Matt Erickson Post-Game Interview 4/19/2014

by Kevin Kimmes

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Cream City Cables: So, after dropping a close one last night…

Matt Erickson: The last two nights…

CCC: …you guys come back and put together a pretty nice win today. What were the keys to the game to get that win for you?

ME: Before the game we talked as a group, the position players, about how we haven’t been very good with runners in scoring position. We’ve done a nice job in setting the table and getting some of our leadoff guys on and creating some havoc on the bases, but just chasing out of the zone and trying to do a bit too much with runners in scoring position. Today we got a couple big knocks, the biggest one coming to mind being (Jose) Pena’s 2 out, 2 RBI single.

That was nice to see, but more importantly than that I think up and down the line we had 17 two strike at bats today. We put the ball in play on 15 of them and only struck out 2 times. When you can do that with the type of speed we have throughout our lineup, we can put some pressure on them.

CCC: Speaking of speed, let’s talk a little bit about Johnny Davis. We’re seeing it both on offense and on defense right now. He’s laying out for stuff in center field and he’s stealing bags for you on the base paths.

ME: Yeah, it’s fun to see him grow up. As far as a baseball player, he’s obviously a special talent when it comes to movement. He can fly and he’s learning the game day by day. There’s so much for him to learn that he doesn’t know, and he’ll tell you that himself. What’s fun about him is his passion to learn and to play and compete and when you have a guy like that’s willing to do those things, he can get better in a hurry and he can make some plays. Like you said, he not only creates some scoring opportunities with his feet on offense, but he also takes away runs on defense.

CCC: Today, we watched him get into the pitcher’s head, kind of shifting back and forth on 2nd. It has got to be outstanding knowing that you have that extra weapon there messing up the pitcher a little bit.

ME: Yeah, and it’s not just him. (Francisco) Castillo can run a little bit, (Chris) McFarland at the top of the lineup, (Omar) Garcia can run a little bit and some of our bigger guys. You know (Clint) Coulter and (David) Denson are looking to take extra bases. So, when it comes to Johnny he’s just, well I haven’t seen anybody quite that fast in a T-Rat uniform and he’s getting some decent swings.

I like his approach at the plate, he’s understanding who he is, not taking really big swings anymore, and if he does, he’s making the adjustment quicker and today he had some nice swings. You know, he brings them in with his short game and then he slaps the ball around hitting a line drive to the hole to left field. If he can do that consistantly, he’s going to be tough to deal with.

CCC: Switching over to the pitching for today, Harvey Martin had two really nice innings to end out the game for you. He had 4 strike outs. You’ve got to be happy with what you saw out there today.

ME: Yeah, he’s going to get more stop gap opportunities. Alvin and I were talking about how we need to get him, he’s got a little experience in this league, and he’s one of the nicest kids you’ll ever meet, but he’s got a little attitude to him when he steps on the mound, and it’s fun, another competitor and you can’t teach that stuff. Some of those things are inside people and he wants to compete, he wants the ball every day and he seems to have the arm to do that.

When you are running tandems and you’ve got developmental stuff, that’s usually not the case, but he’s a guy we’re not afraid to give the ball to in that situation.

CCC: With the off day tomorrow, you guys move on to Burlington starting on Monday, any adjustments you will be looking to make to the lineups heading into that series?

ME: No, not really. I like the lineup we threw out there today, some speed at the top and some of our thumpers in middle and then we have a little speed at the bottom of the lineup. As far as the lineup is conserned, we’ll mix them all in, nobody’s going to rot away on the bench here, everybody’s going to get an opportunity and whoever is performing is going to get a bit more opportunity.

Kevin Kimmes is a regular contributor to creamcitycables.com and a former MLB Fan Cave Top 52 Finalist. You can follow him on Twitter at @kevinkimmes.

Timber Rattlers Pre-Game Notes for 4/5/2014

by Kevin Kimmes
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Heading out to the ballpark this afternoon? Here’s a few notes to make you the smartest guy in your section.

