16 Jun

loud and clear

It was an awe-inspiring night at Trustmark Park in Pearl. The biggest crowd of the season — an announced 5,216 strong — turned out on Saturday night, some for Parrot Head Night, some for the usual fireworks show but most to watch former Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel make a tuneup appearance on his road to Atlanta. Keuchel’s performance in the opener of the Mississippi Braves’ twinbill against Mobile was somewhat underwhelming. It was left to top Braves prospect Cristian Pache to inspire the awe. Pache hit a two-out, game-tying home run in the bottom of the seventh — the scheduled final inning — then, from center field, threw out the “bonus runner” at the plate to preserve the tie in the eighth. The crowd went bonkers after both plays, and Pache’s reaction to both was something to see. The M-Braves then won it 4-3 on Riley Unroe’s RBI single in the bottom of the first extra inning. They also won Game 2, 3-2, on a walk-off walk. Quite a night. Keuchel worked seven innings, throwing 106 pitches, mixing in a lot of off-speed stuff with an 88-mph fastball. He gave up three runs on 11 hits, several of them hard-hit balls, including a double by Los Angeles Angels prospect Jo Adell on the first pitch of the game. Keuchel walked one and fanned four. He stood to get the loss before Pache’s homer in the seventh. A controversial out call at third base, which led to manager Chris Maloney’s ejection, had fired up the crowd just before Pache’s bomb, which provided the crescendo. Pache is hitting .291 with nine homers and 36 RBIs, and his defensive skills are as good as you’ll see. Keuchel, when asked after the game if he was ready for big league duty, said, “I feel like I’m there.” The 20-year-old Pache may be feeling the same.

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