Pitching an undercard of sorts before tonight's Jameson Taillon-vs.-Bryce Harper duel, Tyler Waldron survived Harper's best shot and came out victorious Tuesday night.
Waldron pitched five solid innings in leading his West Virginia Power to an 8-5 win over Harper's Hagerstown Suns before a weather-reduced crowd of 1,556 at Appalachian Power Park. He survived three solo home runs well enough to leave his bullpen a 6-2 lead.
That last sentence was not a typo; rather, it was a summation of the strange twists early in the game. And it started in the first inning when Harper, the $9.9 million prospect, strolled to the plate.
Much as he did in Harper's Charleston debut the night before, Rod "The Toastman" Blackstone lit into the top draft pick of 2010. Ever the creative one, Blackstone steered his heckling away from the large bonus and "discussed" Harper's appearance.
Nothing bad, mind you, just a few quips about Harper's eye black, or lack thereof. Apparently, Harper has opted for the glare-reducing facial accessory in a number of early-season games.
Blackstone ripped the slugger for not wearing eye black, even displaying pictures of Harper wearing it. Blackstone's last line was, "He looks like a superhero with the eye black on!"
By then, Waldron's first pitch was already on the way, and barely another second passed when a loud CRACK! reverberated from Harper's bat. The left-handed hitter blasted a towering shot that dropped into Morris Street, if not farther, for his fourth home run.
The Power answered with three runs in the bottom of the first, two on a Rogelio Noris double. In the top of the third, the game took a much stranger turn.
Waldron gave up a longer shot to Michael Taylor in the third inning, a rocket that bounced off the warehouse across Morris Street on one hop. But it turned out to be perhaps the longest 1-3 putout in Charleston baseball history - Waldron appealed to first base, claiming Taylor missed the bag, and base ump Roberto Ortiz agreed and called an out.
"I didn't [see it]. I think somebody in the dugout saw it; Coach relayed it to me that he missed first base, so I went over and we appealed it," said first baseman Matt Curry. "And sure enough, he did."
That brought disagreement from Suns manager Brian Daubach, who eventually got tossed by home-plate ump Jose Esteras. At Appalachian Power Park, an ejected visiting manager must walk the field to the clubhouse, which adds to the home crowd's enjoyment.