by Mike Potter
FIVE COUNTY STADIUM/ZEBULON It’s the opener of the Carolina Mudcats’ five-game homestand, all against the Chattanooga Lookouts, and if there’s anybody in baseball in need of some wins it’s the home team in tonight’s game.
The visitors are the Chattanooga Lookouts, blue-clad Double-A affiliates of the Los Angeles Dodgers, who are tied for third place in the Southern League’s North Division standings five games ahead of the last-place Mudcats.
It’s the first of the teams’ 27 meetings this season in that crazy unbalanced Southern League schedule. And it’s a happy night all around for the home team, as the Mudcats win 3-0 in their second shutout victory of the year.
The night is warm and pleasant as steady Matt Klinker takes the hill for the hosts against Timothy Sexton.
Chattanooga outfielder Scott Van Slyke, the son of Andy Van Slyke, is apparently the first progeny of a former Mudcat to play in the park as a pro
On Cinco de Mayo, the only Mexican on either roster is Chattanooga reliever Jesus Rodriguez, who hails from Coahulia.
Klinker starts out in dominant fashion and the Mudcats jump out to the early lead.
Denis Phipps leads off the Mudcats’ second with a double to left and scores on Chris Denove’s two-out single to left.
Then in the third Kris Negron leads off with an infield hit to third, later scoring when Phipps reaches on a two-out error to shortstop Dee Gordon.
The Mudcats add another run in the fourth, as catcher Denove draws a one-out walk and later scores on Klinker’s bloop single past first.
And that ends the scoring for the night.
Klinker’s outing ends in the seventh when he gives up consecutive singles to lead off the inning, but Joe Krebs gets out of the jam and Ruben Medina pitches a solid eighth before Jordan Smith gets a 1-2-3 ninth for his third save.
Phipps leads the Mudcats’ nine-hit attack with two hits including a double, while Denove adds a pair of hits with an RBI. Klinker has an RBI single of his own.
They said it …
Mudcats manager David Bell: “To start a homestand like this, it just felt like a good night. Klinker came in and did a great job. Medina and Krebs did, and Smith has been throwing the ball real well. The pitching staff really came through and basically shut them down. We got some timely hits. It was great just to get a win. We got a few runs early tonight, and that really helped. … You want to win, but sometimes (rough stretches) happen for a reason. A big part of this game is how you deal with adversity, because there’s so much of it.”
Klinker: “You definitely want to win the first game of a series. It really sets the tone. It was a good outing. Chris and I were on the same page, and it was nice to get a couple of runs tonight. All in all a great ball game for us, and hopefully we can get another one tomorrow. Krebs came in with two guys and nobody out and got a strikeout and a double play. You can’t ask for anything else. Medina put up a scoreless inning, and our game plan is to get the ball to our closer with the lead.”
Denove: “It was a long road trip and it’s nice to be back home. Everybody had a day to relax yesterday and I think we came out a little looser and more ready to play. Klinker was really good. The bullpen did what they were supposed to do. Klinker got us through six and then they shut the game down. Today is the first time in a long time we’ve had a save situation. It was nice to have Jordan come in in that situation and really bear down and pitch well. … I felt good at the plate. Trying to keep my same approach and get some hits.”
What does it all mean?
That the Mudcats are hoping to use the shutout to get some momentum for the series en route to getting back on the right track.
Stars of the game
Play of the game
The one-out double play the Mudcats turned in the seventh, when Anthony Hatch lined to third baseman Jake Kahaulelio who relayed to Jose Castro at second to double off Trayvon Robinson.
Mudcats lead 1-0.
Mudcats: Won 1.
Chattanooga: Lost 2.
Chattanooga at Mudcats, Thursday, 7:15 p.m.
Alberto Bastardo (L, 2-2, 5.19) vs. Dallas Buck (R, 2-3, 6.29)