BOWIE, Md. - It seems the longer the Eastern League playoffs go, the better outfielder Yusniel Diaz is swinging the bat for the Double-A Bowie Baysox.
Diaz and his Baysox teammates will host Trenton tonight at Prince George’s Stadium. It’s Game 3 of the best-of-five Eastern League Championship Series, which is tied at a win each after Bowie beat Trenton last night.
Diaz was limited to 76 regular-season games this season by injuries. He dealt with a hamstring issue in April and a quad injury last month. But now it looks like he is making up for lost time. In 28 games after the All-Star break, Diaz has hit .299/.356/.486 with seven homers, 33 RBIs and an OPS of .842. For the year, he hit .262/.335/.472 and his wRC+ of 135 was 35 percent above league average.
Over his last four postseason games, spanning two series, Diaz is 8-for-19 with two doubles, a triple and four RBIs. He had a big RBI triple early in last night’s 7-2 win at Trenton that evened the series at 1-1. That triple came off rehabbing Yankees pitcher Luis Severino, last night’s losing pitcher.
Diaz talked about his bat getting going as the season went longer this year.
“I just kept working, even though I spent some time injured,” he said through interpreter Sean Banks. “I battled back from that. Our hitting coach, Keith Bodie, really help me become more consistent as the season went along. Really grateful for that.”
Now the Baysox are two wins from an Eastern League championship after beginning the year 7-23.
“Very enthusiastic. We came all the way from being way down and now we’re on top. Very excited to try and win a championship,” said Diaz.
Diaz’s slow start and injuries this year knocked him a bit down some of the prospect lists. He is now No. 78 in the Baseball America top 100 and unranked on the MLBPipeline.com top 100.
“I’m not the (Orioles’) No. 1 prospect now, but No. 5, which gives me a lot of motivation to continue what I am doing. Eyes on the big leagues in the future,” Diaz said.
Manager Buck Britton said of Diaz: “He’s kind of been that guy when (he’s) healthy, he’s good and when he’s not feeling right, he kind of scuffles. He kind of rises to the occasion and he’s done that all year. He can put the team on his back when he gets hot.”
Help from the Orioles: The Baysox didn’t have any Orioles playing for them in Trenton, but some of the O’s picked up the tab for a nice postgame spread for the players. Chris Davis, Mark Trumbo and Dylan Bundy made sure the Baysox had a nice meal after the game.
“It’s nice to know those guys are paying attention to us and they support us,” Baysox manager Buck Britton said today. “C.D., Trumbo, Bundy helping out like that - it’s nice for the guys. They wished us luck and sometimes in the minor leagues you can eat the same thing over and over. So no PB&Js for a couple days.”
More on Lowther: Left-hander Zac Lowther (13-7, 2.55 ERA) was scheduled to be tonight’s Game 3 starter for Bowie. But he has been placed on the injured list, ending his season with minor shoulder soreness. Britton did not add much to that when asked about Lowther today.
“Just general soreness,” he said. “For a guy like that, it’s more important for the longevity of his career. We’d love to have him, but we’re worried about his future. It’s nothing serious, but there is no sense in trying to run a guy out there for one more start. He’s pitched a lot of innings and been a workhorse for us. No sense pushing the guy. He would have taken the ball, trust me. But we have to pull back the reigns a bit and get him ready for next year.”
Lowther finished this year leading the Eastern League with 154 strikeouts and was second in ERA, fourth in innings and sixth in WHIP.
Alex Wells (8-6, 2.95 ERA) will get tonight’s start and is pitching on normal rest. Right-hander Tyler Herb (4-2, 3.95 ERA) will start Game 4 tomorrow night. If the series reaches a fifth and final game, Bowie may need to use a bullpen game. They are unlikely to bring back right-hander Michael Baumann (6-2, 2.31 ERA) on short rest after he started Game 1 of this series on Tuesday.
Tonight’s Bowie lineup
CF Cedric Mullins
2B Anderson Feliz
DH Yusniel Diaz
C Carlos Pérez
3B Jesse Valentin
LF Ryan McKenna
SS Mason McCoy
RF T.J. Nichting
1B Preston Palmeiro