Parker Meadows and Wilmer Flores wow in West Michigan

Bless You Boys

Toledo Mud Hens 8, Iowa Cubs 6 (box)

Joey Wentz was in three true outcomes mode in his second start of the season, but the offense poured it on late for a comeback victory. Jamie Westbrook tied things up with a solo shot to lead off the ninth, and the Cubs bullpen came unglued, wild pitching in a pair of go-ahead runs.

Wentz needed 72 pitches to get through 3 13 innings. He punched out seven hitters in that stretch, walking two, but all three hits allowed were home runs as the Cubs dropped a four-spot on him. All three rode a strong wind out to right field, but fastball location was part of the culprit as well.

Compared to the guy we saw when the Tigers traded for him in 2019, Wentz has returned from Tommy John struggling more with his command. However, the touch and feel lefty who sat 92 mph and sometimes didn’t top 90 mph is long gone. Wentz pumped heat from 93-96 mph in this one, continuing the trend we saw this spring. If his command improves he’s going to help the Tigers this season, whether with spot starts or as a power lefty out of the pen. The changeup and the curveball looked good when he spotted them, but he was pretty erratic locating all three.

Wily Peralta and Bryan Garcia got them through the fifth, but Logan Shore allowed a pair of runs in the sixth to lose a 4-4 tie.

The Hens were down 3-0 in the top of the fourth when Jacob Robson came up big with a two-run triple to trim the deficit. A Ryan Kreidler RBI single in the fifth, and a Ryan Lavarnway solo shot in the sixth tied things at 4-4 before Shore’s struggles. In the eighth, Robson reached on an error to lead off the inning and Zack Short drove him in with a double. That left the Hens one back heading into the ninth, where they rallied for three runs. Angel De Jesus came and allowed a two-out single but no more, punching out Narciso Crook on three straight to earn the save.

RHP Beau Brieske will make his second start of the year on Friday night at 8:08 p.m. ET, looking to even the six-game set at two games apiece. RHP Caleb Kilian will oppose him.

Somerset Patriots 5, Erie SeaWolves 4 (box)

The SeaWolves built a modest early lead, but starter Reese Olson struggled with some hard contact again and allowed the Patriots back into it. They eventually outlasted the SeaWolves to take a two games to one lead in the road series.

Andre Lipcius got things started with his first homer of the new season in the first inning. Gage Workman rode home on the blast to make it 2-1, but Olson wild pitched in a run in the bottom half. In the third, Eric De La Rosa was hit by a pitch and went first to third on a Workman single. Dillon Dingler lifted a fly ball to right field and De La Rosa scampered home to make it 3-1. Unfortunately Olson allowed a two run shot to Jeisson Rosario that tied things up.

The score stayed knotted at three apiece until Jared Tobey allowed a pair of runs in the bottom of the sixth. Dane Myers launched a solo shot, his second of the year, to get the SeaWolves within one, but the Patriots bullpen slammed the door shut from there.

Lipcius led the way for Erie with the home run and a walk. Myers had a single to go with the home run. The final line for Olson: 4.0 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, BB, 4 SO.

The SeaWolves haven’t announced a starter for Friday’s matchup at 6:35 p.m. ET. RHP Luis Medina gets the start for Somerset.

Lansing Lugnuts 8, West Michigan Whitecaps 5 (F/7)(Gm 1)(box)

Sarnia native, and 8th rounder in 2021, RHP Jordan Marks made his debut for the Whitecaps in game one of Thursday’s doubleheader. He showed solid stuff, striking out five, but was undone by a parade of hits in a five-run third inning for Lansing.

Meanwhile, the ‘Caps got on the board in the second courtesy of catcher Jon Rosoff’s RBI double, scoring Carlos Irigoyen. After Marks rough go in the top of the inning, Parker Meadows stayed hot with a one out double in the third and scored on a Colt Keith single to cut the deficit to three. Reliever Matt Walker gave two runs back in the fifth, and while Trei Cruz doubled and scored on a Wenceel Perez single in the bottom half, the tradeoffs weren’t doing anything to close the gap. Williander Moreno allowed another Lugnuts run in the top of the seventh, and this one was out of reach. Perez and Austin Murr collected RBI hits in the bottom of the seventh, but it wasn’t nearly enough.

