Bridgewater, New Jersey – Time flies when you’re having fun – just 12 games remain on the Somerset regular season slate as they enter their final homestand and it could very well be a preview of things to come. The first-half Southwest Division champions, the Erie SeaWolves (33-24), return to
Bridgewater, New Jersey – Time flies when you’re having fun – just 12 games remain on the Somerset regular season slate as they enter their final homestand and it could very well be a preview of things to come. The first-half Southwest Division champions, the Erie SeaWolves (33-24), return to TD Bank Ballpark this week for the first time in nearly a year since Somerset no-hit them and popped champagne at their expense in a 15-0 route in the Eastern League Championship clincher last September.
Much like Somerset (34-23), Erie also holds a narrow advantage at the top of their respective second-half division standings despite already having a ticket to the dance in the coming weeks. As things stand for playoff positioning right now, Binghamton has opened a comfortable five game cushion over third place Portland and trail Somerset by just one game for the outright Northeast Division lead. Meanwhile, Erie holds a one game lead over second place Richmond with third place Bowie lingering just two games behind the Flying Squirrels.
Somerset returns home from a successful road trip to Portland in which they took four of six from the Sea Dogs. The Patriots stand at 76-49 overall, the best record of any Double-A affiliate in all of minor league baseball. At 39-24, the Patriots are tied for the best home record in Double-A with six games left to play in their home digs before wrapping up the regular season slate on the road next week in New Hampshire.
Yankees top-prospect Spencer Jones is going to play his first full home series this week after earning the call-up to Double-A in the series finale of the teams last homestand against Hartford on August 27. The 2022 first-round draft selection out of Vanderbilt has gone 3-for-22 with a homer and five RBI in six games of action since his call-up.
The Somerset pitching staff continues to be the key cog in their Eastern League dominance, and it feels as though some of their key arms are locked in heading into the postseason – their 3.59 team ERA is the second-best mark in all of minor league baseball. Right-hander Matt Sauer tossed a season-high 6.2 innings against Portland on Friday, allowing just one earned run while striking out 11 – then 54th overall pick in the 2017 draft has now gone back-to-back starts of at least six innings and allowing just a run on three hits.
Right-hander Drew Thorpe is also in a groove that has seemingly lasted all season. Since entering the EL on August 11, Thorpe leads the league with 39 K and a 0.65 WHIP while his 26.1 innings of work and .133 batting average against rank second. Richard Fitts has been a model of consistency and a workhorse for Somerset in his first season at Double-A. His 3.40 ERA, 1.12 WHIP and 135 strikeouts are all an Eastern League best entering his start tonight in the series opener.
Offensively, Caleb Durbin has picked up offensively right where he left off before landing on the IL with an ankle injury back in mid-June. The versatile infielder went 8-for-22 in Portland last week. Meanwhile, catcher Ben Rice continues to be unworldly since landing at Double-A in late July. The backstop went 8-for-27 on the road trip which was highlighted by a 4-for-6 performance on Wednesday in which he blasted two homers and drove home five runs. His 14 homers, 41 RBI, .660 Slugging % and 1.038 OPS are all the best in the EL since his promotion.
Erie comes to town after taking four-of-six at home from Altoona last week. This is just the second meeting between the two clubs this season, in their only other previous matchup, which was in the last week of May, the SeaWolves won four-of-six and outscored Somerset 44-22. Both teams have obviously changed a great deal in the three-plus months since that meeting, but their winning ways have continued. Tigers fourth ranked prospect on MLB Pipeline, Jace Jung, was the 12th overall pick last summer and now calls Erie home after a promotion from High-A on July 25. The infielder from Texas Tech has very much looked the part of a franchise cornerstone since the call-up – he’s slashed .285/.376/.511 with eight homers and 25 RBI in 36 games.
On the bump, right-hander Ty Madden is the Tigers sixth ranked prospect and the 23-year-old, who was the 32nd overall pick in the 2021 draft, has been strong in his first full-season at Double-A after getting a seven-start cup of coffee with Erie last summer. The University of Texas product has made 24 starts for Erie and has fanned 133 batters (3rd in EL) in just 108 innings of work (10th in EL). Madden’s 3.67 ERA is good for third best in the league while his .240 batting average against ranks sixth.
Highlighting the Erie rotation behind Madden is 24-year-old righty Brant Hunter. The Tigers 12th ranked prospect. Hunter’s 3.55 ERA ranks second in the EL just ahead of Madden and behind Fitts for the best mark. Like Madden, Hunter has spent the whole season with Erie and has been a horse, tied for second in the league with 24 starts. His 125 punchouts rank sixth overall in the EL.
Series Probable Pitching Matchups:
Tue: LHP Bryan Sammons (2-1, 3.24 ERA) vs. RHP Richard Fitts (9-5, 3.40 ERA)
Wed: LHP Brant Hurter (6-7, 3.55 ERA) vs. RHP Drew Thorpe (4-0, 1.37 ERA)
Thu: TBD vs. RHP Matt Sauer (4-3, 3.68 ERA)
Fri: RHP Ty Madden (3-4, 3.67 ERA) vs. RHP Blane Abeyta (8-7, 5.71 ERA)
Sat: LHP Adam Wolf (3-4, 3.44 ERA) vs. RHP Yoendrys Gomez (0-3, 3.47 ERA)
Sun: TBD vs. RHP Richard Fitts (9-5, 3.40 ERA)
Matt Kardos | SomersetPatriots.com Beat Writer
Matt Kardos has covered the Yankees minor league system for over a decade and will spend his 11th season on the beat covering the Patriots for SomersetPatriots.com. Throughout his career, Matt has contributed to MLB.com, YES Network and Pinstriped Prospects. When he’s not at the ballpark, Matt enjoys traveling with his wife Kimberly, watching Jets football and collecting sports cards.