DUNEDIN, Fla. - The Tampa Yankees (1-1) were the "home" team, but the Dunedin Blue Jays (1-1) celebrated a win in their home ballpark, forcing a decisive Game 3 after a marathon 15-inning contest on Wednesday night at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium.
Josh Rogers had a rough start, allowing the Blue Jays to load the bases with a walk, hit-batter and bunt single to begin the game. The southpaw was able to escape with only one run allowed via a sacrifice fly by Max Pentecost.
More trouble arose for Rogers in the second. After two quick outs, three straight hits provided two more runs for Dunedin. Jorge Flores reached on an infield single off the top of Rogers' glove. Anthony Alford and John La Prise followed with back-to-back doubles, giving the Blue Jays a 3-0 lead.
Tampa responded off RHP Jon Harris in the bottom of the second. Trey Amburgey lined a one-out double into center and scored on a two-run blast over the right field wall by Rashad Crawford. It was Crawford's third home run since joining the Yankees.
Kevin Cornelius followed the home run with a double into right-center. Harris, however, did not permit another base runner until a second double by Cornelius, leading off the bottom of the fifth.
Rogers worked into the sixth and left the game after a two-out single by Flores placed runners on the corners. RHP Cody Hamlin entered and got Alford to groundout, ending the threat.
Rogers took a no-decision after holding the Blue Jays to three runs on eight hits in five and two-third innings. The 22-year-old allowed one walk and two hit-batters while striking out five, throwing 57 of 81 pitches for strikes.
Crawford singled and Cornelius walked with one out against Harris in the seventh. LHP Tim Mayza entered in relief and Tampa counter by pitch-hitting Tito Polo. A walk by Polo loaded the bases, but Mayza struck out Wes Wilson and Jorge Mateo to end the inning.
Tampa tied the score in the next inning. Gleyber Torres lined a one-out single into center and later scored on a two-out double to the wall in left-center by Amburgey.
The Blue Jays promptly regained the lead against RHP Dillon McNamara in the ninth. Alford hit a leadoff double over Crawford in center and scored, one out later, on a go-ahead double by Jonathan Davis. A pair of groundouts retired the side.
Dunedin called upon RHP Carlos Ramirez for the save, but the Yankees found a way to retie the game without the need of a hit. With one out, Polo reached on an error at first by Ryan McBroom. Pinch-hitter Zack Zehner and Mateo drew back-to-back walks, loading the bases.
Thairo Estrada hit a sharp grounder to third and reached on a fielder's choice. Matt Dean stepped on the bag for the second out and threw on to first, but Estrada dove into first base and beat the throw, allowing Polo to score.
Five scoreless innings later, the Blue Jays took an 8-4 lead against RHP Gabriel Encinas (L, 0-1). Four walks, two wild pitches, two fielding errors, one passed ball and one hit led to four runs for Dunedin. The inning ended when Connor Spencer switched from first baseman to pitcher and got the 10th batter of the frame to groundout.
RHP Francisco Rios (W, 1-0) retired the side in the bottom of the 15th, securing the win in relief. Rios scattered two walks and two hits and struck out one over two and two-third scoreless innings.
Hamlin (2.1IP, 1H, 1K) and RHP Joe Harvey (2.0IP, 3H, 1K) made their debuts with Tampa. RHP Sean Carley pitched for the second straight night, throwing three scoreless frames (2H, 1BB, 2K).
Cornelius (3-for-5, 3 2B, BB), Torres (2-for-7, R), Amburgey (2-for-7, 2 2B, RBI, R) and Crawford (2-for-7, HR, 2RBI, R) each had multi-hit games. Tampa finished 1-for-16 with runners in scoring position and left 14 on base.
That "if necessary" Game 3 will now happen on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. to decide which team will face the Bradenton Marauders in the Florida State League Championship Series. Bradenton won the opener of the South Division best-of-three series in St. Lucie and finished off the Mets with a 4-1 victory on Wednesday night at McKechnie Field.
LHP Nestor Cortes (4-2, 3.21 ERA) will get the ball for Tampa in a matchup with Dunedin RHP Conor Fisk (10-3, 3.25 ERA). The Yankees will be the "home" team at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium.