by Mike Potter
FIVE COUNTY STADIUM/ZEBULON It’s Game 3 of the Carolina Mudcats’ series with the familiar Chattanooga Lookouts, and so far this week the Mudcats have had their way.
It’s 89 degrees at first pitch as Mudcats ace right-hander Matt Klinker (5-5) takes on the Lookouts’ Jesus Castillo (4-6).
Mudcats outfielder Luis Terrero is serving Game 2 of his five-game suspension for charging the mound in Saturday night’s brawl, while Chattanooga’s Corey Smith — who exchanged some punches with Terrero during the fracas — in on the second of his three-game sentence.
Tonight Chattanooga gets up three runs in the first and holds the lead the rest of the way in a 5-4 victory.
Klinker struggles early as the Lookouts put up three in the first inning. Dee Gordon leads off with a single to short, followed by Elian Herrera’s single to left center and Trayvon Robinson’s two-run single to left. Robinson continues to second on an error to left fielder Brandon Yarbrough and scores on Eddy Perez’ one-out grounder to second.
The visitors make it 4-0 in the second as Matt Wallach leads off with a double to right, takes third on Gordon’s infield hit to short and home on Herrera’s bunt to the mound.
Carolina gets on the board in the bottom of the frame. Devin Mesoraco hits a one-out double to center and scores on Jake Kahaulelio’s two-out double to left.
Chattanooga comes back with another in the fourth, when Kyle Russell leads off by blasting an 0-1 offering over the wall in right.
The Mudcats answer in the bottom of the frame as Mesoraco draws a two-out walk, advances on Yarbrough’s single to left center and scores on Kahaulelio’s single to right.
And the home team’s momentum continues in the fifth. Klinker leads off with a single to center and is erased on Kris Negron’s fielder’s choice ball to the mound. Sean Henry singles to center before Dave Sappelt hits an RBI single to right. Mike Costanzo follows with another RBI single to right and it’s 5-4.
And it stays right there.
Russell homers and doubles to lead the Lookouts’ 10-hit attack while Gordon chips in a trio of singles. James Adkins is the winning pitcher with 1 2/3 innings of middle relief while Jon Huber picks up his 12th save of the season.
Klinker lasts seven innings and allows four runs on 10 hits with six strikeouts against one walk. Kahaulelio leads the hitting attack with the double and single and two RBI.
Here’s what they said …
Mudcats manager David Bell: “Klinker had some bad breaks, and we hit some balls hard and didn’t have a lot to show for it. But that’s just all part of the game. He really did a great job going deep into the game for us — we’ve been a little short with all the extra-inning games lately. He gave us a chance to win the game. He’s durable and knows how to pitch. He’s very competitive. … I guess it wasn’t our night. But we’ll come back tomorrow and do it again.”
Chattanooga manager Carlos Subero: “It definitely helped being able to score early after losing a tough ball game yesterday in which they came back and beat us in extra innings. Klinker pitched a real good game against us last time and has Triple-A experience, so that was big. Castillo had some hits off him that weren’t the hardest hit, and the job Adkins did coming out of the bullpen was key.”
Klinker: “It seems like I’ve been struggling a little bit early in games right now. I think I’m just trying to throw it too hard — my sinker is kind of getting away from me and the ball’s kind of flattening out. The last few innings I just tried to slow it down, sink the ball and get some ground-ball outs. I just battled and tried to put up some zeroes, help the team, save the bullpen so we can rattle off two more wins against these guys.”
What does it all mean?
That the Mudcats are seven games out and their playoff chances are looking shakier by the day.
Stars of the game
Play of the game
Robinson’s two-run single in the first.
Mudcats lead 13-11.
Carolina: Lost 1.
Chattanooga: Won 1.
Carolina: IF Eric Eymann promoted to Louisville. OF Felix Perez activated from disabled list.
Chattanooga at Mudcats, Tuesday, 7:15 p.m.
Jesus Withrow (R, 3-8, 5.29) vs. Scott Carroll (R, 3-6, 2.96)