Carolina Mudcats demolished by Wilmington Blue Rocks, 9-2
ZEBULON, N.C. –– The Carolina Mudcats suffered a 9-2 defeat at the hands of the Wilmington Blue Rocks on Tuesday night at Five County Stadium. The Blue Rocks used a big first inning to jump out to an early lead that they held for the remainder of the game.
Manager Scooter Tucker lamented on the costly first inning and the tough home loss after the game.
"After the first inning it was a pretty good game, we outscored them 2-1," said Tucker. "It certainly affects the rest of the game because you have to have base runners and you can't do some of the things you could do in a tight game."
The Blue Rocks hammered the Mudcats starter Adam Plutko to the tune of eight runs in the opening frame. Jack Lopez started things off with a ground rule double before taking third after a sacrifice bunt from Raul Mondesi. Bubba Starling brought Lopez in to score with a single to left during the following at-bat. A Zane Evans walk put two runners on base for Jared Schlehuber who took advantage by drilling a three run shot to left to make it 4-0.
Later in the inning, Wilmington reloaded with another single and walk to keep the pressure on Plutko and the Mudcats. Daniel Rockett then made it a 7-0 game with a three run shot of his own over the wall in left.
Rockett's home run brought Plutko's night to an end after a horrific start. Plutko (2-5, 4.94) surrendered seven earned runs off of five hits and two walks in just 0.2 innings on his way to the loss.
Plutko's skipper tried to defend his pitcher's performance despite the outcome.
"I thought he threw a few more strikes than he got called, so he was behind in the count, and he had to go right at the hitters," explained Tucker. "They got some good hits off of him."
Clayton Cook came in to relieve Plutko but had trouble halting the Blue Rocks attack. Jack Lopez singled in his second at-bat of the inning and scored off a Raul Mondesi RBI triple to the corner in right field.
Cook finished the inning by fanning Bubba Starling but the damage was done and Wilmington had created a big 8-0 advantage.
The Blue Rocks added to their lead with another score in the top of the fourth inning. Wilmington put runners on base with a Zane Evans walk and a Jared Schlehuber single to set up the score. Cam Gallagher took advantage by poking a ground ball single through the infield to score Evans from second.
On the night, Cook hurled 3.1 innings of relief and gave up two earned runs off of five hits while striking out six Blue Rock batters.
Rob Nixon replaced Cook going into the fifth and went on to pitch well over the following three innings. The right hander held the Blue Rocks scoreless and gave up only two hits during his time on the mound.
Benny Suarez pitched out the rest of the night for the Mudcats and kept the Blue Rocks from recording a hit in the final two innings.
The Carolina bullpen has shown significant improvement over the second half of the season and they showed it again Tuesday night.
"I thought the whole bullpen did great tonight," Tucker noted. "They salvaged a disastrous night and I was very grateful that we only had to use three guys. It could have been a whole lot worse but now we are set up for tomorrow night's game."
Carolina showed some fight and finally scored in the bottom of the fifth thanks to a leadoff double from Jeremy Lucas. A Jerrud Sabourin ground out advanced Lucas to third and a James Roberts single to right scored the Carolina designated hitter to make it 9-1.
The Mudcats added another run in the bottom of the eighth in a late attempt to rally. James Roberts reached first on a fielding error from first baseman Jared Schlehuber to lead off the inning. Todd Hankins then doubled to left to move Roberts to third and a Yhoxian Medina single past the third baseman Ramon Torres allowed the runner to score.
But Joe Sever would go on to ground out into a double play that would end the inning and the Carolina comeback attempt.
Sean Manaea (3-7, 4.19) earned the win after throwing 7.0 innings in which he allowed only one earned run off of three hits and three walks.
The Wilmington bullpen combined to give up only one earned run off of two hits in 2.0 innings of relief that secured the win for the visiting team.
Carolina has not fared well against the Blue Rocks during the 2014 campaign. Tuesday night's loss makes the Mudcats 5-13 against Wilmington on the year. The loss drops Carolina to 48-52 on the year and 19-14 during the second half.
The Mudcats will look to bounce back on Wednesday night as they continue their series with the Wilmington Blue Rocks. Cole Sulser is set to start for the Mudcats and will face Wilmington starter Glenn Sparkman. First pitch is scheduled for 7:00 p.m.
Daniel is a communication and broadcast media major at North Carolina State University.