Mudcats bullpen collapses, Keys win in extras, 8-6
Carolina's bullpen allowed 7 runs in the last 3 innings of the game.
ZEBULON, NC — The Carolina Mudcats blew a pair of late-inning leads Friday as they fell to the Frederick Keys 8-6 in ten innings.
The Mudcats held a three-run lead going into the eighth and a two-run advantage to begin the ninth, but Carolina’s bullpen just could not close the door blowing two separate save opportunities.
After scoring 11 runs on 17 hits in their comeback victory Thursday, Carolina’s offense picked up right where they left off early Friday jumping on Frederick starter Mark Blackmar in the bottom of the first.
Leadoff man Todd Hankins singled to center then stole second as the Mudcats quickly found a runner in scoring position. After a Yhoxian Meidna strikeout and Erik Gonzalez walk, Yandy Diaz put runners on the corners after his grounder created the second out of the inning on a force play at second.
Jeremy Lucas followed with a single to right scoring Hankins for the game’s first run. Joe Sever then sent his own one-bagger into right allowing Medina to double Carolina’s early advantage. The next batter, Jerrud Sabourin, kept the rally going with a single to left plating Lucas before the third out was made on the base paths with the Mudcats already up 3-0.
In the bottom of the third, Carolina got to Blackmar for another run as the Mudcats gained a four-run advantage thanks to Lucas’s second RBI of the evening. Gonzalez opened the frame with an infield single and stole second. Gonzalez then tagged up and advanced to third after a line drive to right from Diaz was caught on the warning track. Lucas then brought Gonzalez home thanks to a fielder’s choice on his slow roller to second.
Frederick finally got to Mudcats starter Adam Plutko and got themselves on the scoreboard in the top of the sixth. Speedster Sammie Star sent a liner to the gap in left-center and had three bases on his mind from the get-go. Star was called safe with a triple, despite cries form the Mudcats dugout that their third baseman, Diaz, had applied the tag in time. The Keys quickly capitalized on the controversial call as the next batter, Mike Yastrzemski, brought Star home on a sacrifice fly to left cutting Carolina’s lead to 4-1.
But the breakthrough for the Keys came in the top of the eighth spoiling Plutko’s bid for his second win with Carolina. After reliever Josh Martin pitched a scoreless top of the seventh, the wheels came off as Frederick rallied to tie the game. Brenden Webb and Pedro Perez set the table with a pair of singles before Starr brought the duo home on a double down the left field line as the Keys made it 4-3.
With the tying run in scoring position, Tucker and the Mudcats then turned to Elvis Araujo to preserve the lead. However, a wild pitch to Yastrzemski moved Starr up to third. The grandson of Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski then tied the game at four on a sacrifice fly to left.
Plutko was saddled with a no decision after a 6.0 inning outing in which he allowed just one run on three hits. The righty struck out six and didn’t yield a walk as he breezed through the Frederick lineup. Plutko has now gone at least 6.0 innings in three of his first four starts at the advanced-A level.
Manager Scooter Tucker was pleased with the start from his right-hander.
“He did a good job, he controlled his pitches and stayed ahead in the count for the most part attacking the hitters,” said Tucker. “He’s helped us and settled in nicely.”
But after losing their lead, the Mudcats remained resilient and surged back ahead in the bottom of the inning. With Gonzalez on second, Lucas and Sever drew walks off of Keys reliever Matt Hobgood to load the bases.
Sabourin and Hobgood battled to a full count, but ball four missed low as Gonzalez scored to the Mudcats back ahead. A crucial insurance run then made it 6-4 Carolina after Hobgood was called for a balk to bring in Lucas.
However, this lead wouldn’t hold either. Michael Burgess sliced Carolina’s lead in half after just one pitch sending Araujo’s offering over the scoreboard in right. After Jason Esposito singled to left, Araujo retired Tucker Nathans and Adrian Marin to put the Mudcats one out away from victory.
The Mudcats threatened in the home half of the ninth thanks to dynamic base running from Hankins. Following his one-out single, the centerfielder stole second before Medina grounded out for the second out. The Keys then elected to intentionally walk Gonzalez to create a force at any base. With Hobgood’s complete attention on Diaz at the plate, Hankins alertly stole third. But Diaz couldn’t bring him home as he struck out swinging to send the game into extra innings.
Frederick took advantage of the Carolina bullpen’s struggles quickly in the extra frame. Yastrzemski singled off of Benny Suarez (1-2, 4.15) then got into scoring position by stealing second. Suarez retired the next batter, Trey Mancini, before walking Burgess intentionally. After Jason Esposito flew out to center allowing both runners to tag and advance, Tucker Nathan stole the game for the Keys with a two-run single up the middle.
Matt Price (3-4, 5.68) earned the win for Frederick shutting the door on the Mudcats in the bottom of the tenth.
Although the bullpen couldn’t seal the deal tonight, Tucker refused to place any blame and instead pointed out that their solid relief last night allowed for the comeback.
“We’ve got to make some better pitches late in games, but last night they came in and did just the opposite,” Tucker said. “Sometimes you just have to give them (Frederick) credit for getting hits.”
The Mudcats are now 1-1 on the second half and 30-39 overall in 2014.
The rubber-match between the Mudcats and Keys will come Saturday at Five County Stadium as Shawn Morimando is scheduled to take the hill for Carolina against Brady Wager. First pitch is set for 6:00 PM.