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AFL Recap - Week 6: Surprise Plays For AFL Championship

The Surprise Saguaros headed into the final day of the AFL season needing to win their game with the Salt River Rafters to clinch a spot in the AFL Championship game, and were able to do so with contributions from four of the Twins players.

Stephen Gonsalves punctuated his shortened time in the AFL with a six strikeout effort in his start on Tuesday, Nick Gordon finished the year near the top of several statistical categories, and a couple of the bullpen arms closed out their showings with good weeks.
Image courtesy of Zachary Lucy / http://27OutsBaseball.com
To see how all of the Twins prospects fared in the final week of the AFL season, and how the title game against the Mesa Solar Sox went, read on!

(links provided to each player’s overall stats by clicking their name)

Stephen Gonsalves – one game started, 3.0 IP, 1 ER, 3 H’s, 6 K’s, 8.31 ERA (overall).

Gonsalves made his final start of the AFL season in Tuesday’s tilt against the Glendale Desert Dogs. After the leadoff man singled to start the game, Gonsalves came back with a strikeout for the first out of the game. A wild-pitch to the next batter put the runner on second base, but he got out number two with a fly ball to left field. Gonsalves then gave up a run-scoring single before he struck out another batter to end the inning.

Unfortunately, that one run would loom large as it would be the only scoring for the game from either team.

In the second inning, Gonsalves settled in nicely, striking out the side in a one-two-three inning. In the third, he gave up a leadoff single, but a flyout, caught stealing play, and another strikeout ended that inning with just three hitters stepping into the batters box.

Gonsalves threw thirty-eight pitches in this one, with twenty-five of them going for strikes. He finishes his injury-shortened AFL on a high note, and pitched a total of 8.2 innings in his time with the Saguaros. Overall, he allowed eight earned runs on ten hits and four walks, while striking out seven.

Nick Gordon – four games (three started), 5-14, 2 R’s, RBI, 4 K’s.

Gordon saw action in all four regular season games on the week, though he started three of them.

In Monday’s 9-3 win over Peoria, Gordon was a big reason why in his role as the leadoff man. In their three-run second inning, Gordon delivered his first hit of the game to put two runners on with one out. A double later in the inning scored him and another runner to make it 5-0.

In the fourth he added another single to right field, but was then caught stealing second base. In the bottom of the sixth he led off the inning with the first of three consecutive singles, and scored on the third to make it 8-2 Saguaros. He finished this one 3-5 with two runs scored.

In Tuesdays 1-0 loss, Gordon was summoned as a pinch-hitter with two outs in the bottom of the ninth and a runner on first, but he grounded out to end the game.

Back into regular action on Wednesday, Gordon finished the game 1-4. He singled in the top of the fifth, but was then picked off at first base. He also had a fielding error in the eighth that led to both of Peoria’s two runs.

In Thursday’s 4-2 win over Salt River to clinch a AFL Championship appearance, Gordon contributed to the effort with an RBI single in the fifth inning to give his team the lead for good at 3-2.

Gordon finished the AFL season by leading his team in batting average (.346), on-base percentage (.418), stolen bases (5), and triples (2); he was second on the team in runs scored (15) and OPS (.862).

Mitch Garver – four games (three started), 2-12, 2 R’s, 2B, RBI, BB, 3 K’s.

Garver also played in all four games on the week with one of those appearances coming as a pinch-hitter. He was the catcher for Stephen Gonsalves start, and designated hitter in the other two games.

In Monday’s 9-3 win, Garver was the DH and batted fifth. In the bottom of the first his double scored one to make it 2-0 Saguaros early. His fifth inning walk started a two-out rally, and he would later score the first of their two runs in the inning to extend their lead to 7-0. He finished 1-3.

Catching on Tuesday, Garver went 0-4 out of the five-hole in the lineup. He also was in the box score for a caught stealing (though it’s not clear if he threw the runner out).

In Wednesday’s loss to Peoria, Garver came in as a pinch hitter to lead off the top of ninth with his team down 5-2, but he flew out to center field and the next two hitters also went down to end the game.

Back in the lineup as the DH for Thursday’s final regular season game and a trip to the AFL Championship on the line, Garver started the comeback for the Saguaros in the fifth inning. Down 2-0, he led off the inning with a single and found his way to third after another single and a wild pitch. He scored after a throwing error on a ground ball to third from an organizational teammate, and then Gordon capped off the three-run inning with his single. Garver was 1-4 with the run scored on the day.

Garver finished the AFL season with a .229/.299/.457 slash line and led his team in home runs with four. He was also second on the team in RBI’s with fourteen.

Tanner English – three games, 1-9, BB, 3 K’s.

English made the start in center field in three of the four games on the week, and batted ninth in each.

In Monday’s 9-3 win, he was 0-4. He flew out three times and struck out once but had a bigger impact in his next game on Wednesday. In the loss to Peoria English finished 1-2 with a walk. He singled in the second inning and drew a walk in the sixth to put two runners on with two outs in both innings, but Gordon wasn’t able to follow with a hit to do any more damage. He also added an outfield assist in the seventh, nabbing a runner at third base.

