Sunday, March 1, 2009

Titans Sweep the Trees


By Don Hudson

Behind an awesome hitting display by Khris Davis and another solid outing by a starting pitcher (Tyler Pill), the Cal State Fullerton Titans completed an impressive sweep of the Stanford Cardinal with a resounding 9-3 victory this afternoon at Goodwin Field. Davis went 4-4 with three home runs, six RBI and thirteen total bases.

Pill allowed a walk to the first batter he faced and then found his groove, aided and abetted by the liberally wide (albeit consistent) strike zone of plate umpire Ruben Chavira. Pill painted the corners and did a great job avoiding any 'mistake' pitches against an imposing Stanford line-up.

The Titans plated the first runs of the day in the bottom of the second inning when Khris Davis delivered a blast far over the high background wall above the center field fence following a single by Nick Ramirez.

Stanford cut the deficit in half in the top of the third when Zach Jones lofted a shot off the scoreboard in left field. Unfazed by the Stanford tally, the Titans responded with three runs in the bottom of the inning to take a 5-1 lead. Christian Colon led off with a double and advanced to third base on a ground ball. Clark walked and was forced out at second when the Stanford left-fielder dropped Ramirez's short fly ball, with Colon scoring. Khris Davis then blasted his second home run of the day off starting pitcher Max Fearnow.

Pill continued his effective pitching in the fourth and fifth innings, allowing a base hit in each inning but avoiding damage by not permitting his opponent to string hits together. He was pulled with one out in the sixth inning and one runner aboard (HBP) after 88 pitches. Jason Dovel made his season debut and allowed the inherited runner to score on the strength of a walk and a single (sandwiched around a strikeout), making the score 5-2. Noe Ramirez replaced Dovel and worked out of the tieing-run-at-the-plate jam by whiffing Brent Milleville.

Davis got the run back in a hurry, blasting the first pitch of the sixth inning for a home run to right field off reliever Jordan Pries - his third in three at-bats.

After Ryan Ackland pitched a scoreless seventh inning, the Titans put the contest out of reach with three runs in the bottom of the frame. Gary Brown led off with a HBP and stolen base, followed by a Colon walk. Jared Clark singled in one run and a wild pitch by reliever Drew Storen made it 8-2, with Khris Davis at the plate and the crowd hoping for another bomb. He fought off several excellent two-strike pitches by the very tough Storen and finally capped off his day with a line drive RBI single to right field.

The Cardinal scored one more late run in the eighth inning off Kyle Mertins, who was aided by an inning-ending double play ball to third-baseman Brown, who ran to touch third base and threw a perfect bounce pass across the diamond to Clark to stymie Stanford. Michael Morrison pitched a scoreless ninth inning to close out the game and the series.


So what did we learn today?

We learned that rumors of Khris Davis' upside potential have not been exaggerated. He has a long, powerful swing: if he continues to improve his contact ratio, he is going to be a terrifying hitter to pitch to. While the home runs were exciting, I think I was more impressed by the last at-bat when he fought off several filthy pitches by a good pitcher like Storen and then hit an opposite field line-drive RBI single.

We learned that Ruben Chivaro likes to keep the games from taking too long, with his "couldn't hit that pitch with a rake" wide strike zone and his barking about cutting off the walk-up music as soon as the batter reaches the home plate area. I like it: he was consistent in his strike calls and there is no need to stretch games out with posing and songs I'm way too old to understand.

Stanford head coach Mark Marquess may have learned to trust his first instincts. With starter Fearnow struggling, Marquess headed to the mound and raised his hand to make a pitching change. Umpire Larry Randall repeated the signal and reliever Pries ran in from the bullpen. When he reached the mound, Marquess gave him the "what are you doing here?" look. Since Marquess had not officially announced the change, Fearnow was permitted to remain in the game. He gave up the Nick Ramirez strange 7-4 fielder's choice and the second home run to Khris Davis, at which point Pries came into the game - for real. The score was 2-1 the first time Pries ran in from the bullpen; it was 5-1 the second time.

I also learned that Marquess is not actually the Stanford "coach" or the "head coach": his official title is "The Clarke and Elizabeth Nelson Director of Baseball." Hoity-toity! Did you know about this?

Even in a 4-0 week and a sweep of Stanford, things can always be better. I'm hoping Gary Brown is the next player to explode offensively: he is hitting just .143 and has a low .286 on-base percentage. You hate to see a guy that can fly like him hitting weak fly balls. He came on like gangbusters after a slow start last season and I'm certain he'll do it again: I just hope to see his wheels on the bases often during the upcoming road trip. I felt he single-handedly drove the Virginia pitchers batty the way he ran the bases last year in a huge win in the Regionals: the old baseball axiom that "you can't steal first base" is still true.

Finally, we learned that it might not be such a good idea to have Kyle Mertins pitch every game. He looks like a very good set-up man, but he pitched in all four games this week and six of the seven games played this season: Dave uses him more than I do my lucky old grey sweater. Last night, he allowed both inherited runners to score on a sharp base hit, followed by a harrowing 385-foot out; today, he faced six batters and gave up two hits, two walks and a wild pitch. Dave is the best in the business at getting the most out of his pitching staff, so I'm sure he has a plan.

1 comment:

thirdeyesealed said...

I learned that Davis does have a secret hitting life. He has stressed me out for 2 years. I asked myself and anyone around me who would listen, "Why do they keep going to Davis?"
Now I know. That is why I am sitting section L and the coaches have the dugout.