The Hickory Crawdads posted five runs in the first inning and made them stand up in a 5-4 win over the Lakewood (NJ) BlueClaws Monday night at L.P. Frans Stadium.
The Crawdads (46-27 overall, 2-3 second half) snapped a three-game losing streak, all coming at the hands of Lakewood (36-37, 3-2).
Hickory will host a four-game series against the Greenville (S.C.) Drive beginning Tuesday night at 7:00 p.m.
Hickory put seven of the first eight hitters of the game on base against BlueClaws starter Yoel Mecias. Michael De Leon opened the first by doubling into the gap in left-center. Carlos Arroyo then sent a first-pitch fastball well over the fence in right to make it 2-0. The homer was his first stateside shot, having hit two in the Dominican in 2013. After Eduard Pinto and Jose Trevino walked, Luke Tendler blasted his sixth home run of the season to right, his first since April 30.
It turned out that the Crawdads would need all the first-inning runs as Lakewood’s bullpen held Hickory to just two base runners over the final 8.2 innings while its lineup continued to peck away at the lead.
“I knew if we didn’t score that it’d be a close one for sure, the way they’ve been playing and swinging the bats and battling,” said Crawdads manager Corey Ragsdale. “I knew we couldn’t take our foot off the gas or it was going to be a game. Unfortunately, the ABs got worse as the game went on and, like we saw, the game turned out to be a tight one.”
After starter Collin Wiles kept the BlueClaws scoreless through two, his own error cost him a run in the third. Gustavo Martinez got Lakewood’s first hit – a soft liner to right – to start the third. An errant pickoff throw by Wiles moved Martinez to second and a pair of grounders to first brought Martinez in to score.
In the fourth, Kyle Martin and Damek Tomscha each singled and then one out later moved up a base on a wild pitch. Martin scored on Jiandido Tromp’s grounder to short to make it 5-2.
Lakewood chased Wiles with two runs in the sixth. Tomscha and Cord Sandberg each singled with Tromp bringing in Tomscha with a sacrifice fly. Wiles’ second errant pickoff of the game advanced Sandberg to second. Shane McCain entered and then threw a wild pitch to move Sandberg to third before he scored on a groundout by Martinez. Gustavo Marrero followed with a single, but McCain struck out Drew Stankiewicz to quell the threat.
McCain worked around a walk in the seventh and turned it over to Erik Swanson to close out the final two innings.
The lineup in the first inning: The hitters saw quickly that Mecias had a limited arsenal on the mound. The lefty offered a straight 88-91 mph fastball with an occasional change that missed the plate. The Crawdads were content to stay back for something they could handle and they did picking up four hits and taking three walks. The lone out was a lineout by Beras to the track in center.
Michael De Leon: Has begun to crush fastball over the last couple of days. After his double in the first, he laced an Austin Davis heater to straight-away center for a hard out.
Luke Tendler: Recently said he has had to re-learn to hit the fastball again. His homer to right came on a fastball by Mecias. Now has hits in seven of his last nine games with nine RBI in that stretch.
Erik Swanson: Solid two innings to close out the game. Manhandled Tromp with a 95 mph laser to start the 8th and then one out later froze the right-hander Martinez with a 94 on the outside corner. He needed only five pitches to retire the top of the order in the ninth. The final pitch of the night was a change that Kyle Martin dribbled to first. Martin had homered off Swanson two nights before.
“He’s up to 95 with an 88-89 mile-an-hour slider,” Ragsdale said. “Was able to throw his changeup over there to the kid that hit the homerun against him the other night and got a rollover to second base. Obviously, the bullpen is why we won the ballgame.
Shane McCain: A bit of an Alex Claudio clone, though McCain brings a harder fastball that registered 87-88 and touched 90. Threw a mid-70s, sweeping slider and an upper 60s-low 70s change. Worked out of the inherited jam in the sixth and around a two-out walk in the seventh.
Collin Wiles: The righty mixed and matched four pitches and pretty much controlled the strike zone much of the night. Much of the hits against him were grounders that found holes. Slider was especially heavy (broke three bats with it). Wiles was his own worst enemy with the two errors and a wild pitch.
Jairo Beras: Benched for the second time this season for not running out a batted ball. This time, it was a fly out that fell just to the foul side of the right field line. With Texas Rangers director of player development Mike Daly in town, as well as field coordinator Casey Ragsdale, it probably was not the best timing for Beras to do this.
The offense after the first: Only two hitters reached after the first – Trevino’s single and a bunt single by Arroyo. The Crawdads lineup was anemic against the BlueClaws bullpen, putting only seven hitters on base in 18.1 innings.
Said Ragsdale, “I’m not going to take away anything from those guys. They have some really good arms in the bullpen. The first guy they brought (Austin Davis) was pretty impressive, to be honest. But, we’ve got to be better. We’ve got to have better ABs. We’ve got to be more competitive. We’ve got to show a little bit more energy and fire. We can’t rely on what we did the last half.”
Austin Davis: Kept Lakewood in the game with 4.1 strong innings. At 6-4, the long-armed lefty threw a tough, lively 92-94 mph crossfire fastball that got to the hitters quickly.
Damek Tomscha: Finished the series 8-for-18 with five RBI.
Cord Sandberg: Had ten hits in five games with five RBI and five runs scored in the five-game series.