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Ian Clarkin pitching for the Surprise Saguaros of the AFL (Shaun Kernahan)

Ian Clarkin Gets First AFL Win, Sanchez Homers Again

After not pitching a single inning in 2015 due to injury, Ian Clarkin took to the mound for a second time this week for the Surprise Saguaros. Clarkin threw a heavy dose of all three of his pitches (fastball, change, and curve) but didn’t have the command needed to really put batters away. I was sitting in front of the scouts with radar guns and Camelback Ranch does not have a stadium gun so I am not sure the velocities on his pitches today, but the difference between his fastball and change was apparent by the fact he regularly had hitters off-balance.

MLB.com gives his curve a 60 grade but it was a bit pedestrian on the day. There was good 1-7 shape to the pitch and it had a big hump in it, but the pitch was very easy to read. The arm slot was pretty consistent with the other pitches but, in an attempt to keep on top of the pitch, the wrist position was very much tipping off hitter that the curve was coming. Despite hitters knowing the curve was coming, one of his two strikeouts on the day was on the curve, and it caught Austin Meadows of the Pittsburgh Pirates looking as it dropped perfectly into the top of the zone.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h7KyjEu4z4M&w=560&h=315]

Clarkin showed good balance in his delivery and was able to repeat it well, he just didn’t have the strike out pitch working today as the curve was telegraphed and the command of the fastball and change was just off. Despite the command needing to be smoothed out, his line score does not do his day justice. Of the seven hits he scattered over his four plus innings, three of the hits were infield singles, and two of those very well could have been scored as errors. Of the three runs he gave up, one came in the fourth on a play that should have been the third out of the inning. The other two came in the fifth inning after he was chased from the game by allowing the first two batters of the inning to reach base on a walk followed by a double.

Both runners scored as Chaz Hebert gave up back-to-back RBI singles in relief.  The first single Hebert gave up saw Meadows get thrown out trying to stretch it into a double. Reece McGuire got the second RBI single, but soon found himself on second base after Hebert’s attempted pickoff was a terrible throw that was lucky to stay in the field of play. After the next pitch, Gary Sanchez tried to back pick McGuire at second base, but threw the ball into center field instead. After that, nobody else reached base on Hebert, who retired the next nine batters, three via the strikeout.

Gary Sanchez may have had the one throwing error, but he was the star of the day yet again. Sanchez went 2/5 and drew a walk while driving in four runs on the day. He hit a line drive double off the wall in left center in his second at bat, walked and stole second in his third trip to the plate, and later took the AFL home run lead with his fourth home run of the season.

Dustin Fowler was the other Yankee to get playing time on Saturday, starting in left field and going 1/4 on an infield single and later scored after getting on base via the walk.

The game was never really in doubt, as the Saguaros knocked off the Glendale Desert Dogs 18-3 and the win going to Ian Clarkin. They will be back in action on Monday against the Peoria Javelinas and I will be there with a full report.

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