Northampton Press

Saturday, September 21, 2019
Cheryl Pursell/Lehigh Valley IronPigsNick Williams has played well since returning to Lehigh Valley. Copyright - c2018@cherylpursell Cheryl Pursell/Lehigh Valley IronPigsNick Williams has played well since returning to Lehigh Valley. Copyright - c2018@cherylpursell

LV hoping to improve play in second half

Tuesday, July 2, 2019 by chuck hixson Special to the Press in Sports

If you’re going to take in an IronPigs game right now, there’s no telling what you’ll see.

You could very well see the team that went through a six-game losing skid in the middle of June only to sort of right itself and go 3-3 in their next six games. That team looked completely and totally hideous. Then, there’s the team that lost both games of a short, two-game series at home to Rochester. That team was hideous in one game and played OK, dropping a 3-2 decision in the next game. Finally, there’s the team that just swept the first-place Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders in a three-game series and looked really good doing it.

Much of it comes down to which part of the rotation you’re going to be seeing. For instance, the RailRiders ran into Enyel De Los Santos (3-3, 3.54) and Cole Irvin (3-0, 2.35) on back-to-back nights. The two young pitchers have been back and forth between Lehigh Valley and Philadelphia all season, but have remained effective for Lehigh Valley.

“Those two guys have really done a great job when you consider that they’ve been up-and-down to the majors and pitching in different roles and different situations,” said pitching coach Steve Schrenk. “A lot of guys would have been completely thrown off by what they’ve been through, but they’ve adjusted well.”

The success of the team that you see on the field also has a lot to do with which offense shows up. In their six-game losing streak, Lehigh Valley put just 17 runs on the board. In their next three they sandwiched being shutout by Columbus between soring 22 runs in the first and third games. They ended their series with Scranton by putting up 22 runs in the final two games of the series.

There are a couple things to note that have helped the offense. The most glaring is the play of Nick Williams. Since again being optioned out by the Phillies, Williams hasn’t spent his time sulking. He realizes that the trade deadline is coming and that he is very well auditioning for 29 teams not located in Philadelphia. Being involved in a deal to another team may give Williams the opportunity he needs to get regular playing time at the major league level to show just what he can do. Williams homered in Sunday’s win and has now hit in all 14 games that he’s played with Lehigh Valley this season and has a 19-game hitting streak going back to the 2018 season at Triple-A. Granted, it’s a small sample size, but his average with the ‘Pigs this season is at .407 and his on-base percentage is at .444 as an IronPig.

Austin Listi, who arrived from Reading, has five home runs and nine RBI to go with a .325 average in 10 games with Lehigh Valley. Helping too, is the fact that Adam Haseley, the Phillies first-round pick in 2017 is a member of the IronPigs. For his first two games back, Haseley was grouped with Williams and Listi to make a pretty formidable 3-4-5 spot in the lineup. On Sunday, he was moved to the leadoff spot and went 2-for-5 with a double. In eight Triple-A games this season, Haseley is batting .324/.395/.441 and will likely be heading back to Philadelphia at least for September, if not before.

Then, there are the fundamentals. After a strong start defensively, a nose-dive with the leather has dropped the IronPigs into a tie for 12th in fielding percentage in the International League. They also lead the league with 15 passed balls and are second in the league with 51 wild pitches. Baserunning has been atrocious, with runners regularly running into outs and then missing opportunities to take an extra base.

“If we’re going to win, we need to start controlling the things that we can control,” said manager Gary Jones. “We have to start fielding the ball, we have to stop running into outs, we have to stop walking guys. We can control all of those things, but we haven’t.”

Bottom line is that the IronPigs simply aren’t a very good team right now, but they’re getting better as they get some players back. Hopefully, consistency isn’t too far away.

CELEBRATE!... Lehigh Valley will be home for the Fourth of July for the first time since 2014. The team had regularly asked to be on the road for the Fourth so they could hold their Fourth on the Field celebration. This season, the league severely limited teams’ ability to be granted specific dates to be home or on the road, leaving the IronPigs to hold their official Fourth of July celebration on the third. A league rule stipulates that teams will have a home game on either the third or the Fourth of July.

FILLING THE SEATS... All three of the games with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre were capacity sellouts. The three-in-a-row capacity games equaled the Father’s Day weekend attendance when Columbus came to town. In all, the IronPigs have sold out 11 of their 41 home games this season and average 8,323 per game.