Peoria, IL - Right-hander Edwin Diaz propelled the Clinton LumberKings to a 5-0 shutout of the Peoria Chiefs Wednesday night at Dozer Park in front of 2,245 in attendance. The L'Kings offense struck for two runs in the second and an additional three in the fifth to bury the Chiefs in a five-run hole, giving Clinton the series win in the rubber game of the three-game set.
Rewinding to Tuesday night, Clinton starter Lars Huijer lasted just 1.2 innings in an eventual 14-3 L'Kings loss. Having thrown nearly as many innings as the starting rotation, Clinton's bullpen needed a rest.
And it was Diaz who provided the pillows and blankets.
The hard-throwing 20-year-old pitched to contact and delivered seven shutout innings on an efficient 78 pitches, 54 for strikes. The leadoff batter reached against Diaz in five of his seven innings pitched, but the Puerto Rican benefitted from two double plays to escape in both the fifth and sixth. In the seventh, Diaz pitched around back-to-back two-out singles by getting Mason Katz on a lineout to shortstop Jack Reinheimer, keeping the shutout intact.
While Diaz was dealing, Clinton's offense got to work early against Peoria (26-19) righty Blake McKnight. McKnight, who was strictly a reliever in the month of April, was making his fourth start for the Chiefs in May, despite going 0-3 in his first three starts.
Clinton made McKnight a not-so-perfect 0-4 with two runs in the second and three in the fifth, ending his night with just one out in the fifth. In the second, the L'Kings scored two unearned runs, thanks to a two-out throwing error by shortstop Juan Herrera. The wild throw past first baseman Justin Ringo allowed Corey Simpson to score from third, and Chantz Mack added to the misery with an RBI single to right, scoring Peguero.
The LumberKings chased McKnight in the fifth with five hits in six at-bats, the biggest knock being a Reinheimer two-run double which one-hopped the fence in right. Marcus Littlewood then drilled an RBI single high off the wall in right to round out the scoring.
McKnight (0-4) departed to lefty Chase Brookshire, who began a string of 14 straight batters retired, ending Clinton's night offensively.
But it didn't matter for Diaz (2-2) who pitched seven shutout innings for the second time in his career, the other coming last August against the Bluefield Blue Jays in the Appalachian League. He scattered five hits and one walk while striking out one batter - his lowest strikeout total in 2014.
Aaron Brooks recorded the final six outs and lowered his ERA to a team-best 0.68 spanning seven relief appearances.
Austin Wilson extended his hitting streak to six games with the last of the hits - a one-out single off of McKnight. Chantz Mack collected two hits in four at-bats after beginning the season 2-for-15 with two home runs.
Clinton (24-20) continues their road trip tomorrow with a 6:30 PM CT start against the Kane County Cougars (30-16). Left-hander Eddie Campbell (2-2, 5.05) gets the nod for the L'Kings and right-hander Paul Blackburn (4-1, 2.76) will start for the MWL Western Division-leading Cougars. The meeting is the first of nine first-half matchups between the two teams. The game can be heard on WCCI 100.3 FM, wcciradio.com, and lumberkings.com.