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Monday, August 8, 2011
New Balance Players of the Game: Day 4

By ESPNHS

LONG BEACH, Calif. -- After watching a five-run first-inning lead evaporate yesterday in a loss to the Kansas City Royals, the Milwaukee Brewers met for a little extra time in short left field to discuss what had happened. The Brewers didn't have too much time to dwell on the defeat, however, as they were back in action against the Cincinnati Reds at 8:30 a.m. this morning at Blair Field. Even after taking a ball off the face in the second inning, Brewers shortstop Tanner Rahier kept doing the little things to help his team win and earned the New Balance Dustin Pedroia "Muddy Chicken Award" as the Grittiest Player of the Game.

"We put it in cruise control yesterday," said Rahier, a rising senior from Palm Desert (Indian Wells, Calif.). "We wanted to come out today and play it 100 percent all the way through."

The Brewers kept their foot on the gas for all seven innings and defeated K.C., 6-0. The pitching staff for the Brew Crew surrendered just three hits in the game, and Rahier did his part as well.

Things didn't begin well for the San Diego commit. After a close play at second base in the second inning, a Royals runner began trotting back to the dugout thinking he'd been called out. When he realized he was called safe, he scrambled back to the bag and the Brewers threw behind him. The ball deflected off the runner's shoulder and hit Rahier square in the nose.

He remained in the game and played a flawless shortstop until coming out of the game after the fourth inning. But his day didn't end there. He came off the bench twice to pinch run and scored a run.

"I'll do whatever I can to help us win," Rahier said. "That's my game."

Game 2: Washington Nationals vs. Kansas City Royals

One of the rising stars of the Area Code Games has been Clint Coulter of the Royals, and his performance against the Nationals did nothing to slow that down. The 6-foot-3, 200-pound catcher went 3-for-3 with a pair of RBIs, but his hustle on the basepaths is what earned him the New Balance Dustin Pedroia "Muddy Chicken Award" for Grittiest Player of the Game.

"I like to play on the edge of disaster every once in a while," said Coulter, a rising senior from Union (Camas, Wash.).

In the second inning, Coulter hit a liner into center field that looked like a run-of-the-mill single. But Coulter rounded the bag hard, and when the center fielder bobbled the ball he turned on the jets and made it to second.

Stepping to the plate in his next at-bat with the bases loaded, Coulter hit one of the longest ball of the week — a 385-foot shot to left-center that one-hopped the wall. Two runs scored easily, and when the relay throw sailed over the catcher's head a third run trotted home. Coulter wasn't satisfied just moving up to third, so he chugged home and barely beat the tag at the plate.

"I got to second and I was watching the play unfold, and when I saw the wild throw I took off for third," Coulter said. "I got there and looked in at the plate and no one was covering so I just kept going."

Coulter is one of our Area Code Games bloggers. Check it out here.

Game 3: Washington Nationals vs. Chicago White Sox

A sure-fire way to determine whether you've spotted a Muddy Chicken in the wild is to look at its uniform. Is the uniform clean? Then it can't possibly be a Muddy Chicken. Is it dirty? That, my friend, may be a Muddy Chicken. But we still need to know more. How did the uniform come to be dirty? Was it through the act of making game-changing plays? If so, take a picture because you are officially in the presence of a Muddy Chicken. After making a pair of spectacular defensive plays for the Nationals in addition to reaching base twice, Chris Hale meets all the criteria and won the New Balance Dustin Pedroia "Muddy Chicken Award" as the Grittiest Player of the Game.

The Nationals tied the White Sox, 1-1, in a battle of winless teams, but if not for Hale's heroics with the leather at first base the Nationals may have come out on the losing side again.

With a man on in the third inning, Hale ventured into foul ground on a pop-up and made the catch reaching into his own dugout.

"Yesterday there was a play just like that in the same spot and someone in the dugout yelled, 'Watch the fence,' and that screwed me up" Hale said. "Today somebody yelled again, but I was like, 'I have to catch it,' so I just followed it in and reached as far as I could."

Hale was at it again in the sixth. The 6-foot-5, 250-pounder was holding on the winning run at first, but bounced off the bag and made a diving backhanded catch to end the inning on a liner that was labeled for the right field corner.

"I just read that one off the bat," Hale said. "It was all reaction."

At the dish, Hale contributed a walk and a single.

Game 4: New York Yankees vs. Oakland A's

Back at the Yankees tryout in Trenton, N.J., in early June, pitcher Quinn Carpenter wasn't even on the roster of participants and had to be added at the last minute. Despite being an unknown at the beginning of the tryout, Carpenter wowed the scouts with a low-90s fastball and earned a spot on the team. Monday, in what will likely be his only appearance in Long Beach, Carpenter wowed scouts again, only this time it was on the national stage. Carpenter logged 3.1 innings of shutout ball — a very long stint on the mound by Area Code Games standards — and earned the New Balance Dustin Pedroia "Muddy Chicken Award" as the Grittiest Player of the Game in his team's 6-1 loss to the A's.

Carpenter, a rising senior from Central (Goshen, N.Y.), entered the game in the second inning with two runners on and two outs. The Yankees starter had surrendered six runs in the first 1.2 innings and it looked like a blowout could be in the works. But Carpenter got out of the jam and went on to post three more goose eggs on the scoreboard.

The 6-foot-5, 195-pound righty fanned three batters and allowed just one hit in addition to hitting a batter. He also benefitted from a double play by his defense, meaning he faced one batter over the minimum in his time on the bump.