Game Thirteen @ Greensboro Grasshoppers
Down in North Carolina, the Savannah Sand Gnats won the rubber match of their three game series by an 8-1 final score over the Greensboro Grasshoppers. Matthew Bowman made today’s start for Savannah. In 5.1 innings pitched, he allowed one earned run on four hits, while walking one and striking out five batters. Beck Wheeler and Tim Peterson combined to pitch 3.2 exceptional innings out of the bullpen. Together, they allowed no hits, no runs, issued no walks, and struck out five to preserve Matthew’s second win of the season against no losses. Bowman now owns a 1.62 ERA after three starts.
The Sand Gnats staked their starting pitcher to a six run lead in the third inning. After the first two Savannah batters were retired on called third strikes, Brandon Nimmo singled. Then Greensboro starting pitcher Drew Steckenrider lost the plate. He walked three consecutive batters to force home Nimmo. Designated hitter Gregory Pron then doubled to clear the bases and chase Steckenrider from the game. Left fielder Stefan Sabol met the new Grasshoppers pitcher with a single and promptly stole second. He came around to score on Eudy Pina‘s single. In the eighth inning, Eudy Pina drove in two more runs with a double. Greensboro’s lone run came in the home third when they connected for two doubles against Matthew Bowman.
With today’s win, Savannah improved their record to 7-6, which ties them for third in the Southern Division standings, two games behind the first place Augusta GreenJackets. Tomorrow, the Sand Gnats begin a four game weekend series in New Jersey against the Lakewood Blue Claws before returning home.
Kevin Plawecki, drafted in 2012, and center fielder Brandon Nimmo, the Mets’ first round pick in 2011, are off to rather torrid starts this season. Brandon Nimmo’s .442 batting average and .508 OBP lead the South Atlantic League. His 1.066 OPS ranks sixth in the league, and second on the team. His .558 slugging average, while just shy of the league’s top ten, still ranks him second on the team behind Kevin Plawecki.
Kevin’s 1.093 OPS, and .667 slugging average lead the Sand Gnats. His OPS ranks fourth in the circuit, while his slugging average places him fifth. Kevin is also fifth in the league, and third on the team in batting with a .375 average.
Brandon Nimmo has twenty-three hits in fifty-two at-bats this season, with one double, one triple, and one home run. His ten RBI’s so far rank him fourteenth in the league. Kevin Plawecki has eleven RBI’s, which places him ninth in the circuit. He has two home runs and eight doubles in forty-eight at-bats.
First baseman Jayce Boyd also deserves mention. He is second on the team with a .380 batting average, and is tied with Plawecki for the team lead with eleven runs batted in. His .540 slugging average is third for the Gnats.
I watched many of the current Sand Gnats in Brooklyn last season, keeping a particularly keen eye on Brandon Nimmo. Defensively, he did very well going back on balls while covering an expansive center field at Coney Island’s MCU Park. He was smart with his throws, but I thought his arm strength was average. Although he didn’t hit for a terribly high average, he was a doubles hitting machine, and his OBP was consistently high. Last year as a nineteen year-old, he only batted .248 with the Cyclones, but hit twenty doubles, six home runs, and drove in forty runs in 266 at-bats. Rising Apple staff writer Dan Haefeli believes – “If he sticks at center, his ceiling is excellent. If not, he could still end up as an above-average corner OF (a la David Murphy, but with better defense).”
Kevin Plawecki already has as many doubles (8) this season as he did in 216 at-bats with Brooklyn last year. He has two homers currently after hitting seven all of last season. Behind the dish, Kevin was the Cyclones catcher who received what I refer to as last year’s Fearsome Five starting rotation that utterly dominated the 2012 New York-Penn League regular season. How that all translates for Plawecki in 2013 is still to be determined. However, after finishing with a .250 batting average last year, there is no arguing his 2013 campaign is off to a very good start.