Keith, Perez, and Irigoyen each had two hits games, while Murr singled and walked twice.

Dan Hasty noted during the broadcast that the 14 second pitch clock will start to be enforced as of Friday’s games. The clock has been in place already this year so that players could get used to the timing.

West Michigan Whitecaps 6, Lansing Lugnuts 0 (F/7)(Gm 2)(box)

In the nightcap, the Whitecaps came back with a display of power pitching and hitting to split the doubleheader. Parker Meadows (#23 BYB) stayed red hot, mashing his fourth home run in six games in the second inning. Meanwhile, right-hander Wilmer Flores (#16 BYB) continued getting us excited with a dominant, albeit short, performance in his first High-A start.

Flores, who we ranked 16th in the system this offseason, was an undrafted free agent out of Arizona Western Junior College, and, like 27th rounder Beau Brieske, is another example of the Tigers finding a real diamond in the rough. Flores, the like-named younger brother of MLB infielder Wilmer Flores, burst on the scene last year in Lakeland with a good power fastball-curveball combination that saw him punch out 32.1 percent of the hitters he saw last year. He also features a nasty cutter, all three pitches with strong metrics, and a big, rangy, 6-foot-4 frame. Someone give that scout a raise.

In his High-A debut, Flores punched out seven of the nine hitters he faced in three perfect innings to start the ‘Caps off on the right foot. He definitely brings some presence to the mound. Flores’s delivery tends to scream reliever, and maybe that’s how this will go, but either way this is the kind of power arm you’d be thrilled to get beyond the second round of the draft, let alone finding him in total obscurity, and the brother of a big leaguer no less.

Meadows got the offense started, leading off with a double in the bottom of the first inning with a double. After Wenceel Perez reached on an error, and Jake Holton struck out, Austin Murr (#27 BYB), another notable prospect from the back of our list, came up with a double to score Meadows. Andrew Navigato singled home Perez, and it was 2-0 ‘Caps. They were off to the races. Meadows, as mentioned, homered in the second, his fourth in six games—yes, everyone is all aflutter—and Navigato and Murr came through with RBI knocks in the fifth to make it 5-0 ‘Caps. A pair of sixth inning errors allowed them to push one more across, while Gio Arriera and Bryce Tassin blanked the Lugnuts the final four innings.

Beyond Meadows, Navigato and Murr each had multi-hit games and have come out of the gate hot. The two clubs are back at it Friday night with RHP Stevie Emanuels going for Lansing. The Whitecaps haven’t announced as of this writing.

Lakeland Flying Tigers 9, Bradenton Marauders 5 (box)

The offense got loose in this one, and the timing was good because the pitching was lackluster. RHP Carlos Pena got the start, and allowed the Marauders to get out to an early 3-0 lead. However, the Flying Tigers just came out and blew Bradenton away with a six run third inning and didn’t stop there.

In the third, Cristian Santana and Roberto Campos walked, with an Izaac Pacheco strike out in between, and Chris Meyers came up with an RBI double to score Santana. Carlos Mendoza singled, and an error allowed both Campos and Meyers to score. Then Jose De La Cruz (#25 BYB) stepped up with two on and did this…

De La Cruz was one of the early big ticket international free agents the Tigers signed in recent years, but his first seasons stateside were pretty rocky. It could get really fun if he’s figuring it out, as the 20-year-old already possesses bone-crushing power. He has a strong arm and looks capable of being a quality corner outfielder, so if he can get to that power enough, he’s got an interesting future.

Meyers came back with a solo shot in the fourth inning, and after Mendoza walked, De La Cruz smoked an RBI double to left to make it 8-3 Lakeland. Roberto Campos doubled in the eighth, and Meyers singled him home as well.

With two homers and three doubles already, we’ll apparently have to take more note of Chris Meyers. The first baseman out of the University of Toledo was the Tigers 13th rounder in the 2021 draft.

Jose De La Cruz: 2-5, R, 4 RBI, 2B, HR, 2 SO

Chris Meyers: 3-5, 2 R, 3 RBI, 2B, HR, SO

Cristian Santana: 0-2, R, 2 BB, SO

Roberto Campos: 1-4, 2 R, 2B, BB

The two clubs will get back at it at 6:30 p.m. ET on Friday night in Bradenton. No starters have been announced yet.

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