Squirrels Capture Second-Straight Comeback Win
By Ryan Lazo, sports editor
Apr 12, 2014, 21:15
RICHMOND — There is no denying the type of talent Kyle Crick takes to the mound with him during every outing. The Flying Squirrels' highest rated prospect to ever don the uniform displayed his electric arsenal right from the opening pitch Saturday night. When backed into a 3-2 count, Crick fired a 95 mph past Altoona's Alen Hanson to register the game's first out.
The 21-year-old also exhibited an ability to regain composure when the situation dictated it, stranding Mel Rojas Jr. on second base by punching out Willy Garcia to end the first and recorded two-straight punch-outs — both on mid 90s fastballs — to strand Elias Diaz on third base with no-one out.
Yet, it was what happened in between those pitches which shows Crick still has some developing to undergo before becoming what the Giants' organization envisions him to be. Crick's inability to showcase his breaking-ball allowed Altoona to score once in each of the first two innings, forcing him to exit the game after just 2.2 innings of work.
However, much like Friday night, Richmond received a boost from the bullpen with Jose Casilla's emergence to set his team up for a 4-3 comeback win at The Diamond.
"He just did a tremendous job," manager Russ Morman said after Casilla's 3.1 inning, two strikeout effort. "He kind of took a page out of the book Fleet was using last night. He came in there, gave us some big innings with a low pitch-count ... I tip my cap to him."
Much like Austin Fleet just one night earlier, Casilla stabilized the game while giving the Squirrels (6-4) the length they desperately needed. The right-hander stayed ahead of hitters all night long, seemingly improving as the night wore on as he struck out two hitters on just seven pitches in his final inning of work.
His effort led to his team taking the lead in the bottom of the 6th as Richmond worked another unlikely two-out rally. With two outs, pinch-hitter Angel Villalona earned a walk and he was followed by a Ryan Lollis infield single which just squeaked by the right-side of the pitcher's mound. Then, consecutive walks to Matt Duffy and Jarrett Parker forced in the go-ahead run.
However, reliever Edwin Quirarte would surrender the game-tying run on an RBI triple to Garcia in the top of the 8th, putting Richmond in position to win the game late once again. And the Squirrels rallied in the bottom half of the inning on a sacrifice-fly from Mario Lisson to push across the go-ahead run once again.
Hard-throwing reliever Derek Law set down Altoona (3-5) in order with two punch-outs in the 9th to seal a win which again showed the steely resolve of the Squirrels.
"Again, over the long haul you have to have that and we've shown the last couple of games of getting contributions from all over the lineup," Morman said. "Guys have to get on base to make things happen."
But the real story was the performance of Crick who showed even the most highly-regarded of prospects can face bumps in the road. It was obvious from the very first inning that Crick would have to endure a bumpy outing.
The No. 1 prospect in the San Francisco Giants' organization showed off the scout-drooling heat baseball people love, sitting at 93-94 mph and topping out as high as 97. Although velocity is king, Crick found out that secondary pitches are just as important and he failed to establish neither his change-up, slider or curve through the first two innings. And when he finally tried, they were not effective and it led to his early departure.
"In the bullpen, it was tough to get a feel for my spinning stuff, so I stayed away from it," he said after the game. "Throughout A-ball, I was able to get away with just throwing fastballs every time and not having to show anything, but Double-A is a different level and I feel you have to at least show other pitches."
However, while Crick noted the outing as a learning experience, it also highlighted the type of mental fortitude the Sherman, TX native possesses.
He walked onto the mound in his home debut knowing he did not have a feel for his secondary pitches, but still competed. Even when his back was against the wall, like it was in his final frame of work while walking the first two hitters, Crick responded by getting a ground-out before pumping a 95 mph fastball past the final hitter he faced on the night.
It's that type of mental toughness which should serve as a positive sign moving deeper into the season.
"There is a lot of positives I can take out of it because in a sense a bad outing won't hurt me. I can always build off it," he said. "Next outing, I face these guys again and I'll start throwing some breaking-balls and mix up our game-plan."
But one game-plan which will remain the same is that of the Squirrels' team. They will aim to keep finding ways to win, even in the most unorthodox of ways while receiving impressive outings out of their bullpen. If it continues, more wins are sure to follow at The Diamond all season long.