'Crabs Beat Blue Jays 6-1
DUNEDIN, FL - In a series that has been so starved for offense, the Stone Crabs realized how valuable any runs would be off the dangerous Taylor Cole. Leading all of minor league baseball in strikeouts, the righthander neutralized their bats over seven scoreless innings in a 7-0 shutout late in May. He appeared to be headed down that path yet again on Saturday night at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium, but a big sixth inning resulted in four runs. In the end, the combination of the timely hitting and a spectacular long relief performance from Jordan Harrison lifted the Stone Crabs to take a 2-games-to-1 lead in the series.
Harrison's roughest inning was his first, if that's telling. Joel Peralta was a late addition to the rotation and worked a scoreless first inning on a rehab assignment from Tampa. In the second, Harrison walked Christian Lopes with two outs after a pair of singles earlier in the frame. He dispelled any semblance of a Blue Jays juggernaut once Nick Baligod sent a slow chopper back to the mound to retire the side. Over the final seven innings, Dunedin would only manage four baserunners, while Harrison would retire 11 straight until the sixth.
Cole opened the sixth with his ninth and final strikeout when he fanned Johnny Field for the first out. A long at bat with Tommy Coyle resulted in a walk before the speedy second baseman swiped second under a throw from Jays catcher Santiago Nessy. Leonardo Reginatto soon snuck a base hit into center to break the scoreless tie and send Cole (7-6) to the showers. After Reginatto stole second, Patrick Leonard brought him home with a triple off Justin Jackson. Justin O'Conner then continued his incredible run by shaking off two early strikeouts and ripping his fourth home run in five games to double the lead at 4-0.
Harrison's (1-2) only mistake came in the bottom of the inning once Marcus Knecht tagged him for a solo shot to left that got the Blue Jays on the board with one out. Once he picked up two quick outs to send it to the seventh, Harrison later returned for one more inning. He pitched around a two out single by Gustavo Pierre and got Lopes looking to end his night with a season-high six innings and six strikeouts.
The middle of the Stone Crabs order came through one more time with two outs in the eighth off southpaw Griffin Murphy. Leonard looped his 23rd double into left before O'Conner reached on an infield single to third. Maxx Tissenbaum, just one night after his 23rd birthday, lined Murphy's 1-0 pitch to the wall in right center to score both runners and widen the lead to 6-1. The last two innings belonged to Zach Cooper, whose recent turnaround was highlighted by two strikeouts in the ninth, including one of Pierre to end the game.
The eight game roadtrip finally comes to an end on Sunday night at 5:00 PM when Austin Pruitt (7-4, 4.13 ERA) goes for his fifth straight win against the Blue Jays Efrain Nieves (2-3, 2.68 ERA). You can follow all the action by listening to the game on www.stonecrabsbaseball.com via TuneIn Radio, or tuning into 91.7 FM-WVIJ in the Port Charlotte area. The Stone Crabs Pregame Show starts at 4:40 PM on the Stone Crabs Radio Network!
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