Frederick, MD - With the game deadlocked at one in the top of the 10th inning, Bubba Starling stepped to the plate and ripped a leadoff home run to left, propelling the Wilmington Blue Rocks to a come-from-behind 2-1 victory Sunday over the Frederick Keys. The win was Wilmington's second straight and improved the team's record to 35-37 overall and 2-2 in the second half.
The Blue Crew fell behind early, as the Keys took a 1-0 lead in the second on a solo homer by Michael Burgess to lead off the frame.
Burgess' long ball was the only run either team would score until the eighth. Starting pitchers Jonathan Dziedzic and Parker Bridwell both worked six innings and they matched each other nearly pitch-for-pitch. Dziedzic gave up just the one run on seven hits and two walks while striking out seven. Bridwell did not yield a run and only allowed two hits and two walks while punching out five.
The Blue Rocks tied the game, 1-1, in the top of the eighth inning on an RBI walk by Zane Evans, which plated Terrance Gore. Gore, Raul Mondesi and Jared Schlehuber all drew free passes ahead of Evans.
Yender Caramo (2-4, 2.79) earned his second win of the year with two perfect innings in relief. Ashur Tolliver suffered the loss after throwing two innings and letting up the home run to Starling. Mark Peterson pitched a scoreless 10th to lock up his 15th save of the season. Both starting pitchers earned no-decisions.
Wilmington returns to action Monday night at Harry Grove Stadium in Frederick. The Blue Rocks will send righty Christian Binford (4-3, 2.19) to the mound while the Keys will counter with fellow right-hander Branden Kline (3-2, 3.33). First pitch is slated for 7:00 p.m. and fans can listen to the broadcast on 89.7 WGLS-FM. The Blue Rocks return home on Wednesday, June 25, to open up a three-game homestand against the Lynchburg Hillcats. For tickets, call 302-888-BLUE or visit BlueRocks.com.
PEBBLES OF KNOWLEDGE:
Bubba Starling is off to a scorching-hot start to the second half. The talented center fielder ripped two more hits Sunday, including the game-winning home run in the 10th. Overall, he went 2-for-5 on the night with a run, an RBI and a homer. In the first four games of the second half, Starling is batting .474 (9-for-19) with a home run, a triple, two doubles, five runs and four RBIs. All four of those contests have been multi-hit ones. The outfielder endured a rough close to the opening half of his season and entered the All-Star break mired in an 8-for-57 slump. Starling did have moments of brilliance in the first half, though. His defense in center field has proved to be the best in the Carolina League. He also strung together a 15-game hitting streak between May 12 and May 26. The highlight of Starling's season may be the grand slam he hit off of Washington Nationals star Gio Gonzalez on June 6. Gonzalez was on a rehab assignment with the Potomac Nationals at the time. Overall this season, Starling is batting .205 with 15 doubles, three triples, four homers, 39 runs and 34 RBIs in 69 games.
Sunday inning's extra-inning affair marked a rare instance this season of the Blue Rocks playing bonus baseball. It was just the fourth time in 2014 that the Rocks have played additional frames. With Sunday's win, Wilmington is now 2-2 in extra-inning games. Wilmington's first extra-inning game of the year came on May 23 and Kenny Diekroeger lifted the Blue Crew to a walk-off win with an RBI single that night against the Keys. Each of the Rocks' next two extra-inning contests was an eight-inning affair in the back end of a doubleheader. On June 10, the Rocks lost on a walk-off home run in Winston-Salem and on June 13, Carolina pulled ahead for good with back-to-back doubles in the top of the eighth. The victory also improved Wilmington to 8-30 when trailing after seven innings and 1-1 when tied after eight.
