December 7, 2019

Fox’s 3 Consecutive Walk-Offs May Be a First, But Albers’ Brilliant Debut Shares Top Billing

August 8, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

It does not happen this way often when two ultra-heroic events divide attention about deadline time.  When it does, one deals.

Jake Fox made the first bid for attention when the Somerset, NJ (Atlantic League) designated hitter collected walk-off hits in three consecutive games.  We do not know if it has ever been done before, most likely not in Independent Baseball and perhaps not elsewhere in this game known for dramatic moments.

Not much could top such a feat, but former Can-Am League (Quebec, 2010) closer-turned-major league starter Andrew Albers made at least as much of a statement when he became the first Saskatchewan native in 22 years to appear in a major league game, doing so in dazzling fashion.  The southpaw came within two outs of becoming the first pitcher to debut at baseball’s top level with a complete-game shutout in 11 years since another eventual Independent hurler, Andy Van Hekken (Somerset, NJ, Atlantic League), turned the trick for Detroit in what turned out to be his only major league victory.

Albers’s gem was special in so many ways, including that the 8.1 innings represented the longest outing by a Minnesota hurler this season, no one from the surging Kansas City Royals (14 wins in 17 games at the time) reached second base until the last of his 109 pitches, all thrown out of the stretch, and 15 hitters in a row were retired at one juncture.  The 27-year-old’s line for the 7-0 victory:  Four hits (all singles), one walk, two strikeouts and some very agitated Royals hitters.

“They were cursing a lot,” catcher Chris Herrmann told The Minneapolis Star-Tribune.  “They were getting mad.  I was smiling back there.  I was laughing, just watching the way they were getting so frustrated.”

 The irritation with Albers came largely from the fact his top pitches were timed at 89 miles per hour, far from the mid to upper 90s speed many others throw when they are on their game.

 Chris Colabello, whose journey to become a major league rookie this season also came via the Can-Am League, offered insight on Albers, a teammate in the minor leagues the last two seasons via The St. Paul Pioneer Press:  “I told Pelf (right-hander Mike Pelfrey) ‘he’s (Albers) going to give guys some of the most uncomfortable 0 for 4s, and they’re going to go back to the dugout shaking their head not knowing how or why.'”

I caught up with Albers, who had won 11 games (11-5, 2.86) at Triple-A Rochester, NY before getting the major league call, aboard the Twins’ bus to Kauffman Stadium the afternoon after his heroics, and at a time when many a player might ignore his cell phone.  “I slept easier than the night before,” the onetime University of Kentucky pitcher admitted, who had his parents and two sisters plus other friends on hand for his debut and had waded through a great many texts and phone calls which he called “all pretty special.”

Quebec Manager Pat Scalabrini, one of those who had already congratulated Albers by the time I connected with him, leaves little doubt how he feels about the 6-foot-1 hurler who was coming off Tommy John (elbow) surgery when he joined the Capitales three seasons ago and proceeded to save 17 regular-season games in 40 appearances, and help the team to the third of their five consecutive Can-Am titles.

“Andrew Albers is such a classy guy,” Scalabrini started.  “I haven’t seen such a competitor”, calling him “our go-to guy in the playoffs”, even wanting the ball in non-essential outings because the rest of the bullpen was not at its best.

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Fox’s Triple Walk-Off Feat Awesome, But a Record?  No One Seems Certain

Jake Fox’s explosive bat has been a major reason the Somerset (NJ) Patriots remain in the hunt for their sixth Atlantic League championship, but the designated hitter may have outdone his other exploits recently when he collected walk-off hits in three consecutive games.  He certainly sent researchers off on a hunt to see if it had ever been done before in Independent Baseball or elsewhere in the professional game.  The answer is still open-ended.

As for Jake Fox’s work, we know definitively he leads the Atlantic League with 24 homers and 81 runs batted in while hitting .312, and the August 2-4 feat against Southern Maryland (Waldorf) was accomplished with a ninth inning single, an 11th inning single and, finally, an 11th inning solo home run.

Nationals’ Roark Ninth Indy Grad to Debut This Season

When Tanner Roark stepped onto the pitcher’s mound for two scoreless innings (one hit) to preserve a 3-3 tie for the Washington Nationals against those sizzling Atlanta Braves Wednesday he became the ninth former Independent Baseball player to make his major league debut this season, equaling the total two years ago which is the high-water mark since the Insider started charting such things in ’08.

The Illinois native told The Washington Post “as long as I’m up on the mound and can compete and get to pitch” it did not matter whether he was used as a starter or reliever.

By BOB DUTTON The Kansas City Star

              (This is an excerpt from the column Bob Wirz writes year round on Independent Baseball.  Forty columns are planned during 2013.  Fans may subscribe at reduced rates at www.WirzandAssociates.com, enjoy added stories on the blog www.IndyBaseballChatter.com, or comment to RWirz@aol.com.  The author has 16 years of major league baseball public relations experience with Kansas City and as spokesman for two Commissioners and lives in Stratford, CT.)

 

 

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