It’s Deja Vu All Over Again: For the 2nd consecutive season Timber Rattlers’ catcher Clint Coulter went yard on Opening Day. Coulter’s homer came in his final at bat of the night during the 9th inning on Thursday night.

A Strong Start: Despite the loss on Thursday night (Peoria won 8-4), Timber Rattlers’ starter Taylor Williams had a solid first outing of the season. In five shoutout innings, Williams struck out seven while only walking one. The 7 strikeouts set a new professional single game record for Williams.

Hazy Shade of Winter: Mother Nature just wouldn’t cooperate on Friday night leading to cancellation of Game 2 of this 4 game homestand. The cancelled game will be made up as part of a double-header scheduled for tomorrow afternoon.

Playing Both Sides: Rattlers’ lead off hitter Omar Garcia showed skills on both sides of the ball on Thursday night recording 3 hits and laying out for an amazing diving catch in the 3rd inning.

Can’t make it out to the game today? You can still catch all the action on 1280 WNAM.

Kevin Kimmes is a regular contributor to creamcitycables.com and a former MLB Fan Cave Top 52 Finalist. You can follow him on Twitter at @kevinkimmes.

Rattled: Peoria Brutalizes Wisconsin on Opening Day Despite Dazzling Effort by Williams

by Kevin Kimmes
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33 degrees. It’s not exactly what most folks would consider to be ideal baseball weather, but when you are playing spring ball in the Midwest League these things can pretty much be expected.

Today is Opening Day for the MiLB (Minor League Baseball for the uninitiated) and in Appleton, WI the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers are facing the Peoria Chiefs to start the season for the 6th time since 1995. While the brave souls in the seats are sparse, I’m told that the club level overhead is packed to near capacity. As I said before, it is 33 degrees at game time.

Most of the players on the Opening Day roster have never faced these kinds of conditions before, a fact that Clint Coulter expounded upon:

“…we have a lot of guys who hadn’t played in anything like this and then also this is their first full season, first time they’ve really played in front of a crowd like we’ve got here.”

The Rattlers manage to strike first blood in the 3rd inning after Rafael Neda singles and is driven home on a triple by Omar Garcia. Garcia, who made a spectacular diving grab in the top half of the inning, brought his A-game with him showing skills on both offense and defense.

Wisconsin starter Taylor Williams was dazzling on the mound for the Rattlers striking out 7 in 5 innings of work. “I just tried to go out there and command my fastball, command my zone, and give the defense behind me a chance to make plays,” Taylor said post game.

“Dominant,” was how Rattlers skipper Matt Erickson described Williams performance. “He was pounding the zone early and obviously he was putting away people too. He gave us a great chance early in that ballgame to win that game.”

However, the tides began to turn when the ball was turned over to Williams’ tandem partner, Tyler Alexander.

In the 6th Alexander would yield a run, tying the game at 1. The Rattlers would take the lead back in the bottom of the inning (2-1), but that lead would be short lived.

The top of the 7th would become what can only be described as a massacre. Alexander would load the bases with only 1 out leading to his removal. His replacement, Chris Razo, would fair no better. By the time the dust cleared the Chiefs had batted around and the Rattlers found themselves on the losing end of a 7-2 score.

Wisconsin would battle back in the bottom of the 7th when a Michael Ratterree triple would be driven home on a sacrifice fly to deep center by Taylor Brennan. It would be the only run for the Rattlers in the inning, it’s relevance erased when the Chiefs would tally yet another run in the top of the 8th bringing the score to 8-3.

A Clint Coulter homerun in the bottom of the 9th would bring the score to 8-4, however it would be all the offense the Rattlers could muster.

The Rattlers return to action Friday night at 6:35 PM for game 2 of this 4 game Opening Week matchup.

Kevin Kimmes is a regular contributor to creamcitycables.com and a former MLB Fan Cave Top 52 Finalist. You can follow him on Twitter at @kevinkimmes.