The 2021 Rocket City Trash Pandas pitching staff had more than its share of highlights during the 2021 season. In case you missed the first installment of our Season In Review series, click here to see part one of the Top 10 Pitching Performances from the Rocket City Trash Pandas
The 2021 Rocket City Trash Pandas pitching staff had more than its share of highlights during the 2021 season. In case you missed the first installment of our Season In Review series, click here to see part one of the Top 10 Pitching Performances from the Rocket City Trash Pandas Inaugural Season.
Now, here are the best of the best on the mound from the 2021 season.
5. Diaz Quickly Dispatches Barons – July 29
In the midst of his best stretch of the season, Rocket City southpaw Jhonathan Diaz took the mound against Birmingham looking to keep the good vibes rolling. He did just that. Staked to an early 3-0 lead, Diaz allowed a pair of runs in the fourth. From there, he was spectacular. Between the fifth and ninth innings, Diaz retired the final 14 hitters he faced, including striking out the side in the seventh, to finish the first nine-inning complete game in Toyota Field history in a 3-2 win. Diaz struck out seven and walked none to earn the first nine-inning complete game of his eight-year professional career. The game took only two hours and five minutes, the fastest nine-inning game of the Trash Pandas’ season.
“It was a phenomenal outing to have tonight,” Manager Jay Bell said at the time. “He kept them off balance all night and his line speaks for itself.”
4. Detmers, Tyler Stymie Shuckers In Father’s Day Doubleheader – June 20
A Saturday night rainout on June 19 led to a terrific pitching day for the Trash Pandas in a Father’s Day doubleheader to conclude their first series against Biloxi. Reid Detmers began the afternoon with the best inning of his young career, striking out the side in the first on just nine pitches for the only immaculate inning of the season for the Trash Pandas. Detmers again struck out three in both the fourth and sixth innings. He finished with a then career-high 14 strikeouts and allowed two earned runs over six innings to earn his second Double-A win as Rocket City triumphed 3-2.
“Everything felt good today. I was getting a lot of swings and misses so I was just hammering the off-speed pitches and it worked out,” Detmers said.
In the second game, Kyle Tyler was even better. Over the first five innings, Biloxi only hit two balls out of the infield as Tyler retired the first 15 hitters he faced. While his bid for a perfect game ended in the sixth inning, Tyler rebounded to finish the first complete game in Trash Pandas history. He struck out eight and gave up one run on two hits to go the distance in a 6-1 win. The victories gave the Trash Pandas a series win over the Shuckers, four games to two.
“To be able to have those two guys on the bump and pitch the way they did on the same day was really nice,” Bell said.
“He’s impressive. Every time he goes out there it seems like he goes six or seven innings and gives up only one or two runs. I don’t even know how he does it. I may need to take lessons,” Detmers said, jokingly, of Tyler.
“There’s always that little bit of friendly completion to go out there and try and beat what he did,” Tyler said of Detmers. “As a whole, as much as I want to be that guy that strikes out 14, that’s definitely not who I am. I want to get guys out as fast as possible.”
3. Daniel Dominates In Chattanooga Rout – August 7
After a 11-1 blowout loss against the Lookouts at AT&T Field on August 6, the Trash Pandas needed to rebound. Auburn alumnus Davis Daniel took the mound for the Trash Pandas and delivered the best performance of his blossoming professional career. Staked to an early 6-0 lead in the third, Daniel cruised through his outing. In the longest start of his season, Daniel threw eight scoreless innings and allowed just three hits while walking none and striking out 11 to earn his first Double-A win as the Trash Pandas crushed Chattanooga 14-2. At the time, it was their biggest run total and biggest margin of victory. That start in Chattanooga was in the midst of a strong run from Daniel, who was eventually promoted to Triple-A Salt Lake on September 4.
2. Molina Marvelous In Season Finale – September 15
Following seven and a half years in the lower levels of the minors, Cristopher Molina finally reached Double-A for the first time with the Trash Pandas in late July. He saved his best for last. With the Trash Pandas in the midst of an eight-game losing streak, Molina took the mound on September 15 against Pensacola and delivered one of the best outings of his career.
The native of the Dominican Republic fired eight scoreless innings, allowing just one hit while recording a career-high 11 strikeouts. Kolton Ingram entered in the ninth and pitched a clean inning to finish the first one-hitter in Trash Pandas history. The win was Molina’s sixth with Rocket City, tying him with Cooper Criswell for the team lead. The 4-0 win over the Blue Wahoos snapped the losing streak and proved to be the final game of the season.
“Molina ended with a 6-1 record and a 3.51 ERA, that’s pretty impressive,” Bell said. “I look at those stats and I think those could be deserving of Pitcher of the Year. He is a lot of fun to watch.”
1. Junk Flirts With Perfection In Biloxi – August 27
The best game from a Rocket City Trash Pandas pitcher was almost historic. In just his fifth start with the Trash Pandas after joining the team in a deadline deal from the New York Yankees, Janson Junk threw the game of his life. In the first, he needed just eight pitches to get through the inning. That trend lasted the entire night, with the Shuckers swinging early but producing only weak contact. In the fifth, he needed only five pitches before an eight-pitch sixth. Between the seventh and eighth, he struck out five of six batters in route to retiring the first 24 hitters he faced. With his perfect game bid alive going to the ninth, Junk returned for his shot at history. But the Shuckers spoiled the perfect game and no-hitter with a leadoff single in the ninth, a walk, and a three-run homer to make it a one-run game at 4-3 Rocket City. Kolton Ingram entered and got the final out to secure Junk’s win. In the longest game of his career, he fired 8.2 brilliant innings, allowing three runs on two hits with eight strikeouts to earn the win.
That start would prove to be his final Minor League start, as he was called up straight to the Angels from Rocket City the following week.
It was only fitting that a player named Junk had a date with perfection in the strongest pitched game from the Trash Pandas’ inaugural season.