by Mike Potter
FIVE COUNTY STADIUM/ZEBULON The Carolina Mudcats close out their homestand tonight against the Jacksonville Suns, and while they may not be at .500 yet, at least they have their credibility back.
The Mudcats had a six-game winning streak snapped on Tuesday night, when they came up short in the nightcap of their doubleheader.
Jacksonville’s manager is veteran minor-league outfielder Tim Leiper, who was a player with the Mudcats and an assistant at N.C. State in the early 1990s.
It’s an unseasonably cool night as lefty Travis Webb takes on the Suns’ Jose Rosario.
Tonight is the Suns’ night, as they’re one bit hit better in a 7-6 victory.
The Mudcats strike first in the third inning, as Brandon Yarbrough leads off with a single to center, advances on Sean Danielson’s bunt to the mound and takes third on Rosario’s throwing error, and scores on Kris Negron’s single to right.
Jacksonville has a big inning in the fourth. Brandon Tripp leads off with a double to right, and then with one out Tim Torres and Jason Delaney draw back-to-back walks. With two out, Ryan Curry hits a two-run double to left before Osvaldo Martinez follows with a two-run single to left to make it 4-1.
The Mudcats cut it back to a one-run deficit in the fourth. Jake Kahaulelio singles to center, scoring on a Sean Henry triple to right before Mike Costanzo brings Henry home on a sacrifice fly to right.
And nobody scores again. Mudcats relievers Joe Krebs, Philippe Valiquette and Jordan Smith are solid, facing just one more than the minimum over the final four innings. But Matt Peterson picks up the save for the visitors.
Tripp is the only Jacksonville player with two hits, but four of their six safeties are doubles.
Danielson is the only Mudcat with two hits, both singles, while Henry’s triple is the club’s only extra-base hit.
They said it …
Mudcats manager David Bell: “It was a good series — a little frustrating after winning the first three, because you want to win every game. But we’ve put ourselves in a situation where we’ve played better and we know we can play with all the teams in this league. Now it’s just a matter of doing everything we can to be able to win games. Because of the way we started out, it’s going to be a grind for us to be able to make a run at (a first-half championship).”
Leiper: “That was a really good game for us. Our guys really stepped up — (reliever Dan) Jennings came in and got the big double-play (in the sixth). We don’t usually ask Peterson to go more than four outs, and he got five with the two big strikeouts in the eighth. That was a good team effort. That was about as good a baseball game as you’re going to see. And scoring all four runs with two outs was huge.”
Negron: “I felt like I was seeing the ball well and trying to stay with my approach. I just wanted to get on base and get an opportunity to score. We’re playing good ball right now. We’ve just got to stay confident and not let those last two losses get to us. We’re playing hard, and we’re playing well in all three phases of the game.”
What does it all mean?
That the Mudcats — six games behind the first-place Tennessee Smokies in the Southern League’s North Division — continue to play solid baseball, but need to pick up a win soon to keep the momentum going.
Play of the game
Martinez’ game-winning hit.
Stars of the game
Jacksonville leads 7-3.
Carolina: Lost 2.
Jacksonville: Won 2.
Carolina: Placed RHP Daryl Thompson on the disabled list.
Mudcats at Chattanooga, Thursday, 7:15 p.m.
Alexander Smit (L, 0-2, 9.38) vs. Jesus Castillo (R, 2-3, 2.06)
Jacksonville at Tennessee, Thursday, 7:15 p.m.
Elih Villanueva (R, 3-2, 2.50) vs. Austin Bibens-Dirkx (R, 1-1, 2.19)