Major League Baseball and its Minor League have been experimenting in speeding up the game. Whether it is pitch clocks, limits on mound visits or more drastic rules, people are learning to adjust.
The new extra inning rule, where a runner is placed on second base at the start of each inning, took center stage Friday night at PK Park. With the ballgame tied at 3 between the Everett AquaSox and Eugene Emeralds, fans and players were exposed to the new rule for the first time.
The AquaSox scored their free runner. The Emeralds failed to do so, which left a sour taste in the mouth for their manager, Steven Lerud after the Emeralds’ 4-3 defeat.
“It’s not baseball,” Lerud said. “That’s all I think. Simple as that. It’s not baseball.”
When a team is struggling, there are usually trends on why it’s happening. The Ems are in the midst of a seven-game losing streak and walks might be the main culprit.
Whether it was command issues or the seemingly-changing strike zone, the Emeralds walked nine batters, too many to win any game.
“They’ve got to battle with it,” Lerud said. “That’s part of it. If [the umpires] are not gonna be consistent, then we just have to deal with it.”
Three of those walks scored. With a 3-0 lead, relief pitcher Casey Ryan walked three of the four batters he faced. Dalton Geekie then took over and forced a fly ball to right fielder Jonathan Sierra which should have been the second out of the inning, but instead turned into a two-run double when Sierra misplayed it. The AquaSox pushed one more run across the board which effectively restarted the game at three.
“That’s just kind of the way it’s going right now,” Lerud said. “We have to battle through. We can’t give away free bases. We don’t give away those free bases there with the walks, then we’re still in that game and we probably win it.”
The Ems had the lead at one point, their first since the fourth inning of Tuesday’s loss to Salem-Keizer, three games ago. Catcher Jonathan Soto knocked Gustavo Polanco and Jake Slaughter home with a double in the second and tacked on one more run in the fourth when Tyler Durna hit a leadoff triple and eventually scored on a wild pitch.
The Emeralds did receive new blood thanks to some reinforcements fresh out of college.
Cubs draft picks shortstop Nico Hoerner (Stanford, round one), first baseman Durna (UC San Diego, round 15) and Slaughter (LSU, round 18) all made their first starts for the Emeralds, and all got their first career hits as well.
“It always feels good to get a hit for the new team,” Hoerner said. “We had a great crowd today and it was a fun atmosphere to play in. I’m looking forward to the rest of the summer for sure.”
Follow Maverick Pallack on Twitter @mavpallack