SIOUX CITY | This time last year, Kyle Ruwe was sitting at home in Sunrise, Fla., wearing out his cell phone in search of a pitching job.
After losing to the 30-year-old veteran for the second time in the season’s first nine days, the Sioux City Explorers wish Ruwe was still on the phone.
“When you’re a veteran in this league (six or more full seasons of professional experience), it’s tough to find a job,’’ said Ruwe, now responsible for half the losses on Sioux City’s 4-4 record after helping the Sioux Falls Canaries win a 7-2 series opener Friday night at Lewis and Clark Park.
In a league that just this year has raised its roster limit on veterans from four to five, the crafty righthander finally got picked up late in July last season, making nine starts for the St. Paul Saints and putting up a solid 4-2 record with a 2.69 earned run average.
“I’m glad I was able to get those appearances last year because it helped me get a job this year (with Sioux Falls),’’ said Ruwe, who managed seven strikeouts without the benefit of a bona fide fastball, mixing up a three-pitch repertoire of sinker, slider and change-up.
Even though the X’s reached him for 11 hits, he worked around them in an eight-inning stint, surrendering just two runs, thanks to one clutch out after another.
“That’s a good-hitting team,’’ said Ruwe. “It’s just a matter of time before those guys catch up with me. The big game-changer was when they had the bases loaded. They were one hit away right there from doing some damage.’’
That was the third inning, when three hits and a walk let the Explorers plate the game’s first run and fill the sacks for impressive rookie outfielder Sam Judah.
“He smoked the ball right at their guy,’’ sighed X’s Manager Stan Cliburn, recalling Judah’s inning-ending line-out to left field.
The Canaries, meanwhile, did all of their damage in the fourth and seventh innings, a pair of rallies that were fortified by all six walks surrendered by Sioux City pitchers.
Rookie righthander Andy Noga, making his second start, walked three batters in a four-run fourth inning that featured a two-run homer by the Sioux Falls first baseman Jared Clark.
Then, in the seventh, reliever Yunier Colon issued three more free passes, two of which forced home runs after Nick Van Stratten led off the inning with another round-tripper for the guests.
“I’m never afraid to give up hits,’’ said Ruwe. “I really try not to walk people and I live and die by the double play.’’
Third baseman Bryan Pounds had three hits for the Explorers while Brian Bistagne, Eliezier Mesa and Judah each chipped in a pair.
“We hit the ball hard tonight, but we got a little overanxious on Ruwe,’’ said Cliburn. “I’ll bet five of our strikeouts we swung at balls in the dirt with two strikes.’’
Noga, who led NCAA Division II in fewest walks per nine innings two years ago, surrendering just five bases on balls in his final collegiate season at East Stroudsburg (Pa.) State, was certainly out of character with his three fourth-inning walks. However, he was also tagged for an RBI double by J.P. Ramirez and the homer by Clark, who has had two 24-homer seasons in his minor league career.
“His release point got low,’’ said Cliburn. “Ty (Marotz, X’s pitching coach) got his arm slot back up where it was before and I was glad to see him get to 90 pitches (he totaled 96).’’
Noga, rebounding from the tough fourth frame, worked a 1-2-3 fifth and got two outs before back-to-back singles in the sixth marked the end of his evening.
Colon took over and got an inning-ending popout, but the 28-year-old Cuban import retired only one of the seven batters he faced in the seventh, helping Sioux Falls break the game open with an effort capped off by three consecutive walks.
Article provided by Terry Hersom, Sioux City Journal
The X's and Canaries will play game two of the three game series tonight at Lewis & Clark Park with the first pitch set for 7:05 PM and its Happy Hour on the bullpen BBQ deck with $1 domestic draft beer and $1 Pepsi softdrinks from 6:00 PM until the first pitch. It's also TEAM POSTER GIVEAWAY to the first 500 fans in attendance. Reserve your nine innings of vacation by getting your tickets at the Lewis & Clark Park box office or by calling 277-WINS (9467).