If the Sioux Falls Canaries were going to bounce back from a struggling 2014 season they were going to need some outstanding performances from their new additions to do so. If Saturday night’s performance by Miguel Pena against the Sioux City Explorers is any indication, the Canaries are going to be really tough to score against this season.
Pena shutdown the Explorers for seven innings Saturday night, scattering just five hits and walk, while striking out two. He was incredibly economical with his pitches, throwing just 89 during the stint, and demonstrating that he has confidence in his stuff that he can come right after hitters and get outs.
What was most impressive about the outing is that he seemed to get stronger as the game went along. In the first, Pena gave up back-to-back hits with two outs before getting a pop out to end the threat. The last out of the first started a string of eight straight he retired. In the fourth Pena gave up a one out single to Brock Kjelgaard and a two out hit to Ryan Court, but got a big pop out again to end the inning.
His most troublesome frame came in the sixth when he gave up a lead-off single to Michael Lang and walked Rene Tosoni to put runners on first and second with no one out. This was also the inning where the left-hander showed how good he can be. The Sioux Falls Canaries starter remained poised, getting a ground ball out, then striking out Tommy Mendonca with a runner on third before retiring Court with another inning ending pop out.
In the seventh Pena (1-0) retired the side in order and that would be it for the lefty. It would be time to turn the game over to the bullpen, and they came through in a big way. Cameron McVey threw a perfect eighth inning and Chase Johnson came on in the ninth to record his second save already this season.
John Straka (0-1) was the hard luck loser for the Sioux City Explorers. He allowed just three runs in five innings of work, but Pena’s performance made it so that even one run allowed was too many.
The Sioux Falls Canaries scored first in the second when Michael Wing doubled with one out and scored on a base hit by Richard Stock. In the fifth the visitors extended their lead to three. Harrison Kain singled with one out and stole second and third for his first two stolen bases of the season. Jerome Pena walked and with Brian Humphries at the plate Straka uncorked a wild pitch that scored Kain. Following a passed ball Humphries singled, scoring Pena and it was 3-0 Canaries.
The Explorers bullpen finished out the game. Ryan Zimmerman threw three scoreless innings and Billy Bullock a perfect ninth inning to keep the game close, but in the end Pena’s performance was just too much.
These two teams finish their four-game series Sunday at 4:05 with the Sioux Falls Canaries looking to take three of four on the road.
Boxscore Provided by the American Association
By Robert Pannier