Smith, Freidrich Lead Dogs to Double-Header Sweep
By Jack Ankony, Chicago Dogs
Whether he’s ending a one-two-three inning with a strikeout, escaping a jam by inducing a double play or giving up a home run, Christian Friedrich has the same feeling going into the next pitch: confidence.
His four seasons at the MLB level and 13 years as a professional allow for that. Friedrich made his Dogs debut on Aug. 6 against Sioux Falls, and through two starts, the addition of Friedrich feels like an MLB trade deadline acquisition that puts a contender over the top.
After a 12-4 win in game one of Wednesday’s doubleheader, Friedrich toed the rubber for game two against the Winnipeg Goldeyes. Across six innings, Friedrich allowed five hits, one earned run, one walk and four strikeouts en route to a 4-3 Dogs win.
T.J. Bennett ended a full day of baseball with a 10th-inning walk-off single to score Cosimo Cannella. Since his return from paternity leave, Bennett is 9-for-20 with two home runs and nine RBI.
Friedrich’s stellar start made it seven consecutive wins for the Dogs, inching them closer to first place in the North division. With a Milwaukee Milkmen loss to the Lincoln Saltdogs on Wednesday night, the Dogs sit just a half game back of Milwaukee for the division lead.
Friedrich’s one mistake in his second start for the Dogs was a pitch he left elevated in the zone to Kyle Martin, who belted his league-leading 26th home run of the season. But aside from this one pitch, Friedrich commanded the zone and let his defense work behind him.
Bennett made a trio of diving plays at the hot corner to go along with a Grant Kay web gem and a number of snags from the speedy outfielders Michael Crouse and Anfernee Grier. For Friedrich, he felt the defensive support behind him with each pitch.
“It’s really nice to hear the crack off the bat and you turn around and somebody’s got their glove on it,” Friedrich said.
Mixing and matching fastballs on the inside and outside corner with timely breaking balls, Friedrich said he tries to put hitters in a rocking chair mentality, never knowing what pitch to expect. With close to 300 innings of MLB experience under his belt, Friedrich brings a veteran presence to a Dogs team in the home stretch of a playoff race.
“A lot of times a veteran guy can offer a little something that he learned along the way,” Dogs manager Butch Hobson said. “That might help these young players as they’re maturing in the game.”
Having five pitchers signed by MLB organizations throughout the year, the Dogs have experienced significant turnover in the pitching staff. With seven rookies fresh out of college on the pitching staff, Friedrich anticipated offering advice from his years of big-league experience.
But from Friedrich’s perspective, he felt as if he was talking to five-year professional veterans when meeting some of the Dogs’ rookies. Friedrich has been most impressed by their mental game.
“It’s neat to be around guys that are so young and so mature,” Friedrich said. “I wish I could have been the way they are at their age.”
As the season moves into the final 25 percent, Friedrich figures to play an integral role in the Dogs’ rotation. With a wealth of confidence and innings at the highest level, Friedrich’s addition could be the exact piece the Dogs were looking for as they anticipate an appearance in the playoffs.
“Between playing at an unbelievable stadium with an unbelievable coaching staff,” Friedrich said. “This is like big league material. The players are as good as it gets. I couldn’t be in a better spot than I’m in right now.”