'Birds Outpunch Drive in Thriller
GREENVILLE, SC - In a game that played out like a heavyweight title fight - and lasted all 15 rounds - the Delmarva Shorebirds stood tall at the final bell, outboxing the Greenville Drive 5-3 on Saturday night at Fluor Field at the West End.
Zach Matson (4-0) earned the win in relief for the Shorebirds (42-12), going 2.1 scoreless innings and stranding the bases loaded twice, fanning five in the process. Miguel Suero (0-2) endured both a blown save and the loss for the Drive (24-31), giving up the tying and go-ahead runs in his two innings. Tim Naughton nailed down his 11th save with two scoreless in the eighth and ninth, his fourth save of more than one inning.
The tension between the two teams mounted from the get-go as Nick Horvath made a teriffic leaping catch in left center to rob Triston Casas of a sure double in the first inning. The Shorebirds got men on second and third with two out in the second, but Jean Carlos Encarnacion's looper into landed in a leaping Grant Williams' glove at short, erasing the rally.
Greenville made their first move in the bottom of the second. Kole Cottam and Tyler Esplin managed back-to-back one-out singles, and Brandon Howlett doubled in a run to put the Drive up 1-0. Jonathan Ortega followed with a flyball to medium-distance right. Esplin broke for the plate, but Doran Turchin unleashed a frozen rope to the plate, getting Esplin out. Delmarva catcher Daniel Fajardo got shaken up on the collision with Esplin, though, and after one at-bat in the top of the third had to leave the game.
As a result of Fajardo's injury, designated hitter Ben Breazeale entered the field of play as the replacement catcher. This forced the Shorebirds to forfeit the DH and insert in the pitcher into Fajardo's slot batting order, a first in at least a decade for Delmarva.
In the third, Robbie Thorburn singled with one out and Adam Hall followed with a double to put men on second and third. After a groundout, Seamus Curran hit a grounder down the third base line that Howlett misplayed, allowing both Thorburn and Hall to score to put the Shorebirds up 2-1.
The Drive answered in the bottom of the third. Williams led off with a single, then after a walk and a sac bunt Casas singled him home to knot it at 2-2. Greenville then took the lead in the fourth as Esplin singled, stole second, and scored on two wild pitches. After the Drive loaded the bases in the same inning with two out, Matson came out of the bullpen and got Casas to tap out back to the mound on the first pitch.
Matson again worked through bases-loaded trouble in the fifth, overcoming two walks and a single to strand all three.
In the top of the sixth, Breazeale led off with a double, and Horvath followed with a walk. Encarnacion came up next and clipped a single off the replica Green Monster in left, scoring Breazeale to tie it at 3-3. Delmarva had men on second and third with no out, but three Shorebirds were unable to get the go-ahead run around.
Delmarva finally broke through in the seventh. Cadyn Grenier worked a leadoff walk, and Curran singled. After a Doran Turchin sac bunt moved both runners up, Breazeale scraped the Monster with a double, scoring Grenier. Curran got thrown out trying to score as well, but the Shorebirds had their lead again at 4-3.
Matt De La Rosa walked the bases loaded but danced out of trouble for a scoreless seventh. In the bottom of the eighth, Cole Brannen managed a leadoff single off Naughton, but Breazeale took him down trying to steal second base, and Naughton put up a zero.
Curran came up with two out in the ninth and attacked the first pitch, drilling one down the right field line and around the replica Pesky Pole for a solo home run, his ninth of the year, to give the Shorebirds breathing room at 5-3. Naughton then slammed the door in the ninth, working around a one-out walk to strike out three and bring the 3:35 marathon to a satisfying end.
Breazeale finished 2-for-3 with two doubles, a run, and the go-ahead RBI to lead the way for the Shorebirds. Curran went 2-for-5 with his solo homer, and Turchin managed two hits and a sacrifice.
Brannen, Cottam, and Esplin each had two-hit games for the Drive.
Billed as a marquee pitching matchup, both starting pitchers were out of the game by the sixth. Delmarva's Ofelky Peralta gave up three runs on six hits over 3.2 innings, walking three and striking out four while tagging triple digits on the stadium radar gun half a dozen times.
Thanks to the Shorebirds' DH forfeiture, Peralta and Matson each got an at-bat, with both men striking out looking. Will Robertson pinch-hit for De La Rosa in the seventh.
Greenville's Thad Ward, the defending SAL Pitcher of the Week, saw his scoreless streak come to an end at 28 innings in the third. He allowed two unearned runs on four hits over five ordinary innings, walking two and fanning seven.
While the Shorebirds squandered several opportunities to score, they kept the Drive even more off balance in the clutch. Greenville hit a mere 3-for-15 with men in scoring position and left 14 men on base.
With Greensboro's 7-3 win over Lakewood, the Shorebirds maintain their six-game lead in the SAL Northern Division with 15 to go in the first half. Delmarva's magic number to clinch is down to 10. Third-place Hickory fell to 7.5 games back after losing 2-1 in Kannapolis; their elimination number is down to eight.
The Shorebirds go for the series win over the Drive on Sunday afternoon. Hector Guance (2-2, 4.41) toes the rubber for Delmarva against Greenville's Chase Schugart (1-0, 3.38). First pitch is set for 3:05 p.m., and pregame coverage on Fox Sports 960 AM and the MiLB First Pitch App begins at 2:50 with Will DeBoer on the call.
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South Atlantic League Stories from June 1, 2019
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- Game Notes (June 1) - West Virginia Power
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