. Kelvin Gutierrez (pictured above, throwing out speedster Lourdes Gurriel) lowered his batting average again with a 2-for-5 afternoon but extended his on-base streak to seven games. He also drew a walk, stole a base, and struck out.

Two relievers made an appearance. Dakota Bacus turned in a perfect inning, mowing ’em down on 13 pitches (10 strikes) in the 7th. Austen Williams struck out the side in the 8th but was also lit up for two runs on two hits for a blown save.

The Solar Sox, who still lead the AFL East by 1½ games, visit the Rafters this afternoon.

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Today is the observation Veterans Day. If you’ll permit me a plug from my day job, please read A Practical Guide to Honoring Vets on Veterans Day.

AFL Update: Nov. 8, 2017

The Javelinas got a run in the 1st but it was all Mesa after that as the Solar Sox took this one, 5-1.

Victor Robles fouled a ball off his foot in his second plate appearance, a walk, which didn’t stop him from swiping second and third but did give him the rest of the afternoon off. He finished 0-for-1.

Kelvin Gutierrez got the start at 1B and lowered his BA to .421 with a 1-for-3 game, driving in two with a single and a sacrifice fly.

Taylor Gushue’s hit streak ended with an 0-for-4 game at catcher. No opposing baserunners tried to steal yesterday.

Daniel Johnson started in left field and took over in center field after Robles left the game. He drew a walk but was 0-for-2 with a run scored.

The league off today as they down towards next Saturday’s championship game. Mesa leads the AFL East by 2½ games with seven left to go.