By Ken Jackson
The Florida Fire Frogs embark on a week’s worth of home games beginning Monday, with a chance to climb toward the lead in the Florida State League’s Northern Division’s second-half standings.
After a poor start, the Fire Frogs briefly reached .500 midway through this past week. While the Atlanta Braves’ high Class-A affiliate is tied for last place in the division at 14-14, they’re only six games back of current leader Dunedin in the north, and would be just two games out of first if they played in the South.
The home stand begins Monday at 6:31 p.m. with a three-game series against the Charlotte Stone Crabs (Tampa Bay Rays affiliate); Wednesday’s game is a special 11 a.m. matinee for kids’ day camps, and adults who want to play hooky from weekday life.
The Bradenton Marauders (Pittsburgh Pirates) come in from Thursday through Sunday. Free Beer Thursday (gratis PBR from first pitch until the opposition scores, with specials after that), Latin Friday Night (special “Los Coquis” jerseys and live latin music) and Brunch and Baseball Sunday (11 a.m. start, bottomless mimosas and Bloody Marys until noon) are staples, and Saturday is the Fire Frogs’ Hurricane Prep Party, to raise fans’ awareness of the storm season.
Here’s highlights of last week’s series in Dunedin against the Blue Jays:
Monday: Blue Jays 5, Fire Frogs 2 — Florida falls in the “long ball” game of the week. Isranel Wilson, who came up from Rome in the South Atlantic League over the July 4th holiday, cracked a two-run home run, but it wasn’t enough to counter Dunedin’s three homers in the game.
Tuesday: Blue Jays 4, Fire Frogs 0 — Florida was mostly stymied by pitcher Zach Logue (seven innings, two hits), but center fielder and leadoff hitter Christian Pache had an infield single to extend a hitting streak to nine games and an on-base streak to 12. Relievers Thomas Burrows and Justin Kelly combined for three innings of one-hit relief.
Wednesday: Fire Frogs 9, Blue Jays 3 — Pache made those streaks 10 and 13 as Florida broke out and ended a six-game losing streak to Dunedin. Braxton Davidson had three hits, including a double and a three-run homer, extending his team lead to 14 long balls (third on the team) this season. Catcher and FSL All-Star Brett Cumberland also took Juliandry Higuera deep.
Thursday: Fire Frogs 7, Clearwater Threshers 5 — A night after driving in two runs, Jared James went 2-for-3, walked twice, scored twice and swatted a two-run homer in carrying the offense to the win.
Pache continues to lead the Fire Frogs in hitting (.289 average) and doubles (17, with Davidson) and is tied for the FSL lead with 99 hits. On the mound, lefthander Joey Wentz, who missed starts earlier in the season with injuries, has rebounded in a big way, carrying a 2.03 ERA through 62 innings and has surrendered two earned runs in his last 33 1/3 innings. Despite his 2-5 record, Ian Anderson has a 2.85 ERA and leads the league with 102 strikeouts in 82 innings.