PORT CHARLOTTE-- The Charlotte Stone Crabs certainly put on a show in front of a season-high crowd of 6,218 on Independence Eve - and was followed by a fireworks show after the game. The real show of the night came on field, as Charlotte produced a dominant 15-0 win over the Palm Beach Cardinals. The Stone Crabs put up 15 runs and 19 hits, both of which are season-highs. Yet even those numbers are the secondary story for Charlotte Wednesday night.
"Everyone was excited to play with 6,000 fans in the stands," Charlotte shortstop Jake Hager said with a smile.
Roberto Gomez, in his first start since he carried a no-hitter through 5.2 innings of a seven inning game, was lights-out again for the Stone Crabs. Gomez tossed a complete game, one-hit shutout with two walks and six strikeouts. It was Gomez's second one-hit start of the season, with the other coincidentally coming against the same Palm Beach Cardinals on May 28. However, in the May start, Gomez only worked 7.1 innings and allowed a run as well.
"That is his best performance of his last two years," manager Brady Williams said. "He had command of all three of his pitches."
Gomez worked a quick, six-pitch top of the first before the Stone Crabs took the lead on a Hager sacrifice fly. The ensuing inning, Gomez allowed a single to Danny Stienstra and a walk to Anthony Garcia. Those were the last two baserunners to reach against Gomez until the ninth inning.
Gomez retired 21 consecutive batters from the Garcia walk to a walk of Ronny Gil with one out in the ninth. That beat his previous best of 17 consecutive retired, which came in his last start.
"How he is pitching, and the location of his pitches, that is how he pitched last year, and it looks like he has found his rythym now," Williams said.
"It makes the game a lot more fun," Hager added on Gomez's performance. "It makes the tempo of the game better."
The game remained a 1-0 pitchers duel until the bottom of the fifth inning. Charlotte tallied four runs in the fifth on two run singles from Ryan Brett and Richie Shaffer which gave the Stone Crabs a 5-0 lead.
Charlotte added another two in the sixth on a two-run single from Hager to increase the lead to seven. Yet with a seven run lead, Charlotte's offense was not done.
The Stone Crabs added eight runs on seven hits in the seventh inning to give them their final total of 15 runs. Charlotte brought 13 to the plate in the seventh, with RBI base hits from Brett, Shaffer, Hager, Willie Argo, and Alejandro Segovia.
The fifth, sixth, and seven innings saw eight, seven, and 13 batters come to the plate for Charlotte, respectively. Fortunately for Gomez, the long breaks from the mound did not have an effect on his outing.
"If a guy sits out for that long, it's kind of tough to get it back going, but his command was still there and he got some quick at-bats," Williams said.
Overall Charlotte tallied 15 runs on 19 hits, which Hager explained was just a case of hit fever.
"Hitting is contagious," Hager said. "Once everyone started hitting, everyone kept coming through."
Hager finished the game 3-5 with two runs scored and five RBI. Other key contributers Brett (3-5, three runs, three RBI), Shaffer (3-5, one run, three RBI), and Argo (4-5, three runs, one RBI). Every Stone Crabs player in the lineup scored at least one run, while every player except Drew Vettleson recorded at least one hit.
"Guys were having good at-bats; 1-9," Williams said with a grin. "The outs we were making were four, five, six pitch outs, so the pitchers had to work."
With the win, Gomez improved to 4-7 on the year, while his ERA dropped from 5.72 to 5.10.
The Stone Crabs (8-5) will now hit the bus and travel back over to Roger Dean Stadium to finish off this three game set against the Cardinals (7-5). Charlotte's next home is on July 9 when Charlotte welcomes the St. Lucie Mets to town for three games.