St. Francis bolsters bullpen, bench in advance of three-game tilt against Yuma. How did it work out?
Early returns say—not bad. The Firebirds took care of the Kansans in three out of four the previous week, though all four were hard-fought (Yuma’s three victories were all by two runs or less). The bullpen was a strength for Scott Hatfield’s team in the series, but he went out and made a move anyway. The Kansans received Andrew Miller from the New England Yankee Stompers for Koji Uehara, Brandon Morrow and phenom Anderson Espinoza. Another deal saw Hatfield pick up Carlos Gomez from Worcester in a deal for Adam Lind and Mike Montgomery.
Miller got into the first game of the Firebirds series for his St. Francis debut. His scoreless inning and three strikeouts didn’t help, as by the time he entered the team was already down by two runs, and an error allowed an inherited runner to score while Miller was in the game.
Another Miller, Brad, brought St. Francis closer in the eighth with a two-run, pinch-hit blast, but Yuma’s bullpen closed out the opener without any more trouble.
The next night, a highly-anticipated matchup between Chris Sale and Max Scherzer held up for most of the game. Sale struck out nine and gave up just two hits while Scherzer allowed two runs through six frames. Two additional runs scored off Scherzer in the seventh, giving the Firebirds a seemingly-unsurmountable four-run lead.
A.J. Ramos, however, couldn’t hold Sale’s win. With two out in the bottom of the eighth J.D. Martinez blasted a three-run, game-tying homer. Tony Sipp didn’t fare much better in the ninth, as a two-out Brian McCann single plated Justin Turner with the winning run.
The rubber match of the series was another pitching barn-burner, as David Price went the distance, scattering six hits and punching out 10, for a shutout to out-duel Matt Harvey’s seven innings of two-run ball. Back-to-back doubles by Elvis Andrus and Buster Posey scored the runs in the top of the seventh, and Price didn’t need any more help to put the Firebirds a game and a half up in the Cactus Division.
St. Francis, meanwhile, retained their lead in the Grapefruit Division, but it closed to just a single game as upstart Oakland took two-of-three from Arizona.
Arizona’s Ronald Melkonian continued earning points on his frequent-trader account, swapping middle infielders with St. Francis (Jose Altuve for Jurickson Profar and Dansby Swanson) and Yuma (Andrus for Jon Schoop) and picking up Jason Heyward from Brooklyn for Profar and Marcell Ozuna. Schoop was quickly dealt to Santa Barbara with Adam Jones and Yasmany Tomas for Logan Forsythe and Jay Bruce. Finally, the D-Backs acquired Cameron Maybin (a sign-and-trade, basically) and Archie Bradley from Frostbite Falls for Reese McGuire, Adam Eaton and Pedro Baez.