BOWIE, Md. - The box score says that Double-A Bowie lefty Alex Wells was the losing pitcher in Game 3 of the Eastern League Championship Series last night. Trenton beat Bowie 2-1 at Prince George’s Stadium to take move to within a win of the Eastern League title.
But Wells’ performance on the field said something very different.
He was in command and control and dealing from the outset. Only a rare steal of home put him and his team behind and put that “L” next to his name in the box score. But Wells went seven innings on 90 pitches and allowed six hits and two runs with no walks and eight strikeouts.
Wells has had such a strong year for Bowie, going 8-6 with a 2.95 ERA in the regular season and that ranked him sixth in the Eastern League in ERA and fifth in WHIP at 1.07. He gave up four runs or more just five times in 24 starts, but four of those came over his last five starts. He pitched to an ERA of 6.07 in that span, increasing his season ERA from 2.11 to its final number.
But in two playoff games, Wells has allowed three runs over 13 innings with one walk and 14 strikeouts. The pitcher that some scouts had doubts about as he moved up the minor league ladder moved up again this year and posted a sub-3.00 ERA for the third time in four seasons.
The 22-year-old from Australia won the Jim Palmer Award in 2017 as the O’s Minor League Pitcher of the Year. He pitched in the 2018 All-Star Futures Game and this year he showed he could pitch well in the Eastern League.
The pitcher without a big fastball continued to get big results in 2019.
“It’s been huge for my confidence, knowing that I can pitch here,” Wells said last night outside the Bowie clubhouse. “Hopefully I can take that to the next step, Triple-A and the step after that, straight to the big leagues, Camden Yards.”
Games like he pitched last night could lead one to feel exactly that is going to happen for Wells. He had 30 pitches after three innings, then threw just six in the fourth. He was at 58 pitches with 46 strikes through six and finished at 90/69. Yep, just 21 pitches out of the strike zone.
“They are a very good hitting lineup. Had to go out and attack the zone. Go with your best stuff and just compete,” said Wells. He sure did that.
Said Bowie manager Buck Britton: “That’s the guy we’ve seen all year. What a competitor. That’s who he is. That guy competes. It doesn’t matter - back up against the wall. He goes out there and competes. The guy just pumps strikes and is fearless and goes right after hitters.”
Wells showed that fearlessness when he was in his biggest jam and almost escaped it completely unscathed.
In a 1-1 tie in the Trenton seventh, Wells allowed three straight singles to load the bases with none out. Then he almost got out of it. He fanned the next two hitters and was ahead of the third with a 1-2 count. With the crowd cheering for another strike and an amazing escape act to keep the game tied, Trenton second baseman Hoy Jun Park broke for home and scored for the 2-1 lead.
It was a rare steal of home plate.
“That is kind of a communication breakdown,” said Britton. “Anytime you’re an infielder or catcher, somebody, you’ve got to say something to a left-handed pitcher. He comes set and can’t see over there. Just a communication breakdown in a situation where really that can’t afford to happen.”
That alone didn’t cost Bowie the game. The Baysox had just three hits and struck out 15 times.
Leadoff batter and center fielder Cedric Mullins went 2-for-3 with a stolen base and an RBI. His single to right in the fifth tied the game, 1-1. In seven playoff games, Mulins is batting .367 (11-for-30) with nine runs, four RBIs and five steals.
“Cedric put together really good at-bats,” said Britton. “You can see the difference between a guy that has been in the big leagues a little bit. Maybe a little bit more advanced the first at-bat getting a look at the guy. Then he slowed the game down there in an RBI situation and got the line drive in right field to tie it up.”
But the Baysox came up one run short and now they are one win down in the series, facing a couple of must-wins in Game 4 tonight to force a Game 5 tomorrow to try and pull out a championship. The 2015 Eastern League champion Baysox were down 1-2 to Reading and then won two straight games.
Britton’s 2019 Baysox have to do the same thing. They overcame a 7-23 start to make the playoffs. So here’s another challenge during a season where Bowie has faced a few.
“Hey, this (challenge) is right up there with them,” said Britton. “All the obstacles they set before us, we battled and overcame them. Why not this one?”