The Rome (Ga.) Braves scored three runs in the fourth to edge the Hickory Crawdads 3-2 during a Wednesday morning contest held at Hickory’s L.P. Frans Stadium.
What had been a tough-hitting series (14 total runs in the three games) continued on Wednesday as for the most part Rome’s Ricardo Sanchez and Hickory’s Erik Swanson held the opposing lineups in check.
Hickory (28-18) scored both of its runs in the second as Dylan Moore walked and Eduard Pinto followed with a two-run homer that just skimmed the tip of the fence in the rightfield corner.
The Braves (18-28) got their rally started with one out in the fourth as a ground ball to second baseman Andy Ibanez caromed wildly to Ibanez’s right for a single. A four-pitch walk to Wigberto Nevarez and a single by Jonathan Morales loaded the bases. Swanson (3-1) issued a second four-pitch walk in the inning, this time to Justin Ellison to score the first run. Carlos Castro popped up to first, but Alejandro Salazar singled in two runs to provide what turned out to be the game’s final margin.
Sanchez (3-4) allowed just the two runs on two hits with two strikeouts and two walks over 5.2 innings. He left in the sixth due to a shoulder injury.
Oriel Caicedo finished up for the Braves, though he had to work out of a Crawdads rally in the ninth. With two outs, Ibanez and Moore singled and Pinto walked to load the bases. However, Caicedo got Yeyson Yrizarri to pop to first to end the game.
Game management the difference:
The difference in the game was the ability of the two starters to work out of their one trouble spot in the game.
In the second, Sanchez was clearly affected by a 3-2 pitch to the right-handed Moore that appeared to catch the outside corner, but was called ball four. After a fastball away to the lefty Pinto, a fastball in was pulled down the line and went about 333 feet and barely cleared the 10-foot fence.
After Yrizarri flew out to center, Ti’Quan Forbes beat out an infield hit to short.
The inning seemed to affect Sanchez, as he took several trips around the mound between pitches to collect himself. It took mound visits by the shortstop Salazar, the catcher Nevarez and finally Braves pitching coach Dan Meyer to settle down the 19-year-old lefty. Sanchez then got Chuck Moorman to ground into a 5-4-3 double play to end the inning.
It appeared that Swanson was a candidate for a “Maddux” after needing 30 pitches to get through three innings. After getting Ray-Patrick Didder to ground to short, the inning began to unravel as Swanson’s pinpoint control with the fastball suddenly left him.
Four straight 95 mph pitches sailed to the righty’s glove side. Morales was able to get a seeing-eye single into left to load the bases before four straight fastballs then went off the plate arm side.
Castro popped up a 2-2 fastball onto the infield and then it appeared Swanson was going to keep the lead when he started Salazar 0-2. But a slider to Salazar caught a lot of the plate and he lined it hard to left and that turned out to be the ball game.
Stellar play in the field:
Third baseman Frandy De La Rosa and shortstop Yrizarri make stellar plays in support of Swanson in the second. De La Rosa snapped up a tough short-hop off the bat of Ellison to get the out. Yrizarri then made a grab of a grounder deep in the hole and then made a Jeter-like jump throw on the money to first to retire the slowfooted Castro.
Missed hitter’s counts:
What was an blip in the game log in the second turned out to be a key play as Moorman pulled a 2-1 fastball into a double play to keep Sanchez in the game with only two runs. But other hitters missed out on hitter’s counts as well.
In the third, Jenkins laid off a pair of curveballs away, but then mistimed a fastball and popped it to third.
One inning later, Moore worked a 2-0 count as two secondary pitches missed. But he, too, missed a fastball and bounced weakly to second.
In the fifth, De La Rosa saw a 2-0 fastball and bounced it to third.
Said Crawdads manager Steve Mintz after the game, “I don’t know why we couldn’t figure that guy out. I don’t know why we were getting in counts to hit and we couldn’t square up any balls.”