June 24, 2015; Clearwater, FL
Okay, it wasn’t a pennant. But it was the Florida State League North Division’s First Half clinching game. On June 14th, the Daytona Tortugas beat beat Tampa Yankees to raise their record to 37-26. That same day the Clearwater Threshers beat the Brevard County Manatees to raise their record to 32-31 and remain 5 games back with 7 to play.
While Daytona was dropping a four game series on the road against the Fort Myers Miracle, the Threshers split their series with the St. Lucie Mets. They crept back within 3 games of the Tortugas with a pivotal half-ending, three game series between the teams this week. A series sweep by Clearwater would tie the teams for the division lead. But the first tie-breaker was head-to-head play, and the Threshers entered the series with a 5-4 advantage.
The Threshers won the first game of the series Monday night behind Ricardo Pinto. The right-hander was making his first start at a higher level after his promotion from Class A Lakewood. He faced Daytona’s #14 prospect Jackson Stephens. The Threshers mounted an 11-hit attack and Pinto, Edubray Ramos, and Ulises Joaquin combined to defeat the Tortugas’ batters. That story was reported here.
The two teams met again Tuesday night, but that game was suspended after two innings with the Threshers holding a 1-0 lead. The teams had started their best pitching prospects at this level – #7 Matt Imhof for the Threshers and #4 Amir Garrett for the Tortugas. After two innings both were lost for the rest of the series.
The teams returned Wednesday to play two games. They would complete the suspended nine inning game then play a seven inning game. Daytona chose to go with their #11 prospect, Sal Romano, in the first game. Clearwater opted to continue with Yacksel Rios.
Two batters into the restart, Yacksel Rios had yielded 2 runs on an infield single and a home run. He responded by retiring 8 of the next 9 batters. The one flaw was a walk that was erased on a double play. He struck out 4 in that three inning stretch. In the meantime the offense had bounced back to take a 2 run lead.
A triple, walk, single, and a wild pitch put runners on the corners for the Tortugas in the sixth inning. Rios bore down and struck out 2 batters before giving up a game tying single. Aaron Brown threw out the runner trying to go from first to third to end the inning. Again, the offense rose to the occasion to retake the lead by two.
Miguel Nunez came in to throw a perfect seventh inning. Edubray Ramos followed with two perfect innings, striking out three, to get the save. Ramos was 93-95, but got his 3 Ks with his change up at 81, 84, 80.
The pitchers’ lines –
- Imhof – 2.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, WP
- Rios – 4.0 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 6 K, WP, HR
- Nunez – 1.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K
- Ramos – 2.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K
The Threshers had jumped to an early lead Tuesday night when Andrew Knapp opened the second inning with a double down the left field line. He moved to third on a fly out to right by Willians Astudillo, and scored on a sacrifice fly to left by Chace Numata.
An inning after the Tortugas took the lead Wednesday, Knapp got things started again with an infield single. He took second on a throwing error on the play. He moved to third on a ground out to the right side by Astudillo, but Numata couldn’t repeat his earlier magic. Mitchell Walding walked and Angelo Mora reached on an infield single that scored Knapp. Drew Stankiewicz cleared the bases with a double to LCF gap.
After Daytona rallied to tie, the Threshers responded immediately in the bottom of the sixth. Numata and Walding opened the inning with a walk and a sacrifice bunt that turned into a single. Mora moved the runners over with a successful sacrifice and Stankiewicz blooped a single over the drawn-in infield to take the lead. Carlos Tocci executed a suicide squeeze to score another run. Nunez and Ramos took over to preserve the victory.
Stankiewicz, Knapp and Walding had 2 hits each. Stankiewicz had 3 RBI. Full box score.
Daytona sent Barrett Astin to the mound. Astin was a 2013, third round pick by Milwaukee. (This is a Reds affiliate.) He made 11 starts in his 16 appearances, had a 4-3 record, a 2.29 ERA, .222 BA, 1.07 WHIP, and 61K/18BB in 74.2 IP. The Threshers countered with Colin Kleven – similar stat line PLUS FSL All Star and Canadian National Team member.
Kleven started with a strike out and a walk. Numata erased the runner trying to steal second and Kleven induced a fly ball to Tocci. After the offense staked him to a run, Kleven struck out 6 batters in a row. His toughness emerged in the fourth when he allowed a walk and a single to start the inning. He got a fly to left and two infield pop ups to end the threat. He opened the fifth with his last strike out and last walk. He got the second out on an easy fly ball to left. The next batter hit a soft chopper in that no-man’s land between the mound and first. He cut the ball off but fumbled it into the glove of the approaching Astudillo. He continued on to the bag and took the toss from Willians. Just a routine 1-3-1 put out.
At this point, the Threshers had a 3-0 lead. Kleven had thrown 80 pitches, but had given up just one hit. Until now, he had been mixing up his fastballs and cutter. His 4-seamer had been 95-96, T97 and was still 94-95 in the fifth. Kleven took the mound to start the sixth. The top of the Tortugas’ order would be seeing him for the third time. The first two batters hit hard line drives on 94 and 92 mph fastballs to Andrew Pullin in left and Tocci in center. The third batter launched a HR into the LF bleachers on a 92 FB.
Eight pitches into the sixth inning, Coach Legg opted to go to Ulises Joaquin. He was welcomed to the game with a first pitch HR to right and the lead was down to one. He came back with a strike out to end the inning.
Daytona had one last gasp in the seventh. They opened the inning with an infield single. The runner was sacrificed to second. The second out was recorded on an eighth-pitch strike out. A routine grounder to short clinched the division.
The opportunistic Threshers jumped out to a first inning lead. Stankiewicz crushed a ball into the RCF gap for a lead off double. Tocci popped up his sacrifice attempt and Pullin moved the runner on a ground out to first. Staniewicz scored on a wild pitch.
With one out in the fourth, Aaron Brown lined a single to right. Andrew Knapp followed with a ground single to right. Astudillo blooped a single to right that loaded the bases. Numata picked up an RBI on a fielder’s choice. An errant throw allowed a second run to score on the play. That put them ahead 3-0. Kleven and Joaquin brought it home from there. Barrett Astin did not pitch poorly he allowed 2 ER on 4 hits and no walks. The difference in this game/series was defense. The Threshers didn’t give away as many runs or outs.
The lines of our pitchers –
- Kleven – 5.2 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 8 K, WP, HR
- Joaquin – 1.1 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, HR
Stankiewicz, Brown, and Knapp each went 1-3 with a run scored. Stank had the teams only XBH. Astudillo had their only other hit. Numata had their only RBI. Full box score.
This is a team that won with their clean up hitter (Dylan Cozens) on the bench with an injury. A team whose best player (J.P. Crawford) was promoted several weeks ago. Who saw three of their better starters (Leiter, Leibrandt, Imhof) promoted, injured, or returning from injury. Who started a “rookie” (Pinto) in a must win game to start the series. Today’s starting ten in each game showed how tough, how resilient this team is. They have come back from large deficits and come back late in games all season. Some of these guys will be moving up to the next level later this summer. But, boy oh boy, what a team they are.