The Threshers beat the Blue Jays in a game that featured a pitching duel between their respective pitching staffs. They won the game 2-1 on a 2-out, RBI single by Willians Astudillo in the eleventh inning.
The teams used a combined eight pitchers who scattered 18 hits and 3 walks while striking out 15 batters. Domonic Brown was given the night off after going 0-4 with 3 Ks in the first two games of the series. Michael Saunders started in left field and led off for the Jays and scored their only run in the first inning.
Friday’s line up.
Brandon Leibrandt was the Threshers starting pitcher. He pitched well enough to get the win but left after six innings with the game tied at one.
Leibrandt caught an unlucky break on his second pitch of the game when Saunders lifted a soft fly ball to shallow left field towards the foul line. Pullin was shaded to center and looked to break late for the ball. The ball eluded him on a last ditch dive in an effort to catch the ball. Saunders ended up on second. A passed ball during the next at bat put the runner on third with nobody out. Leibrandt recorded a called third strike before surrendering the run on a single to shallow center field. He got the next two outs to end the threat in a 23-pitch inning.
Leibrandt got two quick outs in the second inning. A walk and a double put two runners in scoring position with Saunders coming to the plate. Leibrandt got him to lift another pop to left field, this time a lot closer to foul line. Mitch Walding made an over-the-shoulder catch in foul territory in front of the stands. Third out. Great catch.
The lead off batter in the third inning bunted the first pitch for a single. The next batter lined out to Brodie Greene at second. Before throwing a pitch to the third batter, Leibrandt picked the runner off first. He ended the inning with a fly ball to center on his fifth pitch of the inning.
Leibrandt pitched out of trouble in the fourth inning. He retired the first batter on a ground out after a 9-pitch at bat. The next batter hit a hard ground ball down the left field line for a double. Leibrandt surrendered a 5-pitch walk before getting a fly ball to shallow center and a strike out to escape the threat. This was a 22-pitch inning and brought his total to 63 pitches at that point.
Leibrandt breezed through a 7-pitch fifth inning on a hard line drive to Walding and two ground balls to Devin Lohman.
The sixth inning would be Leibrandt’s last inning. He finished with a flourish. He gave up a 2-out single to left center field and promptly picked the runner off to end the inning. HIs fastball was 88-91, but he didn’t surpass 90 after the last out of the second inning. His final line –
- 6.0 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 2 K, 2 pick offs, 87 pitches, 57/30 strikes to balls
Kevin Walter took over in the seventh inning. He quickly got ahead of the first batter, but gave up an infield single. The next batter failed on 2 attempts to move the runner to second, but a wild pitch got the job done for the Jays. Walter finished the strike out and got a ground out to Walding in the hole. The next batter singled to left and the third base coached challanged Andrew Pullin’s arm. Bad move. Pullin threw him out by a couple strides. It wasn’t close. Knapp made a nice block (within the rules) and tag.
Walter had an easier eighth inning. It took only 8 pitches to get a popped bunt to Knapp, ground out to Walding, and ground out (3-1) to Astudillo. More on this later. Walter’s fastball was 91-92, T93. His line –
- 2.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 22 pitches, 15/7 strikes to balls
Cody Forsythe pitched the next two innings. He zipped through the ninth inning recording two strike outs.
Forsythe followed that up with an easy tenth inning in which he recorded his third strike out. His velocity was all over the place. His fastballs ranged from 88 to 92. He was throwing curves at three different velocities in the upper 70s, a few change ups at 83, and a couple others at 86 and 87. He really mixes his speeds and locations well. His line –
- 2.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 27 pitches, 19/8 strikes to balls
Lino Martinez came on to pitch the eleventh inning. He kept the Jays batters in the infield with two ground balls to Lohman and a soft liner to Greene. His fastballs were in the low 90s. I was distracted and didn’t get his pitch sequence nor count. Sorry. His line –
- 1.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K
Defensively, the Threshers were flawless behind Whitehead. No errors and they just missed a couple balls on dives that would have saved the pitchers some extra pitches. I think Astudillo is a little short for first base. He doesn’t have the reach taller first basemen have on throws. Twice he came off on throws and had to apply tags. More of a concern is that twice he led pitchers into the base path on tosses on 3-1 plays. On the first there was a collision. Leibrandt gave up a walk and double to the next two batters. Walter was able to avoid a collision on the second toss.
Earlier, I mentioned the the great defensive plays by Walding on the pop up and Pullin on the throw to the plate. But they may both have been surpassed by another great catch by Aaron Brown. With two men on base and one out, a ball was lifted deep into the left center field gap. The ball was ticketed to bounce high off the wall and clear the bases. Pullin and Brown converged on the ball at the wall. Brown left his feet and Pullin ducked under him. Brown made the catch, hit the wall, made contact with Pullin, and fired the ball back into the cutoff. The runners couldn’t advance and the inning ended with a strike out.
The Threshers came into the game with a team batting average of .154. They collected 10 hits to raise it to .187. They lacked the timely hitting that would have allowed them to take advantage of their scoring opportunities. But, they eventually managed to reward their pitching staff with the walk-off win.
Lohman and Pullin led off the first with back-to-back singles but the Threshers were unable to take advantage.
Devin Lohman manufactured a game-tying run in the third inning. He lined his second single of the game with one out. He tagged up and advanced to second on Pullin’s long fly out to left center field. The gamble paid off when Knapp grounded a single to center.
Knapp singled to lead off the sixth inning. He was erased on a fielder’s choice by Dylan Cozens. I think his speed caught the Jays by surprise. Then he stole second. Unfortunately 2 strike outs ended the threat.
The Threshers mounted another threat in the eighth inning. Pullin singled with one out. Cozens doubled down the left field line with two out, but Coach Legg wasn’t able to send Pullin home. A hard ground out ended the inning.
Walding lined a two out single to right in the ninth inning.
To start the eleventh, Cozens beat a pitch up the middle and busted down the line. Aware of Cozen’s speed now, the shortstop ranged to his left and rushed his throw to first. Cozens beat the throw and advanced to second when the ball took a funny carom off the fence toward the backstop. Two outs later, Willians Astudillo grounded his first hit of the season between the infielders on the right side into the outfield, and Cozens came home with the winning run. Final: Threshers 2, Dunedin 1.
The Threshers are tied for first place in the Northern Division. Today marks the first time the Threshers have been over .500 since August 28, 2013.
The Threshers’ bullpen produced the following line after Leibrandt’s departure –
- 5.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 4 K
Four Threshers had 2-hit games – Lohman, Pullin, Knapp, and Cozens. Cozens had their only extra base hit, a double, and drew their only walk.
The box score for this game is here.
Miguel Nunez starts tomorrow in the final game of the series in Dunedin.
Before the game, the Jesmuel Valentin question was answered when Jim Salisbury reported this Phillies announcement.