In a see-saw affair, the Savannah Sand Gnats continually answered the Crawdads throughout the night and took an 8-6 win at L.P. Frans on Friday night.
Savannah (34-27) won its tenth in a row and stayed tied with Greenville (S.C.) atop the South Atlantic League’s Southern Division chase. The Drive defeated Rome 10-8.
Despite the loss, the Crawdads (38-22) held onto a 4 ½ game lead over West Virginia, as the Power dropped a 5-4 decision at home to Augusta.
The Crawdads scored twice in the first to take the early lead against starter Scarlyn Reyes. Isiah Kiner-Falefa and Josh Morgan both walked. After Eduard Pinto’s bounce out moved them up 90 feet, Jose Trevino hit a dribbler up the first base line that Reyes ran past as he attempted to cover first. Kiner-Falefa scored on the play with Morgan going to third. A walk to Marcus Greene reloaded the bases with one out before Jairo Beras’ grounder to third scored Morgan.
However, in what turned out to be the theme for the night, Savannah answered in the next half inning. In the second, against starter Nick Gardewine John Leroux singled and scored on John Mora’s triple. One out later, Thomas Nido slapped a liner to left to score Mora.
The Sand Gnats retook the lead in the third as Jonathan Johnson (3-5) tripled just under the glove of Tripp Martin at first and scored on a single by Luis Guillorme (2-4).
Trevino’s homer (8) in the third tied it at three, but an error on a pickoff attempt at second by Gardewine lead to a run as J.C. Rodriguez scored from third on a ball in the dirt when Thomas Nido struck out.
Hickory again tied it in the fourth when Tripp Martin (2-4) doubled and was joined on the bases after Jose Cardona was hit by a pitch. A wild pitch advanced both the runners and Martin scored on Kiner-Falefa’s fielder’s choice However, the promising inning ended with Cardona was thrown out at third on the play.
With Kelvin Vasquez replacing Gardewine in the fifth, a passed ball by Greene led to a run in the fifth for Savannah as, Wuilmer Becerra scored on Leroux’s single to make it 5-4.
The Crawdads took what turned out to be their last lead of the night in the sixth when Martin crushed a hanging curveball for a two-run homer (8).
The Sand Gnats answered for the last time in the seventh. Johnson crushed a Vasquez (3-2) fastball over the fence in right for his second homer of the season. After Guillorme singled hard to left, Becerra smacked a two-run shot (8) to right for what turned out to be the final margin.
Paul Paez gave up one hit over two relief innings and Jimmy Duff retired the side on ten pitches in the ninth for his fifth save.
*Jose Trevino continued a solid homestand with an RBI single and a homer. He’s now hit in six straight (8-for-22) with three extra-base hits, three runs scored and seven RBI. Trevino’s locked in on the fastball at the moment, and for the most part seeing breaking balls well by either letting them go, or spoiling them.
**Tripp Martin took out the first curveball of the game from Reyes in the sixth – a hanger that gave the Crawdads their last lead of the game at 6-5. He also drove a fastball up and away to the wall in right-center field and was robbed of a hit earlier in the second.
**Joe Filomeno retired all nine batters he faced over the final three innings. Showed a good sinking fastball (91-93) with a slider that had some bite and a change that stayed down. Recorded five groundouts and K’d two.
** Eduard Pinto did his job and it saved a run in the first. Johnson stole third with relative ease. When the throw from catcher Marcus Greene went into left, Pinto had already charged in from left to back up the play. The throw went straight the Pinto in shallow left and Johnson had to hold at third.
**One of the uglier games the Crawdads have played in awhile. Had Reyes on the ropes early, but let him off the hook. Played a bit loose on the bases and got burned. Gave away bases. Unable to hold leads, etc. etc. The post-game locker room was not a happy place following.
**Base running miscues took the Crawdads out of a potential big inning in the fourth With one out and a runner on second and third. Kiner-Falefa hit a roller into the hole at short. Martin easily scored from third, but with no play at first, Guillorme was able to catch Cardona – who had the play in front of him – trying to advance to third. Kiner-Falefa was then caught trying to advance to second on a pitch in the dirt that stayed within a couple of feet of the catcher Thomas Nido, who collected the easy out at second. Pinto singled with two outs in the seventh, but was easily picked off by lefty reliever Paul Paez. It turned out to be the last hope for the ‘Dads in the game.
**Jairo Beras, who was solidly on the ball all night Thursday, was anything but on Friday. Of his three Ks, two came on sliders and the final one was looking at an 89 mph fastball down the middle.
**Nick Gardewine had little consistency with his breaking pitches and paid the price as the Sand Gnats hitters waited for a fastball they could handle and slapped it around the field. Gardewine gave up nine hits, seven on fastballs.
** Kelvin Vasquez had a good slider at times and gassed his fastball 95-97 during his two-plus innings. But the fastball had little movement and so the two homers in the decisive seventh came on 97 and 96 mph pitches down the pike.
**The Crawdads made Reyes throw 30 pitches in the first and loaded the bases twice. They picked up two in the inning, but it seemed like more should’ve been scored. It turned out to be an ancillary theme to the anti-shutdown thread from the pitching staff this evening. It felt like the Crawdads had a chance to blow the game open early, yet didn’t.
**He’s old (26) for this league, but to his credit, Jonathan Johnson is doing what he should do against younger, more inexperienced pitchers, and that’s smack the ball around the field (.333/.430/.474). Has a short stroke that can irritate a pitcher as he did in the first when the lefty slapped a up-and -away fastball to left. He barreled up a couple of fastballs for XBHs, including Vasquez’s 97 offering that went well into the night.
**Patrick Biondi made one of the better catches in center at LP. Frans by a player not named Brinson or McCutchen that I’ve seen in 11 seasons. Tracking a sharp, slicing liner from Martin in the second, he made a sprint to his left and then pulled off a full extension dive with the glove making the catch just above the grass.
** Savannah didn’t exactly play textbook baseball either. Reyes ran over (literally over) Trevino’s dribbler to cover first. Meanwhile, the first baseman Leroux was already at first awaiting a play. On another play, Guillorme got caught off first on a routine fly to center in the third.