PENSACOLA, Fla., - Pensacola Blue Wahoo fans were shown again Saturday why the 22-year-old right hander Tyler Mahle is considered the team's ace.
The No. 10 prospect in the Cincinnati Reds organization pitched six scoreless innings and tied his career-high with nine strikeouts.
It appeared Pensacola was going to win, 2-0, when center fielder Gabriel Guerrero singled in two runs in the bottom of the eighth inning with the Southern League-leading saves leader Jimmy Herget entering the game in the ninth. Instead, the Mississippi Braves rallied to score four runs and overcome Pensacola, 4-2, in front of the 10th sellout crowd of the season of 5,038 at Blue Wahoos Stadium.
Pensacola manager Pat Kelly said the Blue Wahoos emotions went from feeling on "top of the world" to everything "falling apart."
"Sometimes you just have those nights," Kelly said of Herget, who gave up the runs and blew his third save opportunity of the season. "In your life as closer, you have to have a real short memory. There's a pretty good chance he will be out there tomorrow."
Mahle, who was seeking his Southern League eighth win, also brushed off the loss.
"Next time he'll get the save," Mahle said of Herget. "That's just baseball. It happens."
Mahle and Kelly were also not ready to panic with eight games left in the first half of the season. Pensacola leads the Southern Division with a 35-27 record and is vying to become the first team since the Tennessee Smokies to win four straight halves. The Smokies did it from 2009 to 2011.
Despite Pensacola losing Saturday, Biloxi lost 5-2, to the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp and are tied for second with Mississippi at 32-30, which is three games behind Pensacola.
"We just have to win the next two series, 3-2," Kelly said. "I think we're in pretty good position."
The 23-year-old Guerrero, who was selected for the Southern League All-Star game, punched a line drive over the first baseman's head into right field with two outs that scored both shortstop Blake Trahan and third baseman Josh VanMeter to give the Blue Wahoos a 2-0 lead.
But five of the first six batters Herget faced reached base on a walk, single, double and two more singles. Mississippi batted around in the inning. Braves catcher Kade Scivicque drove in the first run for Mississippi with a double that scored third baseman Travis Demeritte, who leadoff the inning with a walk to start the onslaught.
Mahle wasn't the only impressive pitcher on the mound Saturday. Mississippi Braves right-hander Mike Soroka, a 19-year-old ranked the No. 4 prospect in the Atlanta Braves organization, also pitched well.
He threw seven scoreless innings, allowing four hits, no walks and striking out four. Soroka has now thrown 15 scoreless innings in his past two starts.
"Those were two pretty good pitchers right there," Kelly said.
The Pensacola Blue Wahoos host the third game of the five-game series against the Atlanta Braves Double-A affiliate the Mississippi Braves at 4:05 p.m. Sunday. The M-Braves starter is LHP Kolby Allard (4-3, 2.87) against the Blue Wahoos TBA.
The games are broadcast live on the Blue Wahoos flagship station 97.1 The Ticket. Listen for free at bluewahoos.com and by using the TuneIn Radio app on your mobile, desktop or home devices.
You can watch the home games delayed on Cox Sports Television Monday through Thursday on Channel 319. Friday, Saturday and Sunday games are broadcast live on BLAB-TV.
BIG FISH Center fielder Gabriel Guerrero was 1-4 and drove in Pensacola's two runs and now has 21 RBIs on the season...Third baseman Josh VanMeter was 2-3 with a walk and scored a run. He is second on the team with 15 multi-hit games...Second baseman Alex Blandino was 2-4 and is hitting .375 in his last 11 games.
SEAFOOD DEAL Pensacola Blue Wahoos president Jonathan Griffith and Biloxi Shuckers GM Chuck Arnold, who was formerly Pensacola vice president of sales, have agreed to a seafood deal.
If Pensacola wins the first half of the Southern League South Division then the Shuckers will send the Blue Wahoos front office a bushel of oysters. If Biloxi wins, Pensacola will send the Shuckers front office 10-pounds of wahoo.
The teams have battled for the South Division title all season long. Pensacola has been tied or owned sole possession of first place for all but six days of the first half. Biloxi currently trails Pensacola by three games.
Tickets to the 2017 Southern League All-Star Game are on sale now! Purchase tickets online at bluewahoos.com or visiting the Box Office. Orders can also be placed over the phone by calling 850-934-8444. The Pensacola Blue Wahoos are the Double-A Affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds and a member of the Southern League. Follow the Pensacola Blue Wahoos at BlueWahoos.com, facebook.com/PensacolaBlueWahoos and twitter.com/BlueWahoosBBall.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.