WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — It’s late June in North Carolina, the solstice, actually, and baseball is being played. It’s warm and the air is soft. It’s been rainy for weeks, but tonight, the weather is perfect, and a summer night is being passed in just the way a summer night is supposed to be. Red dirt, green grass, 10 guys on the field; it’s a scene that plays out dozens of times a day in this state, countless times every season. This is a transcendental moment, one that’s always present somewhere, and even when it’s over it never really ends. This has been going on for decades. This game spans generations. It’s a window to everywhere baseball has ever been played, or ever will, at any level.
Konnor Pilkington gave up three runs on eight hits over four innings, taking 80 pitches to do so, and while it’s a disappointing outcome for him for the day, he’ll be back out again next week. Summer ball is so huge that it swallows up down days like this. The season is a grind, and everyone involved down here is very young, and the potential is technically infinite even if seldom realized. Pilkington himself is just 21 years old, alternately struggling and dominating in his first full season of professional baseball. The 2018 third-rounder’s best start came on May 19, when he threw six innings, gave up three hits, and struck out 12; he gave up six runs in his next start, and three combined in the next two. This is a kid trying to figure it out and not doing an awful job in doing so.
Pilkington allowed the first four batters to reach base in the first inning, starting with a first-pitch triple, then two walks, then a two-run single. He allowed baserunners in all four of his innings: in the second, it was a single and a double; the third was a single, run-scoring double, and second single; in the fourth, just a double. In a game of silver linings, Pilkington stranded six runners on base and the damage could have been much worse. It can be frustrating when high-round prospects scuffle, especially at the lower levels, but he has 19 total starts in the minors. He’s still getting his feet wet in the world of pro sports, and throwing hittable pitches and giving up 10 baserunners in four innings is part of that process.
Everyone not named Steele Walker had a pretty quiet day at the plate. Like yesterday, they squandered some ripe men-on-base situations. In the sixth, they had the bases loaded twice with one out, and scored all three of their runs there. It doesn’t sound like your classic squandering, but granularly, here’s how the inning went: Mitch Roman doubles and is thrown out at third to start it off. Walker singles, his third hit of the day. Jameson Fisher walks. Zach Remillard walks, loading the bases with one out. While Craig Dedelow is batting, there’s a wild pitch that scores Walker. Dedelow walks to re-load the bases with one out. JJ Muno walks, forcing in a run. Yeyson Yrizarri pops out, another wild pitch allows Remillard to score, and Evan Skoug pops out to end the threat. That’s an offense generated by the defense, not bats overpowering a pitcher.
— Julie Brady (@DestroyBaseball) June 22, 2019
The seventh inning was a similar story — Frost walked to lead things off and advanced to second on a Roman ground ball. Walker hit an infield single, advancing no one but putting himself on first. A Fisher sacrifice advanced Frost to third. Remillard walked to load the bases with two outs, but Dedelow popped up to end the threat, stranding three. Overall, Walker tallied four hits, Roman one, and Skoug one.
Jake Elliott, who was last seen in Winston starting a short game and going three scoreless, gave up three runs over his two innings of relief, including an absolute bomb by 2016 first-round-pick Will Benson (his 19th of the year). Andrew Perez made his Dash debut and pitched around a hit and a walk for a scoreless seventh, then around another hit for a scoreless eighth (a double play in each inning helped). Jose Nin had an exciting ninth — Yrizarri and Remillard let a pop-up fall between them but were able to tag the runner out at second, like it never happened at all.
Next year — honestly, probably later this year — nobody will remember that Konnor Pilkington struggled through four innings on June 21, 2019. Nobody will remember Evan Skoug’s bullet throw to first and Jameson Fisher’s tag to pick off a runner. Nobody will remember that Yeyson Yrizarri made a hard stop in this game at third and flung the ball across the infield at 200 mph. Baseball stretches on, a yawning, infinite chasm spanning hours and days and years. Today’s game is over and these three and a half hours will be gone, assigned to irrelevancy, like tears in a rain delay (sorry, Roy). But we were here, and we saw it.
Zach Lewis will try to put the Dash back in the win column on Saturday at 6 pm.
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