NORWICH, CT - We'd already started to call Reynaldo Lopez the Doubledays ace. It might be time to call him a star.
Lopez (2-2, 1.03) was shining bright again Wednesday night, breezing through six shutout innings and touching 96 mph in the sixth as the Doubledays tamed the Connecticut Tigers 3-1 at Senator Thomas J. Dodd Stadium in Norwich. The win snapped a three-game losing streak for the Doubledays.
Lopez was terrific from the start. After allowing a couple of soft singles to Rashad Brown and Mike Gerber in the first, Lopez buckled down and coaxed a double-play grounder from Joey Pankake to retire the side. Lopez proceeded to retire 11 of the next 12 batters to face him, and despite running into some control issues in the fifth and sixth innings, he only allowed one more hit (a surprise bunt single by Will Maddox in the third) the rest of the night.
It looked like Lopez had met his match in Tigers ace Tanner Bailey, who shutout the Doubledays for five innings while throwing just 55 pitches. But Willie Medina led off the sixth for Auburn with a double, and after being sacrificed to third by Osvaldo Abreu, he scored on a scorching RBI triple to the right field corner by Jose Marmolejos to get the Doubledays a 1-0 lead. Two batters later, Raudy Read crushed a double to the left-center field fence that scored Marmolejos. Read was thrown out trying to stretch the double into a triple, but the damage had been done. The start raised Bailey's ERA from 0.40 to 0.95, still good for third in the New York-Penn League.
The Tigers got one back on Mario Sanchez in the bottom of the seventh, as a two-out double from Franklin Navarro snuck under Jeff Gardner's glove in left and scored Domingo Leyba from second to cut the Auburn lead to 2-1. But Sanchez buckled down, retiring seven of the final eight to face him for his third save of the year. The Doubledays added an insurance run in the ninth on a wild pitch by Tigers reliever Joe Jiminez that scored Read from third.
Auburn and Connecticut play game two of their series Thursday night at Dodd Stadium. LHP Travis Ott (0-1, 2.87) makes his fifth start of the year for the Doubledays against Tigers RHP AJ Ladwig (0-0, 9.00). Coverage begins on 98.1 FM and 1590 AM at 6:50 with Doubledays Pregame, followed by the first pitch at 7:05.