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Long leads RiverDogs by Gnats in duel win

Son of Yankees' hitting coach throws seven scoreless for Charleston
May 13, 2014

The Mets and Yankees combined for 16 runs in their Subway Series matchup Monday night. If they need a few arms for the rest of the series, some of their hurlers a little ways down the Minor League ladder made some impressive bids.

About 800 miles south of the East 161st Street subway stop in the Bronx, the Yankees' and Mets' respective Class A affiliates, Charleston and Savannah, staged a pitchers' duel in South Carolina, with the RiverDogs walking off in the 10th inning with a 1-0 victory.

Outfielder Jose Rosario scored the lone run, traipsing to the plate when Savannah left-hander John Mincone walked Michael O'Neill on a 3-2 pitch with two outs and the bases loaded.

The ending was uncharacteristic for the rest of the game, which featured a battle between Charleston right-hander Jaron Long -- son of Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long -- and Savannah righty Kevin McGowan.

Long (2-1) went seven innings and held the Sand Gnats to three hits while striking out five. The 22-year-old -- signed by the Yankees as an undrafted free agent last August -- lowered his ERA to 2.59. The start was only his second this season, he's worked primarily in long relief through eight appearances.

A key to the Ohio State product's success has been his ability to induce grounders. He entered the game with a 2.67 groundout-to-flyout ratio and racked up nine rollouts for Charleston on Monday.

"I don't really throw many four-seamers," Long said. "They're pretty much all sinkers and cutters, and then I throw a lot of changeups that are down in the zone and sometimes I get ground balls with that. I just try to work down in the zone. I'm not necessarily overpowering."

Long said he talked to his dad before the game, and the Yankees' hitting coach joked with him about trying to beat the Mets at the same time.

"He said, 'You got your own little Subway Series down there,'" Jaron Long said. "We talked about that. It's cool. Everybody here wants to be there. It's something you're working for."

Jaron Long said he's attended a few Subway Series games over the past few years.

"It's a cool series," he said. "Not many towns have two teams. … When you talk about two teams being that close, I've been there on both sides and to both stadiums ... was fortunate to go with my dad. It's a cool series, and something that's unique to baseball."

McGowan (1-1), meanwhile, limited the RiverDogs to three hits and two walks over six innings. The 2013 13th-round Draft pick struck out six, slimming his ERA to 2.25 for the season.

The 22-year-old hasn't allowed an earned run in any of his past three starts, a stretch of 18 1/3 frames. But despite the recent positive results, the Franklin Pierce (New Hampshire) product said his fastball command had been shaky of late, forcing him to rely on a changeup he rarely threw in college and a slider he only began throwing last summer.

"When I was in college, really, I just lived off the fastball for three years," McGowan said. "I'd throw 110 pitches and 105, 108 of them would be fastballs."

The native of Nashua, New Hampshire throws his slider by adjusting the grip on his fastball slightly and tries to throw it the same way he throws the heater. The movement last summer was good, but inconsistent, he said. This year, McGowan has more confidence in the pitch's bite and location.

"I had days last year when it was really good, then I had days where I didn't know what it was going to do," he said. "It could've run backward, for all I knew. I've had much better command of it this year, and that's helped out a lot."

Right-hander Chris Smith got the win for the RiverDogs in his first affiliated outing. The 25-year-old struck out the only two batters he faced in the top of the 10th.

The Kentucky Wesleyan product began pitching as a senior in college, and after graduating in 2010, earned a spot with the Lake Erie Crushers of the Frontier League. The Crushers released him after one outing -- in which he allowed a grand slam -- but he eventually landed with the Washington Wild Things in 2011. He pitched in the Frontier League again in 2012, then spent the winter with the Brisbane Bandits of the Australian Baseball League, where he finally caught the attention of Major League scouts.

The Yankees penned him to a contract that winter, but after throwing over 230 innings between the Frontier and Aussie leagues the year before, Smith suffered a stress fracture in his forearm that cost him the 2013 season. He returned from the injury this year and finally made a solid debut with the RiverDogs.

"It's a special night for me," the right-hander said. "I've been around to quite a few places. ... It's been a long road to get here. I'm 25 years old and right now I'm in Charleston and in [Class A], but I'm very thankful and blessed to be here."

Jake Seiner is a contributor to Follow him on Twitter at @Jake_Seiner.