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09/13/2006 2:28 AM ET
Sidewinders rally past Express
Carter's two-run single caps three-run eighth in 3-1 win
Chris Carter was fifth in the PCL with 97 RBIs during the regular season. (Tucson Sidewinders)

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TUCSON -- Chris Carter smacked a two-run single in the eighth inning Tuesday as the Tucson Sidewinders rallied for a 3-1 win over the Round Rock Express in Game 1 of the PCL Championship Series.

Carter's hit came off split-fastball specialist Travis Driskill and provided the victory margin.

"He has a good splitter and I knew I would see a few of them," Carter said. "When I got two strikes on me, I just battled and swung at anything close and finally just got enough of one to get a base hit."

The ball landed a couple of feet in front of right fielder Royce Huffman.

"I wasn't sure it was going to fall in," Carter said. "I kept yelling, 'Fall, fall, fall.' I thought the right fielder would make a diving catch. But he didn't and I was relieved. I knew we were up two runs."

And those runs stood up as Sidewinders closer Mike Schultz retired three of the four batters he faced in the ninth to secure the save and extend Tucson's home winning streak to nine games.

But the streak came extremely close to ending on this rainy night.

Jared Gothreaux (0-1) held the Sidewinders hitless for 6 2/3 innings and scoreless through seven. The only hits he surrendered were a clean single into left-center field by Brian Barden in the seventh and a leadoff single by Juan Brito in the eighth.

The second single, along with botched plays on back-to-back sacrifice bunt attempts, led to Gothreaux's departure and eventual no-decision as the Sidewinders awakened just in time to turn an apparent loss into a win.

"Gothreaux had outstanding stuff and I wasn't sure we were going to get a hit," Sidewinders manager Chip Hale said. "He was controlling the plate in and out, up and down and it didn't look like we had much of a shot."

Carter wasn't so sure himself.

"He had very good stuff tonight, obviously," he said. "What he did to me was get ahead with that first strike and then threw borderline strikes after that. He got ahead and made you go after his pitch. He had good movement and threw his offspeed stuff for strikes, which is what you have to do to pitch like that. I tip my cap to him. And I'm glad we got a win."

Hale sensed that Barden's single in the seventh provided the emotional boost his team needed.

"Everyone took a deep breath," Hale said, "and we got the bunts down."

Yes, they did, and the usually dead-solid Round Rock defense leaked.

Second baseman Brooks Conrad dropped a throw on what would have been a sacrifice by Alberto Gonzalez, and Gothreaux made a bad throw to Conrad after fielding pinch-hitter Kenny Perez's bunt.

"We got sloppy in the eighth inning, and in a game like that, you make a couple of errors and it opens the window of opportunity," Round Rock manager Jackie Moore said. "A good club like they have over there will take advantage of it.

"For us to be sloppy like that is not us," he added. "That's not what got us here. You hate to see it, but you have to understand that we're all human and are going to make mistakes. We have to come back here tomorrow and start all over."

While Carter's hit was the game-winner, a heads-up play by Perez after he reached first base was equally important. After Driskill, who inherited a bases-loaded, no-out jam, struck out Alberto Callaspo on three splitters, Jon Weber smoked a line drive to first baseman J.R. House.

Perez had the presence of mind to scurry back to the base quickly, avoiding the possibility of a doubleplay.

"That was one of the biggest plays of the inning," Hale said.

Driskill walked Scott Hairston to score Matt Erickson and make it 3-1.

The come-from-behind win enabled Tucson starter Micah Owings to remain unbeaten in the PCL. He is 10-0 in 19 starts, including two no-decisions in the playoffs.

He was nearly as good as Gothreaux. Owings held the Express to five hits and one run over 7 1/3 innings, striking out seven and walking one.

"That was a helluva game for awhile," Moore said. "It was a shame someone had to lose that game. You had two guys coming at each other in a good old-fashioned hardball game."

Bill White (1-0) got the last two outs in the eighth for the win.

The teams meet again on Wednesday at 9:30 p.m. ET in Tucson.

Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.