Preview: Battle of First Half Champions

Intimidators face Drive to open 6 games in Palmetto State

Luis Martinez can match the Intimidators all-time mark for wins (16) with a win today over the Greenville Drive. (photo by Brian Westerholt/Four Seam Images)

By Josh Feldman / Kannapolis Intimidators | July 12, 2017 12:57 PM ET

Kannapolis Intimidators at Greenville Drive
8-11 Second Half (47-40) - Chicago White Sox 7-11 Second Half (48-39) - Boston Red Sox
Wednesday, July 12, 2017 - 7:05 p.m.
Fluor Field - Greenville, S.C.
Game #88 of 138
RH Luis Martinez (3-0, 1.99) vs. LH Jhonathan Diaz (2-3, 6.29)


Today's Preview: The Intimidators (A, White Sox) open a 3-game road series against the Drive (A, Red Sox) in a battle of the South Atlantic League's First Half Champions. Both Kannapolis and Greenville have struggled in the Second Half after each team promoted many key members of their First Half rosters to Class A-Advanced. The Intimidators are coming off a home series win over first place Hagerstown while the Drive took three of four at Lexington over the weekend. This is the Intimidators' only trip to Fluor Field this season. Kannapolis has won two of three games so far this season against Greenville.

Intimidating Starters: Luis Martinez, 22, makes his fifth start for Kannapolis and ninth this season. The lanky right-handy spent five games (four starts) with High-A Winston-Salem, going 0-2 with a 9.00 ERA over 16.0 IP in the first half. Martinez, who rejoined Kannapolis to open the Second Half, has earned all three wins with the Intimidators against Hickory while limiting Sally League hitters to a .195 (15-82) average while striking out 27 in 22.2 IP for Kannapolis. Martinez spent the last two seasons with the Intimidators going a combined 12-23 with a 4.51 ERA (123 ER/245.2 IP) and 210 strikeouts in 52 games (52 starts). In 2016, he led the SAL with 28 games started and finished third with 141 strikeouts in 137.0 IP. Since joining Kannapolis in 2015, Martinez has 15 wins for the Intimidators, one shy of matching the most in franchise history (16) set by Brian Miller (2003-04) and Thaddius Lowry (2014-15).

Dealing for the Drive: Jhonathan Diaz, 20, makes his ninth start of the season and fifth at home as he faces the Intimidators for the first time. The left-hander is coming off three straight losses, including a hard-luck loss at Rome on July 5, allowing a run on two hits over 5.0 innings. He is two starts removed from not making it out of the third inning against Lexington, giving up nine runs on 10 hits over 2.1 in his last home start on June 30. Diaz as a result is 0-2 with a 10.57 ERA (18 ER/15.1 IP) in four home starts compared to 2-1 with a 2.84 ERA (6 ER/19.0 IP) in four road starts. Diaz made his professional debut with the DSL Red Sox in 2014, and after missing the 2015 season, made his domestic debut in 2016 with the GCL Red Sox, going 4-4 with a 2.85 ERA (19 ER/60.0 IP) and 57 strikeouts in 13 games (12 starts).

About Last Night: Hagerstown's Anderson Franco hit two home runs to beat Kannapolis, 8-5, on Monday as the Suns avoided a series sweep. Jake Burger drove in a career-high four runs but the Intimidators fell to the Suns, 8-5, on Monday. Suns DH Anderson Franco topped Burger by going 2-for-5 with a pair of home runs and six RBI. Hagerstown took a 2-0 lead on Franco's first home run in the second inning before Burger's bomb to lead off the fourth pulled Kannapolis within a run. Burger has now hit two professional home runs, with his previous blast coming while with the Arizona League White Sox. The Suns added two more runs in the fifth thanks to three straight 2-out hits by Daniel Johnson, Sheldon Neuse, and Jake Noll for a 4-1 lead. In the seventh, Franco stepped to the plate with two outs and the bases loaded and hit a controversial grand slam to break open the game, 8-1. The ball appeared to hit the top of the outfield wall and bounce back into the field of play, but umpires ruled the ball ricocheted off a billboard beyond the outfield wall. Kannapolis rallied for four runs of its own in the home half of the seventh. Micker Adolfo drew a bases loaded walk before Burger emptied the base paths with a 3-run single into shallow center field to cut the Suns lead, 8-5.

Hang 10: Suns starter McKenzie Mills (11-2) earned his lead-leading 11th win against Kannapolis on Monday, allowing five runs on six hits over 6.2 innings while striking out a career-high 10 batters for the second straight game. Mills is the first pitcher to fan 10 against the Intimidators since Columbia's Thomas Szapucki fanned 10 in 6.0 innings on June 25.

Sun Burned: Hagerstown's Anderson Franco became the third player to hit two home runs against Kannapolis in 2017, joining Hickory's Franklin Rollin (April 21) and Delmarva's Gerrion Grim (June 9). Franco drove in six runs on Monday to match the most against the Intimidators this season, equaling the mark set by Grim in his 2-home run game.

Sweep Dreams: Kannapolis missed a chance to sweep a 4-game series when it dropped Monday's series finale to Hagerstown, 8-5. This season, the Intimidators have swept four series, all in the first half. 

         Dates                    Opponent          Games     Notes                                                                
         April 17-19             at Asheville       3            First sweep since Aug 8-10, 2016, vs. Hagerstown
         May 2-4                 Augusta             3            Intimidators opened series with 12-5 win, 15 hits
         May 10-11              at Augusta         2            Final game of series cancelled due to power outage
         June 14-15              Hagerstown        4            Sweep put Intimidators into first place in division

Streak Snapped: Monday's loss snapped the Intimidators' 4-game winning streak, one short of the team's longest winning streak of 2017, a mark set June 14-16 when Kannapolis took five in a row against Hagerstown and West Virginia, including consecutive doubleheader sweeps against the Suns on June 14 and 15. 

I'll have the Burger: White Sox first rounder Jake Burger finished 3-4 with a home run (1) and career-high four RBI on Monday, upping his average to .500 (6-12) since joining Kannapolis on Friday. Burger is the first White Sox top pick to play for Kannapolis since Tim Anderson served as the team's shortstop in 2013.

Constantly on the Card: Two Intimidators - infielders Mitch Roman and Zach Remillard - are tied atop the Sally League for most games played this season at 85 each. Roman also leads the circuit in at-bats (333) while ranking fourth in hits (91).

Mighty Mighty Micker: Micker Adolfo, the White Sox Minor League Player of the Month for May and June, is ranks tied for second in the SAL lead with 24 doubles and ranks thirde in extra-base hits (37).

Franco Fantastic: The Intimidators trailed 2-0 in the second game of Sunday's doubleheader with two outs in the sixth inning before rallying for three runs to overtake the Suns and win. J.J. Franco doubled down the left field line to drive in two runs to take the lead, giving Kannapolis its ninth win in its final at-bats of 2017. The I's last won a game in their final at-bats on June 15 in the first game of a doubleheader against Hagerstown as Micker Adolfo hit a walk-off single to put Kannapolis in first place. The Intimidators are now 9-9 in games decided in the final at-bats in 2017.

Broadcast Information: All home and select road games will be broadcast live on the Kannapolis Intimidators Baseball Network online at and via the TuneIn Radio App with Josh Feldman, now in his seventh season as the "Voice of the Intimidators." Phil Constantino will handle play-by-play during weekend home games.

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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