|David Parkinson, image- Jay Floyd|
LAKEWOOD, NJ-- It had been roughly four and a half hours since the Lakewood BlueClaws did what they needed to do on Sunday before they found out their first half fate.
With a start time of 5:05 PM for Kannapolis (White Sox affiliate), who were ahead of the BlueClaws in the Class A South Atlantic League North Division standings by .003 percentage points, it would be a few anxious hours, or more, until a trip to the 2018 postseason would be decided.
Greensboro, the Marlins affiliate managed by former Phillies catcher Todd Pratt, completed a three-game sweep in Kannapolis to lock in a first half division title and a playoff spot for the BlueClaws.
Lakewood's star on Sunday was lefty pitcher David Parkinson, the Phils' 12th round draft selection a year ago. The 22-year-old struck out 11, walked none and allowed no runs on just three hits over seven innings of work to notch his sixth win of the season.
The effort for Parkinson placed him in the top spot the league's ERA leader board at 1.07 through 11 starts.
On offense, the team was lead by All-Star third baseman Jake Scheiner, who launched his 8th home run of this season to lead of the 4th inning. The Phillies' 4th round pick from last year would also single later in the contest.
Also at the dish for Lakewood, catcher Rodolfo Duran also slammed a solo homer while All-Star shortstop Nick Maton plated two runs on a pair of RBI ground outs and also walked and singled to complete a very productive day.
The BlueClaws' terrific twosome of relief pitching All-Stars, Kyle Dohy and Addison Russ, each tossed a scoreless frame to preserve the shutout and helping the 'Claws defeat the Hickory Crawdads (Rangers affiliate) 4-0.
The BlueClaws were satisfied with how they finished the first half, but were unable to relax fully and prepare for the All-Star break as their future hung in the balance with the other game.
"It's exciting. All of us wish Kannapolis had played this afternoon. It would make it a lot more fun, but suspense is always good in baseball," closer Addison Russ stated following the BlueClaws' victory.
In the later contest, Kannapolis left nine runners on base including three in the 8th inning, when they began the frame with runners on 1st and 2nd and no outs, but failed to score. At the time, the game that was deadlocked at one run each. In the top of the 9th, Greensboro played small ball, using a walk, a sacrifice bunt and a squeeze play to take the lead and plated another run on a single. Kannapolis went down in order in their half of the inning, losing 3-1, to drop the last of five straight losses to end their first half of the season.
Whether or not the chips fell in Lakewood's favor, the team wouldn't have been completely let down, though if they had faced a similar result to last year, when they ended the first half in a virtual tie with Kannapolis and missed the playoff by percentage points.
"We've had a pretty successful first half and our team has a lot of positives," Scheiner stated. "It's good going into the break knowing we came and won all these games."
Luckily, Greensboro won a few at the end of the half also.
This trip to the postseason is the fifth playoff appearance in BlueClaws history. They won league titles in 2006, 2009 and 2010 and appeared in the finals in 2016. They have won the first half title twice before, in 2009 and 2010.
The shutout on Sunday was Lakewood's 15th of the season. That is the best mark in the league as they have five more than the next closest team, Augusta. The BlueClaws' 2.55 staff ERA is also tops in the Sally League.
Scheiner, Maton, Russ and Dohy will be joined at the Sally League All-Star Game in Greensboro on Tuesday by starting pitchers Ramon Rosso and Will Stewart. The group was on a bus to the airport to fly south for the All-Star exhibition while the Kannapolis game was going.
Infielder Cole Stobbe landed on the disabled list again this weekend. He played in five games this month after missing roughly seven weeks with a hamstring strain. The 20-year-old, who was the Phillies' 3rd round draft pick in 2016, is sidelined after aggravating the same ailment and is not expected to rejoin the team following the All-Star break, according to a source. He is expected to head back to Florida to continue to rehab the injury. In 12 games this season, Stobbe sports a .209 batting average with three doubles, a home run and seven RBI.