Game 35: Post-Game Notes

— Iggy Suarez left the game in the 8th inning with a hamstring strain.  No word on the extent of the injury or the length of time he’ll miss, but it’s yet another injury for the Patriots.

— They call him Mr. Nasty.  But really, the nickname doesn’t fit Patriots starter Tom Mastny.  More mild-mannered than mean, Mastny looks more like a very tall Seth MacFarlane than anything evil…but it’s doubtful the opposition finds his offerings to be hilarious.

Mastny was solid again, putting together six innings of one-run baseball that kept his team in the game.  He needed around 110 pitches to get through his outing, which took place on the hottest day of the season to date at TD Bank Ballpark.

“They fouled a lot of pitches off,” Mastny said.

“I was just trying to be aggressive over the plate.  The catcher, I walked him three times, which you don’t want to do, so I threw some extra pitches there, but I was just trying to be aggressive and they were swinging and fouling a lot off.  Any time you’re being aggressive against an aggressive team, you’re going to throw a lot of pitches.”

As for the heat, the former Indians reliever told me that it can be difficult to adjust to on the mound.

“When it sneaks up on you like that, yeah, but just being a day game, it throws your schedule off a little bit,” he said.

“I tried not to think about it too much, though.  It’s just as bad for their pitcher and probably even worse for the catcher.  I just tried to go out there and battle and keep the team in it and we came away with the win, so it was good.”

Mastny improved to 3-1 on the season, and has settled into a groove after joining the team late.  After spending spring training with Cleveland, Mastny was on the shelf for about a month, but finally seems to have shaken the rust that came with that unwanted vacation.

“I feel a lot better,” he said.

“Obviously, there’s always things to improve on and stuff to work with.  But I’m starting to feel better, my body feels better.  Now it’s just a matter of throwing pitches where I want, when I want.  I’m getting there.”

— Michael Hernandez is another player who didn’t start the season with the team, added several weeks into the season by Patriots director of player personnel Brett Jodie.  That addition has finally started to pay dividends, as the former Bears standout has now homered in three straight games, including a two-run blast yesterday that proved to be the game-winning shot.

“It was a close game, and the pitching was good on both sides,” Hernandez told me.

“I’ve been getting good pitches to hit and had been missing them, and I finally got some good wood on one.  It got us two RBI and helped us win the ballgame.”

Hernandez seemed to feel his recent hot streak has been more luck than anything else.

“I feel like I’m just running into them,” he said.

“You don’t really try to hit home runs, you just want to make solid contact.  Luckily enough, they’ve been leaving the park.”

With two of the “big three” out of the Somerset lineup, the team has been relying on other members of the lineup to generate offense while Jeff Nettles and Josh Pressley continue to recover from hand and back injuries, respectively.  One day, it’s Matt Hagen.  For the Lancaster series, it was Jason Belcher.  And over the past three games, it’s been Hernandez.

“We all know guys are hurt right now; Nettles, Presley, those guys are a big part of our lineup,” Hernandez said.

“Guys have got to step up.  Every day, somebody new steps up.  We just keep going forward with what we have, and then when those guys get back, we’ll take off together.”

— Joe Holden is scheduled to see team doctors today (Tuesday) to further determine the severity of his injuries.  The Patriots spark plug fouled a ball into his face in Newark, leading to eye and eye socket injuries.  Holden was not with the team yesterday, instead spending the day with his family.

— Elliott Ayala replaced Suarez in the eighth inning, his first action since taking a fastball off of his batting helmet during the Newark series.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

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