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June 11, 2012

What You Need to Know

Monday, June 11

by Daniel Rathman

The Weekend Takeaway
Kevin Millwood and five Mariners relievers combined to no-hit the Dodgers at Safeco Field on Friday night. The Nationals swept what closer Tyler Clippard described as “a statement series” in Boston. The Tigers staged a spirited, eighth-inning rally to capture the rubber match of their series with the Reds, leaving Aroldis Chapman to pick up the pieces from his second consecutive loss and lifting the Pirates into a tie for first place.

But while Prince Fielder was busy stretching to catch Ramon Santiago’s throw for the first out of the bottom of the eighth at Great American Ball Park, a more remarkable turn of events was afoot some 800 miles southwest in Baton Rouge. Sophomore pitcher Frankie Vanderka had just struck out junior right fielder Alex Edward to cap Stony Brook’s 7-2 victory over Louisiana State in the deciding game of the Super Regional between those two teams.

The Seawolves, led by outfielder Travis Jankowski—who was drafted by the Padres with the 44th overall selection last Monday—lost the series opener on a walk-off single in the 12th inning on Saturday. A small-school program from the Northeast, Stony Brook faced long odds against the SEC powerhouse LSU, which was playing the Super Regional on its home turf.

Those odds grew longer when the Tigers sent Kevin Gausman, the fourth overall pick in the draft by the Orioles, to the mound in game two. The Seawolves countered with Tyler Johnson, a senior-sign draftee by the Athletics in the 33rd round on Wednesday, and Johnson rose to the challenge, outdueling Gausman with a three-hitter to even the series. That set the stage for Vanderka to send Stony Brook to Omaha with a three-hitter of his own last night.

Ranked 16th in the country and with 52 wins now on their ledger for the spring, the Seawolves are the first-ever team from the America East conference to reach the College World Series and the first Northeast Region team to do so in 25 years. Stony Brook’s motto is “Shock the World!” and, on the heels of an eventful weekend in the majors, the newest chapter in its Cinderella story is our latest example of what makes baseball great.

What to Watch for on Monday

  • With no matinees on the docket, keep an eye on the news this morning and afternoon as Cuban amateur Jorge Soler appears to be on the verge of choosing his first stateside team. The Braves, Cubs, Dodgers, and Yankees are known to be involved in the bidding for the 19-year-old slugger, but the Athletics’ stunner in the Yoenis Cespedes sweepstakes should serve as a warning against sleeping on any of the other 26. Our own Kevin Goldstein would have ranked Soler in the high 30s on his pre-season top 100 prospects list, citing his potential to develop into an impact right fielder.
  • If you were asked to choose the starting pitcher with the best stuff who is not widely considered an ace, you might go with Brandon Morrow, who can be as dominant as anyone but has a maddening tendency to fall flat on his face. The Cal product has fired two shutouts in his last five starts, yet he has also twice surrendered six runs in an outing over that span, including a 2/3-inning disaster against the Rangers on May 25. Which Morrow shows up at the Rogers Centre tonight (7:07 p.m. ET) may be the determining factor in the Blue Jays’ series opener against Edwin Jackson and the Nationals.
  • Josh Beckett has faced 28 of the 30 major-league teams in his career, with the Red Sox and Marlins—the two whose uniforms he has worn—representing the lone exceptions. Tonight (7:10 p.m. ET), the second overall pick in the 1999 draft for Florida gets his first shot at the organization he pitched to the top in 2003, as the Sox look to shake off the aforementioned sweep. Jose Reyes, who hit his first home run of the year on Thursday, has seen more of Beckett than any of his teammates, but he is just 1-for-14 in their past encounters.
  • Russell Martin walked the Yankees off with a solo homer off Jon Rauch in the ninth inning on Sunday afternoon, putting the finishing touch on a sweep of their crosstown rivals. The big fly was Martin’s eighth of the year, and half of those—including two in the 5-4 victory yesterday—have come in his last six games. If the forecasted rain showers stay away from Turner Field, Martin will lead the offense into the opener against the Braves tonight (7:10 p.m. ET), while his batterymate, Ivan Nova, looks for his fourth consecutive win.  
  • The four-game Monday slate leaves the late-night crowd with only one choice: Angels at Dodgers (10:10 p.m. ET) in Chavez Ravine. Fortunately, that means Mike Trout on the field and Vin Scully in the booth. No complaints here.

Daniel Rathman is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Daniel's other articles. You can contact Daniel by clicking here

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