By Cheyne Reiter
Speed, Power, Pitching – these Mariners have it all
The Pulaski Mariners are nearly two-thirds of the way through the regular season, having played 44 games of their 68-game schedule. They enter a three-game road series with the Kingsport Mets on Tuesday with a remarkable record of 29-15.
Why is it remarkable? Sure the roster is almost an entirely new set of players, but the 2012 Pulaski Mariners won 29 games – total. That team finished 29-38 and in fifth place of the Appalachian East Division.
This team though? The 2013 Mariners find themselves 1.5 games back of the Bluefield Blue Jays for first place in the Appy East and are running away with a probable playoff berth, leading the Danville Braves by eight games for second place in the East.
Here’s a fun little look at some impressive statistics thus far.
M’s Streaking: Pulaski has had winning streaks of five games twice (June 25-29, July 23-27), six games once (July 6-12), and are currently riding a seven-game winning streak heading into Tuesday’s matchup with Kingsport.
Not Very Average: The Pulaski Mariners boast the best team batting average through 44 games, hitting at a clip of .268. Tyler Smith (.364) leads the entire Appy League and Ian Miller (.297) is just outside of the top ten.
Speed, Speed, Speed: To say this Pulaski team is “fast” is an understatement. They have lightning-quick speedsters throughout the lineup with nearly every Mariner being a threat to steal when on base. As a team, Pulaski leads the Appy League in stolen bases (65). They’ve also been caught stealing a league-high 28 times, but that just means M’s manager Chris Prieto gives his players the green light often. If only we could line Aaron Barbosa, Ian Miller, Zach Shank, and Gabe Franca up in a foot race – then we’d truly know who has the best wheels. Miller leads the team and is tied for the Appy League lead with 12 stolen bases, but the recently added Barbosa is on Miller’s heels as he’s 9-for-9 in just 11 games played. Franca is 10-for-13 and Shank is a perfect 7-for-7. In total, twelve different Mariners have at least two stolen bases.
Double, Triple Up: Pulaski has a knack for extra-base hits, in large part due to their tremendous speed. They turn singles into doubles and doubles become triples. They currently rank second in the Appy League in doubles (79) and triples (17). Kristian Brito is in a tie for first in the league in doubles (13), while Tyler Smith (11) is in a five-way tie for fourth. Zach Shank leads the M’s in triples (4), good for a four-way tie for third in the league.
Let’s Play Long Ball: With all that speed, one certainly wouldn’t expect the Pulaski hitters to have very much home run power. Fortunately for Prieto, he has quite a balance in his lineup. The Mariners rank second in the Appy League in home runs (31). Wilton Martinez leads the M’s with seven home runs, good for sole possession of second in the league. Kristian Brito and Joe DeCarlo both have four home runs and are in a tie for sixth in the Appy League.
Emili-No-No: If there’s one guy who has done his job better than anybody else on the team, it’s M’s closer Emilio Pagan. The former Belmont Abbey Crusader closer has been nothing but spectacular in the late innings for Pulaski. Pagan leads the Appy League in saves (9-for-9) and hasn’t allowed a single run in 16 1/3 innings (12 appearances). Just ten total batters have reached against Pagan (seven hits, three walks, one hit batsman), and he has struck out an astonishing 24 batters. Need a closer? Look no further — Pagan has been lights out.
Rotation Sensation: The Mariners rotation has been as good as it gets so far this season. Edwin Diaz (3-1, 1.53 ERA, nine starts) has been the ace, and former Virginia Tech Hokie Eddie Campbell (2-1, 1.99 ERA, seven appearances – five starts) has been dominant since his insertion into the rotation. Right-handers Ramire Cleto (4-2, 2.51 ERA, eight appearances – seven starts), Jose Flores (4-0, 2.65 ERA, seven starts), and Noel De La Cruz 3-2, 4.01 ERA, eight appearances – seven starts) have each had their bright spots this season as well. Young 16-year-old phenom Luiz Gohara hasn’t pitched since July 20 at Burlington and sports a 1-2 record with a 4.15 ERA through six starts. As a team, the Mariners rank fourth in the league in ERA (3.31).
Strikeout Kings: The entire Mariners’ pitching staff has recorded the most strikeouts combined in the Appy League, punching out 390 total batters. Individually, Diaz leads the league with 57 strikeouts in 47 innings while Campbell ranks third with 46 strikeouts in 31 2/3 innings pitched.
Thou Shall Not Steal: The Mariners have the best fielding percentage in the league (.979). They’ve committed less than an error per game – 35 errors in 44 contests. Catchers Toby DeMello, Franklin Diaz, Luke Guarnaccia, and Daniel Torres have combined for the best caught stealing percentage in the Appy League, as base runners are 22-for-38 in stolen base attempts (42% caught stealing).
Three’s the Magic Number: If the Mariners score three runs, it usually spells victory. Pulaski has scored three or more runs 30 times and has a record of 26-4 in those games. However, when the M’s score two runs or less, their record is just 3-11.
Flair for the Dramatic: Where do we start? On June 26 in a game with the Danville Braves at Calfee Park, the M’s trailed 6-3 in the 7th inning and cut the lead to two in that frame. Luke Guarnaccia then launched a Ryan Gunther fastball onto Pierce Avenue in right-center for a grand slam, and the M’s went on to win 12-6. Fast-forward to July 7 in Princeton, and Zach Shank was the hero. Shank broke a 1-1 tie with a solo home run in the ninth inning. Two days later on July 9, Pulaski had my heart rate approaching dangerous levels once again at Hunnicutt Field in Princeton. The bases were loaded with one out for the Rays in the bottom of ninth inning. Chris Prieto brought center fielder Ian Miller in as an extra infielder. Rays’ leadoff man Spencer Edwards hit a fly ball to right that Wilton Martinez caught and made what has stood as the “Defensive Play of the Year” so far. Martinez unleashed an absolute missile to the plate to catch the runner tagging from third base, sending the game to extras where the M’s won 10-3 in 11 innings. Martinez used his bat to be the hero on July 26 at Greeneville as he hit a two-run home run in the sixth inning with the M’s trailing 1-0. That home run propelled Pulaski to a double-header sweep of the Astros. Most recently, Isaiah Yates got in on the late-inning fun back at Calfee Park on July 31 against Bristol. The M’s trailed 4-0 but rallied for two runs in the seventh and three runs in the ninth – two on Yates’ two-run walk-off single.
Injuries Haven’t Hurt: Pulaski has had a handful of players miss games due to nagging injuries. Seattle’s 2012 second-round pick DeCarlo (sprained wrist) hasn’t played since July 23, but the M’s have gone 12-2 since he went on the shelf. Jeff Zimmerman (turf toe) missed a week of games, and Isaiah Yates (sprained ankle) was banged up at one point as well. Luiz Gohara (shoulder), Franklin Diaz (hamstring), and Luke Guarnaccia (hand) are currently battling injuries. Despite the recent injuries, Pulaski has separated themselves for second in the East.
Season Series: Pulaski has finished regular season games with three teams this season. Their records against those teams: Bristol White Sox (6-2), Danville Braves (7-2), and the Johnson City Cardinals (4-2). They have six games remaining with both Elizabethton and Kingsport. They’ll play three more games against Bluefield (3-3), Burlington (1-5), Greeneville (2-1), and Princeton (6-0).
If you haven’t made it out to Calfee Park yet, you’re missing something special. After their three-game set in Kingsport and one game at Princeton, the Mariners will return home Saturday, August 10, to begin an eight-game home stand. They’ll host the Princeton Rays (two games), Burlington Royals (three games), and Greeneville Astros (three games).
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