The Bowie Baysox won their third straight game Friday night 5-1 over the Eastern Division-leading New Hampshire Fisher Cats. The win pulls the Baysox to just a game under .500 at 20-21. They currently sit in fifth place in the six-team Western Division, just four and a half games out of first place.
Starting pitcher Zach Britton (3-3, 3.88 ERA) turned in a strong performance, giving up just one run, a home run, off five hits through six innings. He outshined his counterpart, highly touted right-hander Kyle Drabek, who currently leads the Eastern League with 48 strikeouts.
“[Britton] was pretty solid,” said Pitching Coach Kennie Steenstra. “He threw a few too many pitches for the number of innings he threw, but he had a couple of at-bats that extended the pitch count out a little bit. Overall, he threw the ball really well. The sinker was working well; he had a good feel for the slider, threw a couple good changeups, but mainly just fastball-slider and was able to get a lot of outs with those two pitches.”
The Baysox were quite successful against Drabek, lighting him up for a season-high 10 hits as he threw just three strikeouts, his lowest count since April 19. The Baysox tallied six extra-base hits off the right-hander, and out-hit New Hampshire 12-5.
Several players had strong offensive outings, including leadoff hitter Matt Angle, who went 2-for-4 with three RBIs to extend his hit streak through all seven games he has played in this year. Angle has hit safely in 11 consecutive games extending back into the end of the 2009 season, a streak that has been ongoing since September 4, 2009. Angle has hit safely in 13 of 14 games at the Double-A level, six of which have been multi-hit games.
Britton faced just two batters over the minimum through the first three innings, but hit a bump in the top of the fourth inning, as third baseman Shawn Bowman laid into his third-pitch changeup for a two-out home run to left-center field. Britton gave up two more base hits in the inning before assisting on the third out to escape without further damage.
“I didn’t have the conviction behind the changeup,” Britton said. “People always talk about how you’ve got to be confident in what you’re throwing, and I think I was second-guessing myself a little bit; that’s not the reason I gave up the home run, it was bad location. Caleb [Joseph] put down the changeup [sign], and I’d thrown a good one the [previous pitch] and tried to repeat it, but he lit into it. But, we’re going to keep doing the changeup, that’s something that I have to do, and something that they’re really stressing me to do. There were situations today when I just went sinker, slider and got out of jams. I’m happy with where the changeup is, but Caleb is like, ‘We gotta do it, even if it gives up a hit.’
“My changeup has come a long way,” he continued. “Me and Kennie we try to break it down like with my slider, when I had it in Delmarva, it was one of those pitchers where I’d throw a good one and I couldn’t repeat throwing it for a strike. Now, I can throw it for a strike pretty much when I want to. So, the changeup’s starting to get to that place where I’m throwing it for strikes, but I’m not repeating it every time I throw it. Once I mix in those three pitches, I think I’m gonna be fine. The ERA is a little bit higher than where I want it to be, but I think I’m throwing the ball pretty well.”
First baseman Robbie Widlansky put the Baysox on the board, as he led off the bottom of the fourth with a double on a line drive to left field. Fisher Cats’ left fielder Eric Thames nearly made a spectacular play on the ball as he laid out to his right to make the catch, but the ball rolled out of his glove and over to the left field warning track. Widlansky moved to third on shortstop Carlos Rojas’s ground out and scored to tie the game at 1-1 when Angle was able to get aboard on a ground-ball single to the second baseman.
The Baysox struck again in the bottom of the fifth. Left fielder Tyler Henson drew a walk off Drabek and stole second base before designated hitter Joel Guzman touched off his ninth bomb of the year to put the Baysox up 3-1. Guzman, Bowie’s top home run hitter this year, overtook Henson on the team RBI charts courtesy of the blast, moving him to 24 RBIs on the season. He has done especially well within the friendly confines of Prince George’s Stadium, knocking seven of his nine home runs at home and recording 17 of his 24 RBIs.
Widlansky was at it again with another lead-off double down the left field line to start the bottom of the sixth frame. Catcher Caleb Joseph followed with a single to right field that moved Widlansky to third. Both runners scored when Angle hit a one-out double on a fly ball that dropped just in front of the center fielder’s outstretched glove, pushing the Baysox lead to the final score of 5-1.
Widlansky had been ice cold for much of the month, going 3-for-36 from May 6-15, but has turned it on in the past week with three consecutive multi-hit games. He finished Friday’s game 3-for-4 with two runs scored.
“For a while, it was a discipline thing, just swinging at bad pitches,” Widlansky said. “A little mechanical thing I fixed. Denny Walling [Orioles minor league roving hitting instructor] came into town, helped me out a little bit and I worked with Moe [Hill, Baysox field coach]. Just a couple minor adjustments, I’m seeing the ball better now, and hitting it harder.”
Right-handers Eddie Gamboa and Jim Hoey came on to relieve Britton after the sixth inning, and they continued the fine work that the bullpen has put in all year. Gamboa retired six of seven batters he faced while recording three strikeouts and walking one batter. Hoey was perfect in the ninth inning, retiring the Fisher Cats in order and picking up two strikeouts to close out the game.
The Baysox are back in action Saturday in game two of the three-game set against New Hampshire. Saturday is A League of Their Own Night, which will honor and celebrate the women of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League that inspired the film A League of Their Own. Fans will be able to meet and get autographs from several of the women who played in the league and the game will be followed by the Baysox signature fireworks celebration. Sunday’s game, presented by Maryland Public Television, will be the Husky Dog Webkinz toy giveaway for the first 1,000 fans ages 3-12 and will feature a special appearance by Word Girl.