Monday, July 9, 2018

Crabs Eat Gumbo from Walnut Creek

Posted By on Mon, Jul 9, 2018 at 7:44 PM

click to enlarge Santiago Cantu and Kenton Carruthers stunting before the game - MATT FILAR
  • Matt Filar
  • Santiago Cantu and Kenton Carruthers stunting before the game

If any time during the Crabs short 49-game season can be called the Dog Days, it is now. On the heels of Independence Day, with Oyster Fest and Father’s Day far off in the rear-view mirror, Crabs players and fans alike need to dig deep and show their mettle. This past series against the Walnut Creek Crawdads showed some fan fatigue and great resilience by the players.

It sometimes feels like I’m writing the same piece over and over again. The Crawdads, like the California Expos and B-52s before them, were a solid defensive team, who put the ball in play well but to little effect and were betrayed by some poor late-game pitching, and so fell to our exoskeletal pals.

The Crabs have six players batting over .300; the team average is .284. That’s exceptional, and all-but-impossible to keep up with over nine innings. Particularly when they draw just over six walks a game.

On the other side of the ball, the Crabs have six pitchers sporting an ERA under 2, and as a unit have struck out 271 batters (that’s an average of 10 a game). They make less than one error a game on average (26 total) and have nearly as many double plays (23).

That’s a withering combination of offense and defense that has seen them outscore opponents 203-87 on the season and boast a 21-6 record with no signs of slowing down (the Crabs are on an 11-game winning streak).

Game One, July 6
The Crawdads scuttled into town Friday for a three-game weekender. Whenever our Crabs play another animal-themed team, I like to imagine who would win in a fight. Crab vs. Mudcat (either a catfish or an especially filthy feline) is a good fight. Crab vs. Bear isn’t so much. This rarely has any bearing on the outcome of the series, but this time it did. A crab would destroy a crawdad claw-to-claw, and our boys fully routed the freshwater lobsters from Walnut Creek.

Bronson Grubbs led off the third inning with a single and stole second, and McCarthy Tatum followed suit two batters later, scoring Grubbs. With two outs and Tatum on first, Connor Blair roped the first pitch he saw into deep right field and tore around the base path for an RBI triple. Blair would score on an error before Wesley Ghan-Gibson flied out to end the inning. Three runs would prove all that was necessary, but the Crabs are not a team prone to clemency.

Props to the Crawdads, who took it on the chin and stayed up and punching, scoring two runs of their own in the top of the fourth through a procession of singles. Unfortunately, it was all they could muster while the Crabs tacked on two of their own in the sixth and one final run in the seventh for a final score of 6-2 Crabs.

Game Two, July 7
If I told you that the Crawdads had 11 hits, while the Crabs had more runs than hits, who would you guess which team won the game? Would you ever, in a million years, guess that the Crabs won 18-2?

Well, they did. They scored 18 runs on 16 hits.

The Crabs managed seven runs before the Crawdads got on the board, scoring twice in the seventh inning. A quick bottom half and it looked like the Crabs were content to stand pat and ride the game out.

Much of the already sparse and listless crowd dispersed after pitcher Jack Enger sat down three Crawdads in a row, and I couldn’t blame them frankly. Crabs were up, the sun was going down and Plaza Grill was closing soon. But the Crabs didn’t stand pat. Instead, they launched in to a 35-minute half during which they scored 11 runs and nearly batted through the order twice.

This switched on the hecklers, who began to unleash a steady stream of semi-coherent babble. Typically, I’m a huge proponent of badgering the opposition, but this felt a little more like taunting than anything else. The game had been over for a while, and most of the people hollering were too drunk to be clever.

Two car windshields were shattered during Saturday evening’s play. In case you’re reading this and you don’t already know:

DON’T PARK ON F STREET BY THE PARK BETWEEN JUNE AND AUGUST!!

Early on I noticed a couple was vigorously heckling the home plate umpire. They were sitting next to a crew of hecklers who call themselves “The Top Shelf” (because they stand on the top row of the bleachers and, well, they're top shelf), and throughout the game engaged in a nice back-and-forth.

During the eighth inning I had a chance to talk to them. Turns out, it was Crawdad’s starting pitcher Kevin Whitaker’s parents, Kevin Sr. and Latoña. Kevin, apparently, is famous back in Walnut Creek for laying in to umpires he deems subpar (which, from the sound of it, is all of them). Many parents who come to the ballpark are taken aback by the intensity of the Humboldt Hecklers, but not Kevin Sr.

“I love it, man. I love it. It’s part of the game,” he said. “It’s all in good fun, and if you want to play at the next level, it’s something you need to expect and get used to.”

The Whitakers are connected to the Crabs not only through competition. In fact, Kevin Whitaker the younger played with current Crab Otis Statum back in little league. It’s a small state after all.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend Sunday’s game, but I spoke to a number of ball park staff who all said it was one of the quietest Sundays they’ve ever worked. Crabs won 4-0, completing the sweep with a shutout.

Upcoming Games
The San Leandro Ports dock in Humboldt Tuesday and Wednesday.

Then the Pacific Union Capitalists, better known as the Puf Caps, are rolling
in this weekend. Get your heckles ready, readers. This is also Alumni Weekend! So come on out and see some crusty Crabs take batting practice on Saturday (2 pm)!

Cheers and Jeers
Cheers to Becca of the Top Shelf on her birthday Saturday. Hopefully it’s the best birthday you have this year.

Jeers to the fellow booted on Friday for bringing in outside alcohol and jeopardizing the ball park’s liquor license. That’s a huge, Oh No-No!!

Cheers to the new Crusty. Learning curve, my bottom. You’re doing great!

Jeers to the very inebriated young woman who felt the need to say something clever to every heckle shouted. Yawn.

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Thomas Oliver

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Thomas Oliver lives in McKinleyville.

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