The bad news is the Rafters lost their fourth game in a row today at Phoenix Municipal Stadium. The good news is that their bats finally woke up. Cory Morris got the start today for the Rafters in their game against the Phoenix Desert Dogs. Tampa Bay's Jeff Nieman was supposed to start today but was scratched and replaced by Detroit's Virgil Vazquez. I spoke with Phoenix pitching coach Tom Signore before the game and he told me that Nieman was not injured and he threw a bullpen session earlier. Morris went 2 2/3 innings and gave up four runs; only three were earned and one of those was just plain bad luck on his part. He struck out two, walked one and gave up four hits. He also saw his ERA blossom from 0.00 to a hearty 5.79. The Desert Dogs scored their first run when Cody Strait walked, went to second on a Neil Walker passed ball, moved to third when Travis Buck grounded out to Bryan Bass, and finally scored when Chip Cannon smacked a single to center field. After that, it got a little strange for Morris. The third inning started with back to back doubles by Landon Powell and Fernando Perez. Cody Strait hit a soft grounder to Joe Koshansky who thought momentarily about trying to get the lumbering Powell at the plate, then changed his mind and threw late to first. Travis Buck then grounded out to second, which allowed Perez to score and Strait to advance to second base. When Strait attempted to steal his next base, Walker made a wild throw to third base. Unfortunately for the Rafters, it ended up in left field and permitted Strait to score the final run off of Morris. Morris was far from sharp today, but he certainly had his share of tough luck as well.
The strangeness did not stop there. In the top of the seventh inning, Jeff Fiorentino caught a lucky break when the soft pop up he hit into shallow left fell between Travis Buck, Ben Zobrist and Kody Kirkland. After making a big turn at first, Travis Buck made a wild throw behind Fio which overshot Chip Cannon and allowed Fio to advance to second base. He eventually scored on a Matt Miller sacrifice fly to right.
Fiorentino was involved in a Rafters' rally later in the ballgame when he belted a Marcus McBeth fastball over the right field wall for his first home run of the season. He ended the game 2 for 4.
Like Morris, Nolan Reimold had some hard luck today. He smacked a hard line drive right at Kirkland in the top of the fifth. Later, he was hit in the back when Jared Burton tried to come inside on him. Reimold ended the day going 0 for 2.
I got to the park early today and watched Reimold take batting practice. It was a very nice display of hitting. He was smacking deep drives all over the park. He managed to nail one ball on the Bullfrog sunblock sign in left center. The signs in Phoenix Muni are piled two high on top of the outfield fence and he hit his shot on top of the highest sign.
Bryan Bass started at shortstop today and did not collect a hit. He is still searching for his first AFL hit.
NOTES: According to the morning's media notes, both Reimold and Fiorentino began the day among the top ten hitters in the league. Reimold was seventh with a .400 batting average and Fiorentino was tenth with an average of .375. The only outfielder who was ahead of them was the Yankees' center field prospect Brett Gardner. Both were tied for the league lead for doubles with five. They shared the top spot with Gaby Sanchez of the Marlins who did not play in the night game at Scottsdale... Reimold has the third best OBP, trailing only Kory Casto of the Nats and Gardner… Bryan Bass worked on his switch hitting in batting practice
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