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Pecker Checker: Blanked at Home

A close game at home was in store for me on Sunday.

On a very overcast Sunday afternoon, the Fayetteville Woodpeckers hosted the Down East Wood Ducks at Segra Stadium.

As has been the case for most of the 2022 Carolina League season, the Houston Astros top 30 prospects are represented by three players at the Low-A level with the Woodpeckers. Namely, RHP Alex Santos (9, starting), OF Tyler Whitaker (10, batting fifth, center field), and OF Logan Cerny (24, batting second, right field).

The Wood Ducks, meanwhile, are the Low-A affiliate for the Texas Rangers. Their big-time prospects are SS Maximo Acosta (12, leading off, shortstop), IF Cameron Cauley (21), LHP Mitch Bratt (22), and RHP Dane Acker (23).

As for the won-loss ledger, the Woodpeckers sit at 4-9 for the second half, ranked fifth in the six-team CL South Division, 6 12 games behind the division leading Columbia Fireflies. The Wood Ducks are 7-6, second in the CL North, but 4 12 games behind the Fredericksburg Nationals. Neither team qualified for the postseason with their first half record.

Santos entered the game as author of an 0-7 record and a 5.43 ERA for the 2022 season. He’s struck out 68 in 56 13 innings, and holds his opponents to a 1.260 WHIP and a .223/.292/.409 slash line. With primary metrics that look well in-line with a decent prospect, I can only imagine his win-loss record is more bad luck than anything. The result of Sunday’s game would continue that trend.

The Ducks are relying on Winston Santos (3-3, 4.15) to take the series, tied at 2-2 entering the ballgame. As with all minor league series this season, this series was originally scheduled for six contests, but the Thursday game was twice rained out.

Fayetteville Woodpeckers 0, Down East Wood Ducks 2

Alex Santos let the Ducks get into it early with a first inning run with 3,172 in Segra Stadium. Alejandro Osuna got Down East on the board with a single into right, scoring Marcus Smith for a 1-0 lead. It was really the only bump in the road for Alex in the game. He lasted five full innings, striking out eight and walking one, allowing (other) hit and one earned run. He put 43-of-70 pitches over the plate. Alex now has whiffed 76 in 61 13 innings, a K/9 of 11.15.

Carlos Calderon relieved Alex for the sixth inning, and loaded the bases with one out on an error, a single and a hit batsman. Osuna then collected his second RBI of the contest with a sacrifice fly to deep left field for a 2-0 Ducks lead. The run was unearned, due to shortstop Leosdany Molina’s rare fielding error.

Meanwhile, Winston kept the Peckers scoreless through six, striking out three and walking two while allowing four hits.

Rainier Rivas, a fourth-inning replacement for Victor Mascai, came about one foot of tying the game in the bottom of the sixth, but it was really just a loud third out to the deepest part of center field with a runner on base. I actually heard the sound of a ballpark deflating.

After the bottom of the seventh, the game was slightly delayed due to a very damp pitcher’s mound. The ground’s crew came out to add dry sand on top of wet.

Calderon ended up pitching four innings, allowing just the unearned run and striking out five. He walked one and allowed three hits.

  • Fayetteville actually outhit Down East by a six-to-five count
  • Although the Peckers only left six on base, four of them were in scoring position with only one out
  • No Woodpeckers had an extra base hit, and only Joey Loperfido collected multiple hits, with a pair of singles.

Ballpark Refinements

In the middle of the third inning, I decided to try out something that I hadn’t yet, so I went down to the concessionaire and ordered a Mac-n-Cheese dog. It’s exactly what it sounds like....carbs for two, but pretty good. It also had bacon on it and I added regular plain old mustard.

Far more interesting from my perspective, the group running the concession stands for today was an Alzheimer’s Research team, led by Merry & Barry (pictured). For today’s game, 10 percent of the sticker price plus all tips go to Alzheimer’s research.

The group, along with others like it, run the concession stands periodically through the season. It’s a wonderfully selfless way to spend a minor league ballgame, and any dollar could be the tipping point that cures Alzheimers.

A dollar there, an inch here, a bounce there, the umpire blinks at exactly the wrong (or right) moment. Isn’t that really the great thing about it? Inches and miles, seconds and decades. Trivial matters matter the most in these cases. Sometimes, baseball is a game of infinitesimal factors that can make an also-ran look like a world champ.

Thanks for reading, and happy 23rd birthday to Joey Loperfido. Check with me next time as I travel to Myrtle Beach for a Tuesday evening game between the Pelicans and Fayetteville.