Comforts of home
With a shrug of his shoulders, Mitch Gueller downed another handful of trail mix in the Williamsport clubhouse following Sunday’s 2-0 win over Aberdeen. He could rant and rave about how the rain cost him more innings in maybe his best start of the season, but why?
Instead, the shrug of the shoulders said everything. It’s hard to be disappointed in a night where he didn’t allow a run and surrendered only three hits. Even if a passing downpour did cost him the opportunity to go deeper into Sunday’s game, he could walk out of Bowman Field happy with another stellar start which led to the Crosscutters’ second consecutive win.
“The rain kind of sucks, but at the same time, it’s another inning another guy can go in and throw, and we still got the win,” Gueller said. “I can’t complain.”
The stellar start is nothing new for Gueller, especially not at Bowman Field. The 20-year old right-hander is finding new ways each time out to dominate his opponents. Sunday, it was controlling Aberdeen’s offense with a fastball. And pretty much just a fastball.
It led to five shutout innings for the former supplemental first-round pick. It was the third scoreless start for Gueller this year, and not coincidentally, they’ve all come in the friendly confines of Bowman Field.
Gueller hasn’t allowed more than one earned run in any of his six starts at home this summer. In Gueller’s six home starts this year, he has an ERA of 0.82 and is 4-0. It’s a stark contrast to his three road starts where he’s sporting an ERA over eight and has a 1-2 record.
“I have a routine here that’s working pretty well, and I like that,” Gueller said. “The one on the road is different and I have to adjust to it. But more than anything, it’s me and I need to be more prepared on the road.”
A year after setting the Crosscutters’ single-season record for losses with eight, Gueller is on his way to an All-Star caliber season with a 4-2 record and a 2.93 ERA after Sunday’s scoreless start. He earned his fifth win Sunday, which is second-best in the New York-Penn League, by being effective and efficient with the fastball.
After throwing 19 pitches in the first inning, he didn’t throw more than 10 in his final four innings. Seven of the 15 outs he recorded before the skies opened up, dousing Bowman Field in a quick summer downpour, came on either the first or second pitch of the at-bat.
Often times, Gueller wasn’t getting deep enough into counts to have to go to a slider which has become a swing-and-miss pitch. He didn’t even have to spend much time fiddling with a change-up which has been hit or miss for all nine starts. Three of his four strikeouts yesterday came on that fastball.
Cutters manager Shawn Williams and pitching coach Aaron Fultz were initially planning to send Gueller out for the sixth inning following the 42-minute rain delay. But as the delay pushed closer to an hour, they decided to end Gueller’s outing and go to the bullpen.
“That was probably the best fastball he’s had. He was outstanding,” Williams said. “The whole year he’s done a great job of pitching. At times when he doesn’t have his best stuff, he’ll throw five or six innings just changing speeds and throwing backwards. Tonight he just pitched with his fastball and located it very well. There was more life on it and he threw it well.”
“Any pitcher would say if they’re getting early contact and it’s not hard hit, then stick with it until you have to make a change,” Gueller said. “The thought process was later in the game if I got six or seven, I can work with the off-speed stuff, then it’s almost like a new pitch to the hitters.”
Jiandido Tromp provided enough offense for Gueller, Jesen Therrien and Calvin Rayburn (sixth save in seven chances) to close out the game when he hit his 11th home run of the season to lead off the fourth inning. It was the second consecutive game in which Tromp homered. And all 11 of his home runs have come at Bowman Field.
But this wasn’t the majestic, towering drive which the 20-year old has become known for. He took a change-up over the middle of the plate, hit it off the end of the bat and muscled it over the left-center field fence, just to the right of the new Susquehanna Bank Park sign.
Tromp moved to within two home runs of the Cutters franchise record of 13 held by both Zach Green and Walter Young.
“I just feel confident here hitting,” said Tromp, who is hitting .297 at home and .227 on the road. “I feel really good. I just try to hit line drives and that one disappeared. I’m just going to keep playing hard, keep swinging, and hopefully I will break the record.”
The Cutters added an insurance run in the seventh inning when Wilson Garcia doubled with two outs and Derek Campbell followed with a single to left field which he served over the shortstop’s head. It handed a 2-0 lead over to Rayburn who worked around a two-out single in the eighth, and then induced three groundballs to shortstop in the ninth to close out the win.
“It’s a good win today,” Williams said. “I think winning is a part of development, and I think winning helps development. You get these couple wins and next thing you know it’s a positive atmosphere and guys are relaxed and they’re able to enjoy playing.”