Homer-Happy Mets Defeat Tarpons 7-5
TAMPA, Fla. - The Tampa Tarpons (14-21) kept things close throughout Thursday night's contest against the St. Lucie Mets (26-10) but fell short of the mark and dropped their fifth straight contest, 7-5. The Mets relied heavily on the long ball to secure their third straight victory against Tampa this week at George M. Steinbrenner Field.
Between the Tarpons' struggles to produce early offense this series and Carson Seymour's (4-0) dominance on the mound thus far for the Mets, it was a bit of a surprise to see the Tarpons jump on the Mets' righthander and his sparkling 0.36 ERA so quickly.
SS Alexander Vargas led off the bottom of the first with a leadoff single to right field and CF Jasson Dominguez was hit by a pitch the very next at-bat. Seymour spiked a wild pitch in the dirt to allow both runners to advance, giving the Tarpons runners on second and third with one out. On the first pitch he saw 1B Anthony Garcia roped a ground ball past the diving Junior Tilien at second base to drive in both runners.
Garcia was busy on the base path - moving to second on a single by 2B Ben Cowles and then stealing third as LF Grant Richardson watched strike three. Mets' catcher Fernando Villalobos tried to convert on a "strike 'em out, throw 'em out" but his throw soared wide right of the outstretched Justin Guerrera at third, and Garcia came in to score.
The lead was short lived for the Tarpons, as Guerrera and Raul Bercierta deposited back-to-back jacks into the outfield seats with two outs in the second inning. Omar De Los Santos added a 2-run homer in the third to take the lead and William Lugo doubled in Khalil Lee to extend the margin to 5-3.
It was a night to forget for RHP Richard Fitts (0-3), who failed to secure his first win of the season. The Tarpons' starter surrendered five runs (4ER) spread across seven hits in 4.1 innings pitched. Fitts produced eight strike outs and conceded three home runs, both season-highs.
Manager Rachel Balkovec summoned RHP Harold Cortijo out of the bullpen in relief. Cortijo was able to escape the fifth inning unscathed, stranding two runners on base. The same could not be said in the sixth - Tilien teed off on an 0-2 pitch and blasted a no-doubter over the left field fence.
The Tarpons responded with back-to-back singles by Cowles and Richardson to begin the bottom frame. On a stolen base attempt by Richardson, Villalobos was unable to knock down a misguided pitch from Seymour, scoring Cowles on a freebie. A fielding error by Lugo at shortstop later in the inning would score Richardson and bring the Tarpons within one run.
The Mets were able to scratch another run across the board courtesy of a wild pitch by RHP Enrique Santana and took a 7-5 lead into the bottom of the ninth.
Dan Goggin came in to close the door for the Mets and swiftly took care of the Tarpons' final three batters to end the game. Goggin walked DH Connor Cannon before inducing a double play off the bat of C Ben Rice and struck out Vargas on three pitches to end the game.
The Tarpons will look to turn things around tomorrow night at 6:30 PM EST against the Mets, with RHP Juan Carela scheduled to make the start.
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Florida State League Stories from May 19, 2022
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