Last week Minor League Baseball named Rancho Cucamonga Quakes pitcher-turned-first baseman Aaron Miller as the California League’s Player of the Week, and with good cause. The 26-year-old Channelview, Texas native went 11 for 27 (.407), hit three doubles, three home runs and collected 10 RBIs. And though the 2009 first round draft pick (36th overall) has cooled off a bit this week, he provided nearly all of the offense that the Quakes could muster on Wednesday night as they were pounded by the Lancaster JetHawks 16-3.
Less than an hour before game time it was announced that scheduled Quakes starter Julio Urias had been scratched and that right-hander Jharel Cotton would take his place. And while this announcement created a flurry of posts on Twitter wondering if the 17-year-old left-handed Mexican phenom was injured, Quakes pitching coach and former Dodger reliever Matt Herges put those rumors to rest and explained why Urias had been pulled.
“We were told an hour ago that the Dodgers want to make [Urias] available to pitch in the Cal League All-Star Game next week and they told us to pull him back,” said Herges. “All decisions involving Julio come from [Dodgers Vice President of Player Development] De Jon Watson and the Dodgers front office. They tell us when he pitches and when he doesn’t and we do what we’re told.”
Once the game began, the Quakes failed to score in the top half of the first inning and the JetHawks grabbed an early 1-0 lead in the bottom of the inning on a single by Anthony Kemp (no relation), a sacrifice bunt by Teoscar Hernandez, a double by 2012 number one draft pick Carlos Correa and an RBI single by Rio Ruiz before Cotton was able to escape without further damage.
Heading into the second inning and after Quakes first baseman Chris Jacobs was hit by a pitch, the left-handed-hitting Miller lifted a Chris Devenski fastball into the Lancaster wind for a towering opposite field two-run home run and a 2-1 lead for the Quakes. But just when it looked as though the Quakes had brought their A-game, the wheels fell off in the bottom of the second inning when JetHawks designated hitter Jack Mayfield returned the favor with a one-out two-run shot of his own to give the JetHawks a 3-2 lead – and then things really got bad. Cotton gave up a walk to Jordan Scott, a single to Kemp, struck out Hernandez and walked Correa. With the bases loaded Cotton tried to run a 3-2 fastball past Ruiz but instead left it right over the heart of the plate and the left-handed hitting Ruiz drove it over the right-center field wall for a grand slam and the rout was on.
Devenski went six innings for the JetHawks allowing only the two runs on Miller’s home run and three hits while striking out seven and walking none. He was relieved in the seventh inning by right-hander Matt Heidenreich who allowed no runs and only one hit while striking out two in his two innings of work. Right-hander Daniel Minor came in to pitch the ninth for the JetHawks and allowed singles to Corey Seager, Steven Proscia and Robbie Garvey (who drove in Seager) before striking out Quakes catcher Jose Capellan to end the train wreck.
With the win the JetHawks clenched their second consecutive first-half Cal League South title, thus guaranteeing them a postseason berth. The Quakes on the other hand fell to a lackluster 30-37 and will most likely finish the first half in fourth place. The Quakes lead the last place Inland Empire 66ers by seven games and trail the third place High Desert Mavericks by two games with only three games remaining in the first half.
As it stands right now, Dodgers 2013 second round draft pick Tom Windle will face 2013 number one draft pick Mark Appel on Thursday night at The Hangar in Lancaster. First pitch is scheduled for 6:30 PM.