In the clincher on Thursday, English played a pivotal role despite being 0-3 in the box score. His catch-and-throw to nab a runner at home in the second inning kept the Salt River lead at 2-0 (such plays are turning into a theme for English). In the fifth, his ground ball to third made the fielder rush his throw and the resulting error scored two runs to tie the game before Gordon put them in front.

English finished his showing in the AFL by batting .239/.333/.338 overall and played in twenty-two of the Saguaros thirty-two games, good for second on the team.

Mason Melotakis – one game, 1.0 IP, 1 ER, 3 H’s,1.64 ERA (overall).

Melotakis made just one appearance on the week, and in came in Surprise’s 5-2 loss to Peoria on Wednesday.

He pitched the seventh inning with his team down 2-1, and for only the second time in the AFL season, did he allow a run to score. Three singles around a line-out loaded the bases with one out, but he did well to limit the damage with the ever-rare sacrifice-double play to the inning's final hitter. In case you need to know how such a thing is possible, the fly ball was hit to center fielder Tanner English. Knowing the situation, English fired his throw toward third base instead of home and caught the runner there dead-to-rights. But the runner tagging for home also made the smart play and hustled to cross home before that out was recorded.

Melotakis had a strong showing overall in the AFL and looks to be in a similar position going into 2017 as J.T. Chargois was coming into 2016. He finished the AFL season with 11.0 IP, and allowed just two earned runs on twelve hits and one walk, while striking out eleven. AAA could be his destination at next year’s outset, but even if he’s back in AA to start with he likely won’t be there long and could be knocking on the MLB doorstep all season.

Randy Rosario – one game, 1.0 IP, 2 R’s (0 earned), H, BB, 2 K’s, 4.26 ERA (overall).

Rosario also made one appearance on the week, and it was the inning that followed Melotakis’ appearance in Wednesday’s loss.

Unfortunately for Rosario, his inning started on a bad note as Gordon misplayed a ground ball for an error. He struck out the next batter, but a hit-by-pitch and wild pitch later there were runners on second and third. He got a groundball for the innings second out (would have been the third, making any runs afterward unearned), but then a walk and single scored two to give Peoria the 5-2 lead.

Rosario pitched a total of 12.2 innings in the AFL season, and allowed eight runs (six earned) on 18 hits and five walks, while striking out ten. His best appearance came on November 11th when he went two innings, allowing no hits or walks, and struck out three.

John Curtiss – one game, 2.0 IP, 0 H’s, BB, 2 K’s, 2.84 ERA (overall).

Curtiss pitched in the season final on Thursday, going the sixth and seventh innings for his team after they had taken the lead.

Hi faced the minimum in the sixth by picking up two strikeouts and his defense erasing the other runner trying to stretch an error to an extra base. In the seventh he walked the leadoff man, but got a double play ball and line-out to end his day with the Saguaros up 3-2. He earned his second hold of the season in doing so.

After allowing three runs in his first two games of the AFL season, Curtiss settled in well and allowed just one more in his final 10.2 innings pitched. Over that time he allowed just seven hits, two walks, and struck out fourteen. He also saved one game.

AFL Championship Game:
Surprise 1, Mesa 6
Box Score

With their win on Thursday the Saguaros clinched the West division with a 17-14-1 record, beating out Glendale by half a game and virtue of their tie.

All three Twins position players started the game with Nick Gordon at shortstop and batting leadoff, Mitch Garver as the designated hitter and batting fourth, and Tanner English in center field batting ninth. Two Twins pitchers also made an appearance out of the bullpen.

There wasn’t much to talk about on the hitting front as the hitters combined to go 0-10 on the day with four K’s, but a couple of performances did stand out.

The first, was the defense from Tanner English. He made two standout plays in centerfield, a diving stab to prevent an extra-base hit, and cutting down a runner at home for another outfield assist on the week.

Mitch Garver hit a long drive in the fifth, but was robbed on the warning track of extra bases when the score was 5-0 Mesa.

Mason Melotakis was summoned for the start of the seventh inning, and gave up a home run to the Cubs Ian Happ (who was the robber of Garver's fly ball, and was 4-4 with two HR’s to claim the MVP award) to start the inning. He retired the next three hitters in order, including a strikeout to end the inning.

In the eighth it was John Curtiss, and he put down the Solar Sox in order, bookending the one-two-three inning with Strikeouts. Curtiss was also singled out in the game as the most impressive of the six Surprise pitchers by MLB.com’s Jim Callis, saying he worked 95-97 MPH with his fastball and getting both K’s with hard sliders. English’s defensive play was also called out in that link.

So while it’s disappointing their team didn’t come away with the Championship Game victory, it had to be a fun season out in Arizona for all of the Twins prospects!

Please feel free to ask questions and discuss the performances during the week!

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