Cedar Rapids, IA - The Clinton LumberKings (4-6, 34-44) literally walked their way back into game three against the Cedar Rapids Kernels (3-7, 34-46) Sunday afternoon at Perfect Game Field. Then a dramatic home run trot finished it.
Five walks, a Justin Seager RBI single, and a passed ball pulled Clinton within one, 4-3, and Christian Carmichael blasted a grand slam - his 2nd home run of the season, completing another crazy LumberKings comeback.
Through the first eight innings, the LumberKings mustered up a total of four hits off of Cedar Rapids right-handers Ethan Mildren and Dallas Gallant. Mildren shut out Clinton through seven innings, easily his best start of 2014, but saw his chance at win No. 3 disappear during a disastrous ninth.
Nick Burdi threw 20 pitches in his professional debut, and 16 missed the strike zone. He walked Zach Shank, Aaron Barbosa, and Jack Reinheimer, loading the bases for Chantz Mack. With Mack at the plate, Kernels catcher Alex Swim couldn't handle a Burdi pitch low and in, allowing Shank to race home from third. Mack then walked, re-loading the bases for Justin Seager, and Burdi's day was finished. He handed over to Jared Wilson (2-1) who didn't fare much better.
Seager greeted Wilson with a Texas Leaguer to right that landed inches away from a diving Jon Murphy's glove. Barbosa scored on the play to make it 4-2, and Isaiah Yates followed with a bases-loaded walk, pulling Clinton within one, 4-3.
Wilson then struck out Corey Simpson but fell behind Carmichael in the count 2-and-0. In a favorable hitters count, Carmichael got the one pitch he was looking for - a fastball up in the zone - and the Clinton catcher crushed it out of the stadium to left for a go-ahead grand slam.
The 7-run frame put Clinton in front 7-4, and Aaron Brooks worked a scoreless ninth for his second save.
LumberKings starter Edwin Diaz began the ballgame in similar fashion to the way the Kernels closed it. The right-hander allowed two runs in the first inning, despite allowing just one hit. Diaz walked leadoff hitter Zack Granite on five pitches and Engelb Vielma doubled to right before the 20-year-old plunked both Chad Christensen and Jason Kanzler with fastballs. A fielder's choice resulted in Cedar Rapids' second run, but the 2012 3rd round pick settled in after seeing Paul Fry warm up with two outs in the first.
Diaz delayed Fry's entrance by delivering five zeroes from innings two through six but still departed the game in line for his fifth loss. Fry escaped in the seventh inning after walking Swim and serving up a double to Murphy. Emilio Pagan (2-2) came on for the eighth in a non-save situation and promptly gave up two runs - both coming on a 2-run bomb by Bryan Haar - his third home run in two games and 11th of the season.
The 9th inning rally put Pagan in a position to pick up his second win, and Brooks' second save in four opportunities sealed the deal.
Carmichael snapped a near three-month HR drought with his clutch ninth-inning blast. He last homered on April 5th, also against the Kernels in Cedar Rapids. Carmichael (2-4, HR, 2B, 4 RBI) was joined by Seager (2-3, BB) as the only LumberKings to record multiple hits.
The win moved Clinton's June record to 7-17 and was just their fifth win in their past 21 games.
The game joined Clinton's short but very impressive comeback list. Clinton won 16-13 after erasing a 12-4, 5-inning deficit at Wisconsin on May 3rd and four days later, won 20-17 in 12 innings after trailing 17-1 through five innings at Burlington.
Clinton and Cedar Rapids meet for their four-game series finale Monday afternoon at Perfect Game Field. The L'Kings will send right-hander Jose Flores (2-0, 4.50) to the mound against Kernels ace Kohl Stewart (1-4, 2.53). First pitch is scheduled for 12:05 PM CT. The game can be heard on WCCI 100.3 FM, wcciradio.com, and lumberkings.com.