BOWIE, Md. - The Double-A Bowie Baysox don’t face a must-win situation tonight, but it’s pretty close. They need to beat Altoona at Prince George’s Stadium or they fall behind two games to none in a best-of-five series. And after this game, the rest of the series will be played at Altoona.
Bowie was held to one-hit last night - a Cedric Mullins single in the fourth - in a 2-0 Game 1 loss. Altoona starter Mitch Keller issued two walks and had four strikeouts in a 90-pitch complete-game effort.
Keller is the first pitcher to throw a complete-game nine-inning shutout against the Baysox since Altoona’s Adrian Sampson on July 18, 2014. The right-hander faced the minimum 27 batters.
Tonight, 23-year-old lefty Tanner Scott (0-2, 2.22 ERA) gets the start for the Baysox. To help Scott further develop and improve his command this year, the Orioles turned this reliever into a starter. But they have held him to three-inning outings every fifth or sixth day. That has allowed him to have a between-outings bullpen session for more work.
Over 69 innings Scott has allowed just 45 hits (and a .188 average against), with 46 walks and 87 strikeouts. The walk rate is still high, but coming down. Last year, he averaged 7.82 walks/nine innings at Frederick and 8.44 with Bowie. That is down to 6.00 this year.
Scott can touch 100 mph with his fastball, but his slider needed to improve, and this year it has. In fact, he’s made big gains with that pitch, said Bowie manager Gary Kendall.
“He has made real strides with his slider and his overall command,” Kendall said. “This has been a real breakthrough year for him. His usage of it. There were times he would flash a good one last year, but it was predominantly fastballs and now he’s got a lot of confidence with it.
“There have been some outings where he had more command of his slider than his fastball. Not that the command of his fastball would be bad. But he was getting a lot of swings and misses on the slider. As a hitter, you have to cheat to get to that heater and it would keep hitters honest. He can start hitters off with it or finish hitters off with it. It’s been a breakthrough year with his slider.”
Scott, who pitched in the All-Star Futures Game in July, has made three starts versus Altoona this year. He has pitched nine scoreless innings on six hits with six walks and eight strikeouts.
Scott may be limited to three innings here tonight, but there is also the possibility they take him a bit beyond that if he is pitching well. Right-hander Alec Asher, optioned from Baltimore to Bowie on Sept. 3, is expected to follow Scott to the mound tonight.
Baysox and Altoona tied through three: Bowie and Altoona are tied 3-3 at the end of three tonight. The Curve scored three in the top of the third and the Baysox matched it with three in the last of the frame.
Scott went 2 2/3 innings and battled his command tonight. He walked three and hit two batters. He left with the bases loaded and two outs and Asher came on. He allowed a two-run single to Elvis Escobar with the runs charged to Scott. Scott hit the high 90s often on the stadium gun and threw some swing-and-miss sliders. He just didn’t command his pitches well consistently.
Altoona adds three: The Curve had four straight batters reach in the top of the fifth and they scored three off Asher to take a 6-3 lead. Escobar added an RBI single in that rally and has three RBIs. Jesus Liranzo replaced Asher, who allowed three runs and five hits over 1 2/3 innings.
But Bowie got one back in the fifth on Cedric Mullins’ solo homer to center. Mullins is 3-for-3 and the Baysox trail 6-4 after five.
Expanding their lead: Altoona No. 9 hitter Michael Suchy hit a two-run homer off Liranzo in the seventh as the Curve opened an 8-4 lead. They’ve gotten six RBIs tonight from their seventh and ninth hitters.