The Minnesota Twins lead all of baseball with 106 home runs this season, relying heavily on the longball to power the league’s highest scoring offense.
Tonight, their Double-A affiliate took a page out of their play book.
The Blue Wahoos launched five home runs into Tuesday’s thick, humid air during a season-high home run show in a 7-0 victory against the Mississippi Braves to start an extended homestand at Blue Wahoos Stadium.
There was plenty of entertainment at the ballpark Tuesday on the Summer Kickoff and Out of School Fireworks Night game theme.
No team in nine years had hit five home runs against the M-Braves, the Atlanta Braves affiliate, which has been an organization full of talented arms. The last time it happened was April 10, 2010.
“Home runs definitely come and go. They are contagious, I can tell you that,” said Blue Wahoos catcher Caleb Hamilton, whose two-run blast in the second inning became all the offense needed. He finished 2-for-4 while catching the Blue Wahoos tenth shutout win this season.”Other than the one Travis (Blankenhorn) hit Sunday, we haven’t hit a bunch recently, so it was nice to kinda explode out.”
No team in all levels of baseball has thrown more shutout wins than the Blue Wahoos. Tonight’s shutout came after a week of roster moves that left the Blue Wahoos without four of the five starting pitchers that comprised their rotation just a week ago.
Another former Wahoos starting pitcher, Devin Smeltzer, wowed Tuesday in his major league debut with the Minnesota Twins, throwing six scoreless innings in the Twins eventual 5-3 win against the Milwaukee Brewers.
“I am so happy for him,” said Hamilton. “I love that kid to death.”
Four Pensacola pitchers combined Tuesday to rack up 15 strikeouts against the M-Braves, led by new starter Bryan Sammons, who had eight in four innings of work.
Sammons, 23, a left-hander elevated Monday from the Fort Myers Miracle, the Twins’ Advance-A affiliate, struck out the side in the first and second innings – mixed around three walks – but his pitch count (80) for innings prevented a longer night.
“It is always fun when you get moved up and make that first start for a new team,” said Sammons, a Western Carolina University grad and eighth round pick by the Twins in 2017. He pitched one game last year in Double-A for then affiliate Chattanooga.
“I didn’t necessarily have the control I wanted, but overall I will take the outing and look forward to improving from here on out,” said Sammons. It was probably a little extra jitters, but after the first batter you get back to playing baseball again. I felt I was pitching better as the game went on.”
Like the Twins have done this season, the Blue Wahoos on Tuesday displayed a diverse power show.
Outfielder Jimmy Kerrigan returned from being sidelined a month to hit a homer, his third this season. Alex Kirilloff, a top-10 overall prospect in the game, blasted his first Double-A homer in the eighth inning, following a first-inning double.
“Kirilloff had his first one, Jordan had his first one, Jimmy hit one. That was very good to see,” said Blue Wahoos manager Ramon Borrego.
The win pushed the Blue Wahoos’ league-best record to 31-20 and kept two-games ahead of surging Biloxi, the Brewers’ affiliate, in the Southern League South Division, setting up a two-team race for the first half, division title between the Gulf Coast rivals.
After allowing 31 runs against the Tennessee Smokies, the Blue Wahoos staff settled back into a season-long groove Tuesday. Relievers Adam Bray, Tom Hackimer, and Sam Clay followed Sammons with a combined five innings, allowing just one hit, no walks and getting seven strikeouts.
“It’s great to see Sammons in his debut,” Borrego said. “He gave us a solid outing. He ran a little bit out of gas because of the pitches he threw, but he was able to battle through four innings.”
The Wahoos and M-Braves will square off again tomorrow night at 6:35 PM in game two of Pensacola’s 10 game home stand.
*** This report was provided by Bill Vilona and Daniel Venn of the Pensacola Blue Wahoos