Mark Peterson threw a scoreless 10th inning Sunday to earn his Carolina League-leading 15th save of the year. Peterson is 15-for-17 in save tries and his 15 saves are four more than the 11 racked up by Potomac's Robert Benincasa, who resides in second place on the Carolina League leaderboard. Wilmington's bullpen was tremendous Sunday, throwing four scoreless innings in relief of Jonathan Dziedzic. Daniel Stumpf pitched the seventh inning and gave up just one walk. Yender Caramo then threw two perfect innings of relief to pick up his second win of the year. Peterson nailed down the save with a scoreless 10th. Despite a recent rough patch, the Wilmington 'pen has been one of the team's strengths this season. Collectively, Blue Crew relievers are 16-10 with a 3.07 ERA, 20 saves, 206 hits and 222 strikeouts in 241.1 innings pitched.
THEY SAID IT:
Manager Darryl Kennedy:
"I'll tell you what. We lost our share of one-run ballgames in the first half. Maybe we're going to flip that in the second half. I can't say enough about the long travel and then the guts those guys showed out there tonight. Offensively, I wasn't expecting much with the all-night bus ride. They battled and, right when we didn't have much, they were able to work some walks and got our first run there on walks. Then Bubba [Starling] put a good swing on it. Overshadowed in all of that, I thought [Jonathan] Dziedzic threw the ball really well. He made the one mistake in the second inning but the impressive thing was working out of the first and third, nobody out, to keep it 1-0. Then, also, [he escaped with] another runner at third base with less than two outs later in his outing. He kept us in the ballgame, no doubt. If they score a couple of runs there, it's a different outcome. All around, I thought it was a well-played ballgame."
"One thing Milt [Thompson], myself and Justin [Gemoll] all have really tried to stress to these guys after watching the first half unfold is we get ourselves out a lot just by swinging at pitches that aren't in the zone…For the most part, I think things are starting to set in with them and they're starting to believe and trust. Hopefully after that inning right there, it proves that you don't necessarily have to swing the bat to score runs."
"You know what, I can't take credit for that; that's all Bubba [Starling]. The biggest thing I think we've done is backed off from him and just let him go out and kind of figure things out on his own. He's done a very good job. I think [at] the end of the first half, he was just mentally drained a little bit. He needed a break [and] he was able to take those three days off. Since then he's come back a new man…Nothing physical [has changed]. We haven't changed anything with his swing at all. Sometimes a player needs to realize on his own that enough is enough and I have to start doing something. Hopefully that's what's going on."
"Tremendous play right there [by Jared Schlehuber]. That was a game-saving catch right there. He's been very good [as] guy coming down from Double-A. He hasn't pouted at all and hasn't hung his head. He's got in there and just fit right in. He plays the game hard, no doubt about it."
"I've got a lot of confidence in [Mark Peterson]. As soon as Bubba [Starling] hit the home run, I turned around to the bullpen [and said], 'let's go.' I think that's one of the first times we've gone back-to-back all year. In fact, I think it is the first time we've had a pitcher go back-to-back. It's late enough, it's time to start winning some ballgames."
Center-Fielder Bubba Starling
"We had a nice little break there and I had, honestly, a rough first half. After that break, I just kind of cleared my head. It's a new start now and I'm not looking back."
"[Mark Peterson] did a good job getting those first two outs early. They got a couple of guys on then. I saw the ball come off the bat, I'd say pretty well. I just took off and got a good read on it. I was fortunate enough to get it before it hit the wall or something."
"I was trying to find a decent pitch. I think earlier in the game, I was fouling off pitches and then I'd get to a 2-and-2 count on different occasions and I was swinging at stuff in the dirt. I was just wanting to get a pitch that was there. He kind of left a ball up and I just put a good swing on it."
"I just think I still have to do a better job of getting good pitches to hit that are strikes. Sometimes I'm just swinging just to swing. I've kind of spread out a little bit and, like I said, I'm trying to get decent pitches. I battled tonight and that's all I can do."
"Guys are getting on base, getting walks and having good at-bats. We were battling up and down the lineup. We were just fortunate enough to get guys on base and get a run in the eighth inning there and then come back in the 10th and get another run. Our pitching helped us out. The pitching was good tonight."
"We're right in it. I think it starts with jumping on the other team earlier in the game. Sometimes we wait until later in the game and then it's too late. Our pitching, it continues to be good. We've just got to string together some good at-bats earlier in the game."
Blue Rocks Baseball = AffordaFUNability!