Chang Hot at the Plate, Bradley Blasting Away, and More in Hillcats Chatter
Bob Toth | On 05, Jun 2016
The Hillcats (35-20) have cooled off some after their hot start, but they are still staying on top of things in the Carolina League, sitting in first place with a five-game lead in the Northern Division over the Potomac Nationals. They have the second-best record in the Carolina League, trailing only Salem’s 37-19 start.
Last weekend, they wrapped up a split against Salem, a team that has had their number this season. They finally had their lone scheduled off-day of May on the 31st before jumping back on the road for three against Wilmington. The trip was successful as the Hillcats took two of three, but another series with those pesky Red Sox has started this weekend.
The Sox took game one in Salem on Saturday on a bizarre and lucky walk-off. The series moves back to Lynchburg for Sunday and Monday before the clubs head back to Salem to wrap up the unique four-gamer on Tuesday night. Lynchburg will then return home, playing four games at the end of the week against Myrtle Beach and three at the beginning of next week against Carolina as the All-Star break is just over two weeks away.
In other Hillcats chatter from Virginia:
Control problems have been an issue for the Hillcats throughout the season, but on Saturday night, it cost them a game.
In the bottom of the ninth inning of a tie game in Salem, Lynchburg reliever Jordan Milbrath uncorked a wild pitch that allowed Red Sox top prospect Yoan Moncada to score from third base to give Salem a walk-off win over the Hillcats, 4-3.
The wild pitch from Milbrath was the 54th wild pitch of the season for the Hillcats, the second-highest total in the league. Milbrath also threw three wild pitches in the sixth inning of Wednesday’s game against Wilmington.
STRUGGLES IN THE SOUTH AND IN SALEM
Saturday’s loss knocked the Hillcats’ record against the Salem Red Sox to just 4-7 on the season, including an 0-4 record on the road when playing in Salem, Virginia. The Hillcats for the year are just 8-10 when playing road games against the Southern Division of the Carolina League, while they are 9-1 against the Northern Division.
BRADLEY BELTS SOME MORE
First baseman Bobby Bradley enjoyed his 20th birthday on Monday. He has celebrated by hitting two more homers as a 20-year-old to push his season total to 13 homers and 47 RBI.
On Wednesday, Bradley went 2-for-3 at the plate with a homer, two RBI, and two runs scored at Wilmington. He struck out four times in five plate appearances on Thursday, but bounced back with another homer in a two-hit game on Friday.
His numbers at the plate have taken a slight turn of late for the bad, as he has struck out 17 times in his last 41 at bats over the last ten games while drawing just three walks. For the season, he is hitting .225 with a .358 on-base percentage.
Heading into play on Sunday, Bradley is the Carolina League leader in homers (13) and RBI (47), is second in strikeouts (72), third in walks (36), and is sixth in OPS (.845).
CHANG SEEING THE BALL WELL
Shortstop Yu-Cheng Chang has had a productive stretch at the plate, hitting safely in five straight games and eight of his last nine. He had three hits and was on base twice more via walk on Friday against Wilmington. He scored four times in the game, including on his seventh homer of the season in the extra inning win over the Blue Rocks. He also had a two-hit game in the series opener against Wilmington on Wednesday.
Chang, 20, is now hitting .278 for the season with a .351 OBP. His .856 OPS is fifth overall in the Carolina League.
ISON PROMOTED TO LYNCHBURG
Outfielder Bobby Ison got the promotion to Lynchburg on Wednesday, joining the Hillcats after spending the first two months of his season with the Class-A Lake County Captains.
Ison hit just .181 with a .261 OBP prior to the advancement, but has done well in his first three games at Lynchburg, hitting .273 with two doubles, three singles, and three RBI. He had his first multi-hit game of the season on Saturday, including an RBI-double in the third inning of the tough loss.
PAPI HEADS TO AKRON
Outfielder Mike Papi was promoted the same day as Ison to Double-A Akron, giving the RubberDucks an outfield full of former first round draft picks.
Papi, the 23-year-old first round pick of the Indians in the 2014 draft, was hitting .236 for the Hillcats at the time of his promotion with a .370 OBP. He has appeared in four games for Akron heading into action on Sunday, hitting .154 (2-for-13) with a .389 OBP, supplying a single, double, one run batted in, and five walks to the Akron offense.
PASQUALE PERFORMS ADMIRABLY IN LOSS
Right-handed starter Nick Pasquale did his part on Saturday to give the Hillcats a chance to win. He threw a season-high six and one-third innings against Salem, allowing two earned runs on five hits with four walks and four strikeouts. It was his fourth start of the season and seventh appearance overall.
For the year, Pasquale is 1-1 with a 2.49 ERA and 1.29 WHIP in 21 2/3 innings on the mound.
SIXTEEN RUNS FRIDAY A SEASON HIGH
Lynchburg knocked in a season-high 16 runs and tied a season-best with four home runs in a 16-11 extra inning win on Friday over the Blue Rocks. It took ten innings, including a six-run tenth, to get the Hillcats the victory.
In the contest, Bradley hit his 13th homer of the season in the ninth inning to tie the game at ten and Chang added a blast, his seventh, in extras.
Lynchburg manager Mark Budzinski has had to deal with some last-minute changes to his lineup throughout the week. On Wednesday, starting pitcher Sean Brady missed his start after dealing with stomach issues. Thursday saw Mark Mathias get knocked out of the lineup after being hit by a line drive during batting practice. Then on Friday, David Armendariz become sick prior to the game and was a late scratch.
Photo: Lathan Goumas/The News and Advance (pictured: Chang)