AFL Recap: Peoria Wins a Crucial Game to Stay Close in the Playoff Chase

After an off-day yesterday, Peoria got back to their playoff push on Thursday night with just eight games left in the season. They trailed first place by two games going into tonight, though it’s a little more complicated with a second place team between them and first place. Ji-hwan Bae was batting lead-off tonight and playing center field. Nick Gonzales was at second base and batting third. Both of those Pittsburgh Pirates prospects have been in the news recently. On Wednesday morning, they were both named to the Fall-Stars game, which will be televised on MLB Network on Saturday night. On Thursday morning, MLB Pipeline rated the players with the best tools in the Fall-Stars game. Gonzales was named the best hitter and Bae was named as the fastest runner. Here’s a recap from tonight, which includes appearances from relievers Bear Bellomy and Carmen Mlodzinski.

Bae struck out swinging in the first, third, fifth, sixth and ninth innings. He has had just one game with four strikeouts during his three seasons in the minors and he didn’t go down swinging all four times in that game, so this game was not something you should ever expect him to repeat. If it helps, two other players on Peoria struck out in all of their at-bats in this game.

Gonzales singled on a ground ball through the left side in the first inning. He reached on a fielder’s choice in the third. Gonzales grounded out to second base in the fifth, then did the same in the seventh. He reached on an infield single in the ninth, then scored the final run of the game. He finished up 2-for-5 with a run. He’s hitting .382 now, with a 1.041 OPS in 18 games.

Bear Bellomy pitched the seventh inning and threw shutout ball on 12 pitches, with eight going for strikes. He got a ground out to first base on his first pitch. The second pitch was sent for a double. The next batter struck out swinging, then he got out of the inning on a fly ball to left field. He now has a 3.38 ERA in 10.2 innings over seven appearances.

Carmen Mlodzinski (pictured) pitched the ninth inning and made quick work to secure a 4-0 victory. He struck out the first batter swinging on four pitches. The next batter grounded out back to the mound on six pitches. The final out was recorded on another strikeout, this one was also a swinging strikeout on four pitches. He threw 14 pitches, with nine going for strikes. He now has a 6.00 ERA in nine innings.

Here’s the boxscore

Peoria will be on the road against the Salt River Rafters on Friday night at 8:35 PM ET. Salt River is the only stadium with pitch tracking, so if any Pirates pitch in the game (which unfortunately seems extremely unlikely based on their schedule), we will have a more in depth report.