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Pinto's stellar effort wasted

August 28, 2014 - Mitch Rupert
Clearly Ricardo Pinto's change-up is good enough for him to be successful pitching in the New York-Penn League. Better than nine strikeouts per nine innings for the season are sufficient evidence enough.

But after his State College team struggled against the Williamsport right-hander in Thursday night's 1-0 win over the Crosscutters, Spikes manager Oliver Marmol took his praise of Pinto's change-up a step further.

“Even a couple levels above us, he's going to be OK with that change-up,” the second-year manager of the Pinckney Division champions said.

For the third consecutive start last night, Pinto allowed just one run. For the second consecutive start, he was the loser in the box score.

In his final start of the season until fall instructional league, the 20-year old Venezuelan pitched a season-high seven innings and matched his season-high with nine strikeouts. It wasn't enough, though, as State College scored one run on a Brian O'Keefe fifth-inning home run.

It was another wasted start for Pinto, though. He's allowed two or fewer earned runs in eight of his nine starts this year. in only one of those games was Pinto the winning pitcher.

Four State College pitchers combined on a four-hit shutout last night at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park, the second consecutive night the Spikes shut out the Crosscutters. It was the 12th time in 72 games this year the Cutters have been shut out, and the fifth time in the last seven games.

“You can't ask for better pitching performances than what (Pinto) gives you every time out,” Cutters manager Shawn Williams said. “He has been outstanding all year. And this is how he's pitched all year.”

Pinto finishes his first year pitching in the United States with a 2.11 ERA, which would be good enough for third-best in the New York-Penn League, but he doesn't have enough innings pitched to qualify as a league leader after missing a month of the season with an elbow issue.

He's vaulted his name into the conversation of one of the most intriguing Phillies' prospects in a pitching-starved organization. And he's done it primarily as a two-pitch pitcher with a fastball which sits at 90-92 mph, but will touch 95, and a yo-yo of a change-up which is as deadly as any breaking ball in the league.

Last night he used to the two to allow just three hits over seven innings against the Spikes, holders of the second-best record in the league. Of his nine strikeouts, seven came on that dead fish of a change-up. The other two were fastballs on the inner half.

But it's those two pitches which work hand in hand for Pinto. The fastball in sets up the change-up away. And out of his hand, they look exactly the same up until the change-up dies in front of the plate.

“He located the change-up and he threw it in any count,” Marmol said. “The lefties had a tough time against him, but everybody had a tough time against him.”

“He's getting called strikes on fastballs in and it opens everything up,” Williams said. “He has that outstanding fastball and then that change-up and it's tough to hit. It's awesome to watch.”

His only mistake came on a 1-0 fastball to O'Keefe in the fifth which caught too much of the plate. O'Keefe drove the ball out to right field just to the right of the 375-foot mark. It was his third home run of the season, and the Spikes' first hit of the night.

But it was enough to beat a struggling Williamsport offense which hasn't backed Pinto in many of his nine starts this year. The Cutters have scored just 12 runs in the 47 innings Pinto has pitched.

Last night was the fifth time in his nine starts in which the Cutters' offense has failed to score a run while Pinto is on the mound. They've scored an average of just 2.3 runs per game in Pinto's nine starts, which is a big part of the reason Pinto will finish the season with a 1-5 record.

The Cutters' best opportunity to score came in the first inning with back-to-back one-out singles by Jiandido Tromp and Derek Campbell. But Rhys Hoskins grounded into a pretty 5-4-3 double play on the final pitch of a six-pitch battle with Spikes starter Daniel Poncedeleon.

Jose Pujols reached second base with no outs in the fifth inning, but he was the last Williamsport batter to reach base. The four State College pitchers combined to strike out 12, and Kyle Grana picked up his eighth save by striking out the only two batters he faced in the ninth inning.

“All I ask for is good at-bats. In general, we had really good at-bats tonight,” Williams said. “Hoskins had a really good at-bat, but they turned a really good double play. A step here or there and we're up 1-0 in that spot. You'd love to see the results and more runs, but more importantly you see the fight in these guys every night.”


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