Last night in Las Vegas, Mets top prospect Zack Wheeler made his final Triple-A tune-up before his big-league debut. It was a good one. Pitching against the Tacoma Rainiers, Wheeler went 5 2/3 innings, allowing one hit—a home run by Carlos Peguero—two walks, and striking out seven. The Rainiers’ starter, Erasmo Ramirez, was even better, going eight scoreless with seven strikeouts and no walks. And this was in Cashman Field, one of the best offensive environments in Minor League Baseball, where 2.22 home runs were hit per game from 2010-12—more than in any other PCL park except Albuquerque. As a team, the 51s have slugged over 50 points higher at home this season.
So for several innings, this was pitching prospect porn. When Wheeler was removed, lefty reliever Jack Leathersich took over with two down in the sixth and got three outs, keeping the game close. And then, with two outs in the seventh, a runner on third, and right-handed hitter Rich Poythress coming to the plate, 51s manager Wally Backman went to righty reliever Gonzalez Germen. The pitcher’s duel was about to become a blowout.
Germen, a 25-year-old Dominican, entered the game with a 4.84 ERA but pretty good peripherals: 9.9 strikeouts per nine, 2.3 walks per nine, and 0.8 home runs per nine, perfectly respectable stats considering his home park. They look less respectable now. Germen walked Poythress and allowed a double to Nate Tenbrink and and a triple to Brandon Bantz before getting Robert Andino to ground out for the final out of the seventh. Now it was 4-0 Tacoma.
Germen came back out to start the eighth, and then things got really ugly. Outfielder Abraham Almonte, 78 homerless at-bats into his season, took Germen deep to lead off the inning.
Shortstop Brad Miller followed with a single, and Randy St. Claire made a visit to the mound, during which he presumably said, “Hey, stop giving up so many hits.” At first, whatever he said seemed to work. Germen got Dustin Ackley, in Tacoma on a learn-left-field/remember-how-to-hit assignment, to ground out, then got Justin Smoak, in Tacoma on a regular rehab assignment, on another grounder.
But then Peguero hit his second homer of the game to right-center,
and Poythress hit a ball out to left,
and Tenbrink homered to left-center.
Shortly after the fourth home run of the inning landed, the announcer on the milb.tv feed said, “And the 51s are now scrambling in the bullpen.” As you can tell, that feed is pretty terrible—no one wants to watch a game from a single camera placed where that one was. But the nice thing about even the ugliest milb.tv feeds is that you get to hear hecklers very clearly. And following the fourth homer, one made his feelings about Germen felt: