Mudcats rally late, still fall 4-3 to Blue Rocks
Ninth inning comeback falls short as Carolina drops to 19-33
ZEBULON, NC – The Carolina Mudcats fell into a hole early against the Wilmington Blue Rocks but rallied in the ninth inning before falling 4-3 on Thursday night. The loss was the Mudcats 15th one-run loss of the season, bringing the Mudcats record to 19-33.
Mudcats manager David Wallace said this loss hurts.
“Overall, this loss hurts. We had it set up great in the ninth but we shot ourselves in the foot.
Right-handed starting pitcher Michael Peoples made his debut for the Mudcats. The 14th round selection in the 2012 draft, who appeared in 11 games for Lake County with two starts, had an impressive debut for the Mudcats. Peoples pitched six innings, giving up seven hits and four runs for the loss. He struck out seven batters compared to only two walks.
Wallace was impressed with the way Peoples pitched. “Peoples did a great job of keeping his composure for his first start in this league from the way it started and then to go six innings was great," Wallace said. "He showed us a lot about himself. He started out this year as a reliever, and he did a great job of keeping us in the game.”
Offensively, the Mudcats were led by second baseman Joey Wendle, who hit his fourth home run of the season, and pinch hitter Jordan Smith, who collected a hit in his only at bat to go along with an RBI.
Peoples got off to a bit of a rough start. After giving up a single to the first batter of the game, Peoples allowed a home run to right field to put Carolina in an early two-run hole. A two-out double to left field was all the Blue Rocks could manage the rest of the inning.
Peoples ran into more trouble in the third inning. Two singles and a stolen base put runners on first and third with nobody out and both runners were brought home on an RBI double to deep center field.
Peoples was happy with how he pitched over the course of the game. “With it being my first start, I was a little nervous, but I just tried to keep us in the game as long as I could,” said Peoples.
Peoples has also been working on the transition from reliever to starter. “When I was in Lake County I was going three or four innings, so really the only difference is starting the game. The transition's gone about as well as I hoped it could be,” said Peoples.
The Mudcats had two players return to the team on Thursday. Designated hitter Jerrud Sabourin made his return to the Carolina lineup after being on the disabled list since May 17 with a pulled groin. Third baseman Justin Toolewas brought back to Carolina after being in Double-A Akron.
Wallace was happy with both returns, especially Sabourin. “It was good to see him back in the batter’s box,” said Wallace. “We’ll keep ramping him up and he’ll start at first tomorrow, but we’ll keep a close eye on him.”
Toole walked to lead off the third inning and stole a base on the very next pitch. However, second base is as far as he would get. Center fielder Tyler Naquin hit a pitch into center field, but was robbed of a base hit on a diving play by the Wilmington center fielder.
Wendle got the Mudcats on the scoreboard in the fourth inning with a home run off the scoreboard in right field, his fourth of the season. Right fielder Bo Greenwell singled to right field and left fielder Luigi Rodriguez laid a perfect bunt down the third base line to put runners on second and third with one out. A strikeout and a ground out ended the threat and the inning.
In his return to the team, Sabourin hit a single into right field to start off the sixth inning, but was immediately wiped away after Rodriguez hit into an inning-ending double play.
Right-hander Grant Sides replaced Peoples in the seventh inning and promptly walked the first two batters of the inning. A strikeout on a wild pitch allowed the runners to advance to second and third with one out. An intentional walk loaded the bases, but the next two batters hit weak pop-ups to end the inning without allowing a run to score.
Sides returned to pitch the eighth inning and struck out the side without allowing a base runner.
Right-hander Michael Goodnight replaced Sides in the ninth inning and retired all three batters he faced.
For the second straight game, the bullpen pitched very well, not allowing a hit over the final three innings. “It’s a process. Grant Sides has done a great job,” said Wallace. “The challenge is to keep moving forward and don’t get comfortable.”
Sabourin was lifted in the ninth inning for pinch hitter Zack MacPhee. For his return, Sabourin went 1-for-3 with a single in the sixth inning. MacPhee led off the ninth with a single to right field and was followed by a Greenwell who hit a single of his own to center field.
With at bat, Rodriguez hit a foul ball into the stands on the first base line. On the swing, the bat flew out of his hands and hit himself on the left arm and umpire JJ January. After some deliberation, Rodriguez was lifted for pinch hitter Jordan Smith. Smith hit an RBI single through the legs of the Wilmington pitcher to bring the Mudcats within two.
Wallace gave some explanation on the play. "This was the same thing that ended Rodriguez’s season last year," Wallace said. "He took a swing and his shoulder came out. Hopefully he doesn’t need surgery, but we’ll see. Just a scary situation. You never want to see that.”
With catcher Charlie Valerio at bat, a wild pitch allowed the runners to advance to second and third with nobody out. Later in the at bat, Valerio hit an RBI fielder’s choice to score Greenwell, but Smith was out at third base. Toole followed with a single over the head of the Blue Rocks’ first baseman to put runners on the corners with only one out. First baseman Ryan Battaglia struck out for the second out to bring up Naquin. Naquin, however, popped out to third base to end the game.
Carolina begins a seven-game road trip on Friday night in Winston-Salem. Right-hander Nick Pasquale makes his fourth start of the season for the Mudcats. First pitch is scheduled for 7:00 p.m.
Zachary is a senior at NC State where he is majoring in communication-media, with minors in journalism and theatre. You can follow him on Twitter @RealZachFrancis.