Cutters beat Staten Island to finish homestand
The baseball was getting lost in the transition from shadow to light. The sun sat on the horizon, just high enough to be blaring into anybody’s eyes on the right-field side of Bowman Field.
Dylan Cozens picked up the baseball quickly though. It was sinking fast as Staten Island’s Mike Ford ran for first base. Cozens, Williamsport’s right fielder, got a better jump on this one than the one he came up short on two innings earlier.
He laid out flat on his stomach, picking the baseball off the grass. In a game Williamsport went on to win 2-0, the diving catch from the 2012 Phillies second-round draft pick was huge as it prevented the Yankees from getting a leadoff hit in the ninth inning Sunday at Bowman Field.
It polished off a strong day for Cozens, who was playing in his second game after being benched for two games earlier in the homestand. He hit a two-run double in the first inning to the warning track in center field to plate both of the Cutters runs as it finished its six-game homestand with a 4-2 record.
Drew Anderson, Felix Santos, Rob Marcello and Keivi Rojas combined on a five-hit shutout, the second shutout of the season for the Crosscutters. Both shutouts have come in games Anderson started, and both came in this homestand.
“Earlier in the day I had a couple balls I came close to catching that I could have dove for and caught, and I said I have to be more aggressive,” Cozens said. “I saw it off the bat real good and I went for it.”
The questions about Cozens in the year since he’s been drafted have been about his offense. His in-game power may be as good as anybody’s in the Phillies’ system, even as a 19-year old. The question has always been about his ability has always come from his defense.
The speed isn’t a question – he’s stolen eight bases this season and 17 in his career. His arm is a prototypical right-field arm, likely the strongest of the five Williamsport outfielders.
He is a work-in-progress defensively, though. He’s still learning to get that good jump off the bat which separates good fielders from great ones. Take the line drive from Brandon Thomas in the seventh inning, which was very similar to the one he caught from Ford in the ninth. His initial step was back and he couldn’t recover in time to make the catch.
In the ninth inning, he broke in right away and had the speed and athleticism, even in a 6-foot-6, 235-pound frame to get to a spot and make a dive for the ball.
“I definitely got a better read on the one in the ninth than the other one. The other one was off the end of the bat and I couldn’t really see it because of the shadows,” Cozens said. “The sun was pretty tough, but the main thing is seeing the ball out of the shadows. It’s just hard to see in the change.”
“He plays good defense. Sometimes he has trouble with his first step,” Cutters manager Nelson Prada said. “He’s going to give you good effort. When he gets a good jump he can cover some ground because he has good speed and he’s a good athlete.”
And then there was the swing in the first inning, the one which drove in a pair of runs – the only runs – for Williamsport. The ball doesn’t jump off of anybody’s bat in the Cutters lineup the way it jumps off of Cozens’ when he puts the barrel on it.
When he got a pitch over the plate from Staten Island left-handed starter Caleb Smith in the first inning, he put the barrel on it and the ball continued to carry toward center field, eventually going over the head of Yankees center fielder Mike O’Neill. Andrew Knapp and Zach Green scored easily as Cozens pulled into second with his 13th double and RBIs 19 and 20.
Cozens improved to .256 against left-handed pitchers this year with the double. Six of his 13 doubles have come against lefties, as has eight of his 20 RBIs.
“He has good at-bats against lefties,” Prada said. “He’s inconsistent, but I think he’s on his way to being really good.”
“I was staying through the middle of the field, especially on an off-speed pitch like that,” Cozens said. “I still see the ball pretty well against lefties. A hit like that against a lefty is a good sign.”
It was more than enough offense for Anderson, who has developed into Williamsport best starting pitcher. He improved his scoreless innings streak to 15 with five shutout innings. In 11 innings pitched in the homestand against Brooklyn and Staten Island, Anderson allowed just four hits.
Anderson picked up his fifth win of the season, tying him for the New York-Penn League lead.
It was a five-inning grind for Anderson who threw fewer than 17 pitches in an inning just once. He struggled to put hitters away with a third of the batters he faced forcing the right-hander to throw at least six pitches in a plate appearance.
But Anderson got outs when he needed them, stranding a runner on second in the fourth inning, and another on third in the fifth inning. He threw 56 of his 84 pitches for strikes, striking out five and walking two.
“That last inning I struggled a bit and got tired, but I got through it and got the outs,” Anderson said. “Just getting through an inning like that is awesome. Have a guy on third and get an out like that? Love it.”
“On a day he is pitching, I feel like it’s a win before the game even starts. It’s a good feeling,” Prada said. “What I like from his is his poise. He never loses his poises. When he’s got a couple guys on and no outs, he never loses his poise, he just keeps making pitches.”
Like in that fateful fifth inning. He didn’t get the call on a borderline pitch in a 2-2 count and eventually walked Kale Sumner to put two runners on with nobody out. But two pitches later he induced a 6-4-3 double play. He then got a routine pop-up to shortstop Jairo Cardozo to end the inning.
It was the ninth consecutive start this year Anderson has gone at least five innings and given up three earned runs or less.
“What impresses me is he always throws quality pitches around the plate,” Prada said. “He doesn’t care if you make an error behind him because he knows he can throw another good pitch to get another ground ball. He has confidence.
“He’s not turning into our most consistent pitcher, he already is our most consistent pitcher.”