BRADENTON, FL - The Charlotte Stone Crabs stayed alive in the Florida State League South playoff race on Sunday, earning a split against the Bradenton Marauders with a 4-3 loss in the opener and a 6-2 victory in the nightcap at McKechnie Field.
With Jupiter's loss, the Stone Crabs gained a half-game on first place, moving to within three games of the tie between the Hammerheads and the St. Lucie Mets. Fort Myers is a game ahead of Charlotte in third place.
A sweep was actually in Charlotte's grasp. Greg Harris threw another masterpiece, tossing six innings and allowing two unearned runs on four hits. Harris's season ERA is down to 3.12, and the right-hander officially ended his August with a 1.22 mark for the month, allowing five earned runs in 37 masterful innings with 40 strikeouts.
Unfortunately, a potential win crashed down on the Crabs in the seventh. Leading 3-2 heading into the final inning, Diego Castillo (2-2) served up a game-tying home run to catcher Taylor Gushue. Pablo Reyes followed with a single, went to second on a wild pitch, advanced to third on a bunt, and scored on a walk-off sacrifice fly from Tito Polo to end the game.
Game 2 was a much better story. Jace Conrad got the party started with a one-out single in the first against Buddy Borden (1-5), and the speedster stole two bases to go home on a sacrifice fly from Joe McCarthy, giving the Crabs a 1-0 lead.
Starting pitcher Greg Maisto allowed two runs in the first thanks to two separate errors, but the Crabs offense was more than ready to pick up its defense. Nathan Lukes and Andrew Velazquez drew back-to-back walks to start the third, and both men moved up a bag on a Borden wild pitch. Grant Kay singled Lukes home, and McCarthy ripped a double to score Velazquez and Kay to put the Stone Crabs ahead for good.
McCarthy wasn't done, socking yet another RBI double in the seventh for the final Charlotte run. McCarthy finished the series 6-for-9 with five RBI and three runs scored, raising his average by 19 points over the three-game set.
The Stone Crabs face a crucial series with the Mets this week at Charlotte Sports Park, beginning at 4 pm on Monday with the continuation of the June 30 suspended game. RHP Henry Centeno (3-3, 3.03) is set to take the ball for the Stone Crabs in a 3-3 tie ballgame in the sixth inning. Charlotte RHP Mike Franco (7-4, 2.14) faces St. Lucie LHP Andrew Barbosa (0-0, 0.59) in the second game.