PHOENIX, AZ - JULY 10: U.S. Futures All-Star Bryce Harper #34 of the Washington Nationals looks on during batting practice for the 2011 XM All-Star Futures Game at Chase Field on July 10, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
The story tonight at the AFL Rising Stars Game is going to be the continued emergence of 19-year-old Nats' prospect Bryce Harper, the Washington Nationals' 2010 no.1 overall pick, who's in the midst of a 13-game hit streak after going 1 for 5 with an RBI single Friday night. Last night, however, Sammy Solis was the story. The 23-year-old 2010 2nd Round pick pitched for the Scottsdale Scorpions against the Phoenix Desert Dogs on Friday, allowing three hits and three walks but no runs in 4.0 IP over which he threw 67 pitches, 40 for strikes while striking out nine.
@MLBazFallLeague: "Arizona Fall League #Nationals Sammy Solis has now struck out an AFL single-game-high 9 batters thru 4.0 innings of work … thrown 67 pitches (40 strikes)."
Solis spent the 2011 season, his first full pro season after being drafted out of the University of San Diego, pitching at Class-A Hagerstown and High-A Potomac, posting a 4.02 ERA, 3.22 FIP, 8.93 K/9 and 2.68 BB/9 over seven starts and 40.1 IP with the Suns and a 2.72 ERA, 3.16 FIP, 1.76 BB/9 and 8.47 K/9 in 10 games and 57.1 IP with the P-Nats. The lefty was then sent back to the Arizona Fall League for the second time after he made five starts and threw 23.2 IP last Fall, walking seven, striking out 12 and allowing 22 hits, three HR's and 13 runs total, 10 of them earned in 2010.
After last night's start, in which Solis earned his first W in six outings, the left-hander has a 4.30 ERA with 25 hits, 12 R, 11 ER, 1 HR and 13 walks allowed in 23.0 IP in which he's K'd 23. MASNSports.com's Byron Kerr reported this week that Solis had added a "traditional" curve to his repertoire after he struggled to throw the knuckle curve he used for strikes. Solis started the fall working on his fastball command, and surrendered 13 hits, eight walks and nine runs over his first three starts and 10.0 IP. Since then, the left-hander's allowed 12 hits and three runs, two earned in 13.0 IP in which he's walked six and K'd 17. "It took a while, but Sammy Solis finally captured the form that made him so dominant during the regular season," MLB.com's David Heck wrote last night in an article entitled, "Solis strikes out nine, registers first win."
Once Solis was done, Nats' relievers Pat Lehman, Matt Purke and Rafael Martin threw a scoreless inning each in relief as the Scorpions cruised to a 9-2 win. Lehman threw 18 pitches, 13 strikes, allowed a hit and struck out two. Matt Purke needed just 10 pitches, 5 strikes in a 1-2-3 frame and Martin gave up a hit and recorded a K, throwing 17 pitches, 12 strikes. Derek Norris was 0 for 3 with two walks, a K and a run scored. Zach Walters was 0 for 5 with 3 K's and 10 LOB.
Harper's 1 for 5 night on Friday has the 19-year-old heading into the Rising Stars game tonight on a 13-game hit streak. In his last 10 games, Harper's 18 for 39 (.462/.532/.974) with two doubles, six HR's and 21 RBI's. In 18 games, Harper now has a .314/.388/.643 slash in 70 AB's. Harper will be the DH for the East's Rising Stars squad tonight with Derek Norris behind the plate. Norris, 22, the top catcher in the Nats' system, has hits in nine of his last ten games, and he's posted a .339/.443/.482 line with two doubles and two HR's in 16 games over which he's walked 12 times with just 11 K's.
Harper and Norris will be facing 2011 no. 2 overall pick Danny Hultzen (Seattle) in the first few AB's tonight. Two of the Nationals' top prospects will be on display tonight. The game is being broadcast live on the MLB Network and MLB.tv. Who's Watching Bryce Harper...and Derek Norris?!?!?!