Robert Whalen was a tough-luck loser on Thursday night, allowing only one unearned run as the last-place Bristol Sox took a 4-2 decision from the Kingsport Mets in the opening leg of their three-game series at Hunter Wright Stadium.
The K-Mets remain solidly ahead of Johnson City for the battle for second place in the West Division. The top two teams in each division make the Appalachian League playoffs, and Kingsport currently leads the Cardinals by three games in the race for second.
Whalen allowed seven hits and struck out seven during his time on the hill. The league leader in WHIP, Whalen ranked second in ERA and the latter statistic didn't suffer much. Two of Kingsport's three errors on the night made three of Bristol's four runs unearned.
Alberto Baldonado threw well once again in relief of Whalen, with only a two-out single in the ninth marring what was otherwise a flawless two-inning stint with a pair of strikeouts.
Jake Brown had two of Bristol's eight hits, driving in a key insurance run in the seventh on a two-out single in the infield. Carl Thomore tallied a pair of RBIs for the Sox without getting a hit. Patrick Palmeiro, the son of former MLB player Rafael Palmeiro, had a hit and two runs scored out of the No. 5 hole in the lineup.
Thaddius Lowry pitched the win for Bristol (2-4). Though he entered the game with a losing record, an ERA over 7.00 and a WHIP over 2.00, he settled down after letting the first four Kingsport batters in the game to reach base. He retired nine straight after that, and a double by Jeff Diehl in the fourth was the only other hit he allowed.
Kingsport worked quickly against Lowry, with Ruiz legging out a hustle double to lead off the bottom of the first. He reached third on a bunt single by Jeff McNeil and scored on Joe Tuschak's base hit. An error on Jeyckol De Leon's grounder helped McNeil score from second.
The K-Mets didn't threaten again, leaving five men on base the rest of the way and hitting into double plays to end both the eighth and ninth innings.
NOTES: Bristol already has been mathematically eliminated from playoff contention. … There was a great play by McNeil, diving stop to rob Thomore of a hit and throw him out at first on a run-scoring grounder in the second. … Sox shortstop Toby Thomas robbed his counterpart Amed Rosario of a hit in the seventh with a fantastic play, making a very difficult pick and throwing him out at first.