Mudcats squander strong outing from Clevinger, lose 6-2
Zebulon, NC— The Carolina Mudcats squandered a strong start from Mike Clevinger as the Lynchburg Hillcats came from behind to earn a 6-2 victory at Five County Stadium on Wednesday night.
The loss snaps the Mudcats five game winning streak and puts them at 32-32 during the second half and 61-70 on the year. They now sit just one game behind Salem for the final spot in the playoffs.
After taking a two run lead, the Mudcats surrendered four straight runs to the Hillcats that changed the momentum of the game.
Carolina’s Mike Clevinger carried a no hitter through 4.0 innings but the Hillcats adjusted to the right hander to manufacture a couple of hits and two runs in the top of the fifth. Clevinger issued a leadoff walk to Jose Martinez and then tossed four balls past Blake Brown to give the Hillcats a runner in scoring position. Johan Camargo then doubled to the gap in left center to score Martinez easily. Brown reached third on the play and would go on to score the tying run after a Yenier Bello single to left.
Although Clevinger pitched a great game, his fifth inning struggles and a high pitch count brought his night to an end.
Cole Sulser was brought in to get the Mudcats out of the inning and he needed just two pitches. An Eric Garcia ground ball was turned into a double play and the Mudcats escaped the fifth without further damage.
But the Hillcats carried the momentum into the top of the sixth where they added two more scores. Sean Godfrey reached first with a surprise bunt down the third base line and a double to left from Kevin Ahrens scored the speedy center fielder easily.
Sulser continued to struggle as he tossed a wild pitch past Alex Monsalve to send Ahrens to third. Tyler Tewell then plated Ahrens with a sharply hit single to right that put the Hillscats on top 4-2.
Lynchburg put two insurance runs on the board in the top of the ninth. Johan Camargo singled to right and advanced into scoring position after a sacrifice bunt from Yenier Bello. Levi Hyams brought Camargo in to score with an RBI single and Sean Godfrey followed it up with a double to score Hyams from first.
Down by four runs, the Mudcats failed to score over the final five innings and the Hillcats walked away with a quality win on the road.
Scooter Tucker was understandably displeased with the final outcome considering the magnitude of each game the final week of the season.
“We walked four guys and hit a batter, gave them some free bases, and they got some timely hits to tie the score,” said Tucker. “It’s not like there were any errors so we just have to hit the ball and do a better job of pitching.”
Carolina starter Mike Clevinger took a no decision after he hurled 4.1 innings in which allowed just two earned runs off of two hits and four walks.
The right hander’s efforts received a strong nod of approval from his manager.
“They made some nice plays behind him and he pitched to contact. Early on it seemed like he was a little wild but he was effective,” Tucker noted.
Jarrett Miller was hit six times across 4.1 innings for two earned runs. The right hander fanned four Carolina batters but gave up four free passes as well.
Cole Sulser (4-13, 5.62) gave up four earned runs off of eight hits in 4.2 innings on his way to the loss.
“Sulser came in and just didn’t throw enough strikes,” Tucker explained. “He got himself behind and into hitters counts where they did a good job of hitting the ball.”
The home crowd had a lot to cheer about at the outset as Scooter Tucker’s ball club raced out to an early lead behind scores in the first and fourth innings.
In the first, Yandy Diaz reached base with a walk and Joe Sever singled over the outstretched glove of shortstop Johan Camargo to put Carolina in business. With Alex Monsalve at the plate, third base coach Tony Mansolino put the runners in motion and a base knock from the Carolina catcher allowed Diaz to score comfortably.
The Mudcats continued to make Miller work as Eric Haase and Torsten Boss took the right hander into deep counts before ultimately striking out.
Carolina provided their starter with additional run support in the bottom of the fourth. Luigi Rodriguez opened things with a walk and a stolen base to give the Mudcats another scoring opportunity. Back to back outs nearly got the Hillcats out of the inning, but a Yhoxian Medina single to left scored the speedy left fielder to make it 2-0.
Effective pitching from the Lynchburg bullpen held the Mudcats scoreless for the rest of the night which set the stage for their hitters to overtake the sliding Carolina bullpen.
Despite the loss, the Mudcats skipper remains optimistic and excited about his chances to reach the postseason.
The Mudcats will continue their series with the Lynchburg Hillcats on Thursday night. Right hander D.J. Brown (3-7, 4.36) will take the mound for the Mudcats and Blair Walters (5-1, 2.68) will pitch for the visiting Hillcats. First pitch is set for 7:00 PM.
Daniel is a communication and broadcast media major at North Carolina State University.