Manatees strike out 13 Jays in 5-1 win
DUNEDIN, Fla. - Brevard County Manatees starter Jorge Lopez struck out eight men and the bullpen added five more punch-outs, as the Manatees defeated the Dunedin Blue Jays on Saturday night at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium, 5-1.
Lopez (9-8, 3.86 ERA) was brilliant from the start. The right-hander recorded five of his first seven outs via strikeouts and did not allow a run until the fifth. Lopez finished with just one run allowed through five innings of work. He allowed three hits and walked three.
The pitching dominance continued when Scott Lieser took the mound in the sixth. Lieser struck out three more men and only allowed one hit and one walk over two scoreless frames. Lefty Stephen Peterson then finished the job with a perfect ninth inning that included two strikeouts.
Brevard County (26-27 second half, 62-57 overall) fell just two strikeouts shy of a season-high with 13 in total. The Manatees' bullpen has also been stellar since August 7. In that span, Brevard's relievers have yet to allow a run and have combined to pitch 11.2 consecutive scoreless innings.
In terms of offense, the Manatees scored all of their runs in the third and fourth innings against D-Jays starter Roberto Osuna. In the third, Garrett Cooper and Greg Hopkins led off with free passes on a hit-by-pitch and a walk. Nathan Orf sacrifice bunted the pair into scoring position and Orlando Arcia came through with an RBI single up the middle to score Cooper with the first run of the game.
After Arcia's single, Brevard County started to get crafty on the basepaths. Arcia swiped second base and Tyrone Taylor roped a single to left field to score Hopkins and move Arcia up to third. With runners on the corners and Michael Reed at the dish, Taylor took off for second. When D-Jays catcher Jorge Saez threw down to second, Arcia bolted for home. Second baseman Christian Lopes caught the throw from Saez and fired home, but Arcia dove past the tag and scored to give Brevard County a 3-0 lead.
The 'Tees plated two more runs in the fourth inning. Alfredo Rodriguez hit a one-out single and Cooper dropped a double into left-center field to put a pair of runners in scoring position. That brought up Hopkins and the third baseman grounded a single through the left side. Both Rodriguez and Cooper scored to extend the Manatees' lead to 5-0.
Dunedin (27-28, 73-51) scored its only run of the ballgame in the fifth inning. Shane Opitz started the frame with a single to extend his hitting streak to nine games and Saez followed with a double to put runners on second and third. Lopez then struck out Lopes and issued a walk to Nick Baligod to load the bases with one out.
Dwight Smith, Jr. stepped up with his team trailing by five runs, but with the tying run in the on-deck circle. The left-handed hitter chopped a ground ball toward Cooper and the first baseman tried to turn a double play. He fielded the ball and threw to Arcia at second. Arcia got the first out and made a return throw to first base, where Lopez was covering the bag, but the throw pulled Lopez off the base. Smith was safe at first and Opitz scored from third to cut the Manatees' advantage to 5-1.
Lopez picked up a victory for the first time in seven starts. Saturday night was the first time since his June 26 win that the right-hander had left a ballgame with the Manatees leading.
Osuna (0-2, 10.03 ERA) took the loss for Dunedin. In his fourth start following Tommy John Surgery, the right-hander allowed all five Manatees runs over 3.1 innings of work. He surrendered seven hits, walked two and struck out four.
Rodriguez and Arcia were the biggest thorns in Dunedin's side at the dish. Rodriguez produced his first three-hit game of the season with a 3-for-3 night that included a walk, a run and a stolen base. Arcia also had three knocks in a 3-for-5 performance. The shortstop doubled, drove home a run and scored a run. Arcia also swiped two bags to give him a team-best 10 stolen bases in August.
With the victory, the Manatees have split the first two games against Dunedin and will go for the series win on Sunday night. First pitch at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium is scheduled for 5:00 p.m. Taylor Williams (0-1, 2.25 ERA) is expected to start for Brevard County against Matt Boyd (5-2, 1.07 ERA).
For more information on the Brevard County Manatees, call (321) 633-9200 or go online to ManateesBaseball.com. Also, don't forget to like the Manatees on Facebook and follow the Manatees both on Twitter and Instagram.
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