It was a tale of two games for the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers at Neuroscience Group Field today as they split a doubleheader against the Kane County Cougars, winning the first seven inning contest 11-1 and losing the second 1-0 in nine innings.
Wisconsin got a great pitching performance in the first game from rehabbing AA pitcher Andy Moye. He worked 5.1 innings today and allowed a run on seven hits, walking none and striking out four in his first game action since the first week of April.
"It felt great. This is the first time I was able to pitch outside of Arizona in almost a month and a half, so it was definitely good to get back out there and it's always great to come here to Appleton," Moye said. "The facilities here are top notch, the fans are great and overall it was a good day for me."
Moye spent a month and a half on the disabled list with a hamstring strain, but was able to throw 59 pitches without issue today. The Timber Rattlers gave him plenty of support by scoring a run in the first, two in the second and five in the fourth. Moye said the big lead didn't change his approach to batters.
"When you get ahead early you go into attack mode but for me, with this being the first time pitching in a long time I didn't change my mindset," Moye said. "I was trying to get my work in and go as long as they would let me."
Moye pitched for the Timber Rattlers early in their 2012 Midwest League Championship season, and manager Matt Erickson saw a familiar performance from him today.
"That's what I remember from a couple of years ago. He doesn't have electric stuff, but he throws a lot of strikes," Erickson said. "His ability to command the curveball at different speeds helps people get off his fastball. So he's not a guy typically that gets a ton of strikeouts, but they don't get a lot of good swings on him."
Both Erickson and Moye said they don't know the plan for the rest of his rehab assignment. He could move up to Brevard County, return to Huntsville or stay with Wisconsin for another start.
After the first game, however, Wisconsin's offense shut down for the day. They managed just three hits and failed to score in seven innings against Kane County Starter Justin Amlung, who lowered his ERA to 1.75 over nine appearances on the season.
"Coming out in this series we had an opportunity to go out with energy and punch them in the mouth and it worked real nicely in that first game," Erickson said. "But in the second game obviously Amlung, who is undefeated, obviously he's doing something right and did a nice job today. It looked like he tied up our guys inside and then threw a nice off-speed pitch over the plate. We didn't get many scoring opportunities in that last game."
The scheduled seven inning game went into extra innings, though, because Wisconsin starter Barrett Astin was just as good. He also pitched seven shutout innings today, holding Kane County to just two hits, striking out seven and not issuing a walk. After a rough stretch in late April and early May, Astin has allowed just one run on five hits in his last two outings. He credited a mechanical adjustment for his recent improvement.
"I was trying to stick with my delivery I've been working on for about a month now. I'm staying sound in that and it's allowing me to execute good pitches and stuff," Astin said. "In bullpen work and days I'm not on the mound I'm working on my delivery, keeping it sound and getting my hand in a good position to throw it down on the knees."
Astin got through seven innings today while throwing just 72 pitches. He said he didn't want to come out of the game, but understood the decision.
"I felt good, but I know that they're watching over us and we're in their best interest," Astin said. "So they're taking care of me. I wanted to go back out and they wouldn't let me, but it was good."
Kane County finally broke the deadlock in the ninth inning when shortstop Carlos Penalver walked, stole second and scored on Ben Carhart's RBI single. That ended a stretch of 16 innings of baseball today, and they've played extra innings in four of their last five contests. After the game Erickson conceded that fatigue may be a factor at this point.
"It looked like we ran out of gas there a little bit in the last inning," Erickson said. "That was a long day, a lot of baseball. Unfortunately we couldn't find a way to get a runthere and take two. We've got a chance tomorrow to be a little lighter, to take BP and try to win the series."
The Timber Rattlers did get some reinforcements today, though, as they activated first baseman David Denson off the disabled list between games. Denson started the second game at first base and went 0-for-3 with a strikeout, but still has a .366 on-base percentage on the season.
"Obviously he's a young player we're excited about," Erickson said. "He moves well at first base, he plays a good defense. Offensively he's been very inconsistent thus far, but there's some potential in his stick. So if we can run him out there consistently over time and get him a little confidence, I hope that he can be a run producer in the middle of our lineup."
With today's split Wisconsin is now 21-23 in the first half, four and a half games back of a playoff spot with 25 games remaining before the All Star break.