BUIES CREEK, N.C. - Nathan Rodriguez hit a three-run home run in the first, but the Astros answered back with a three-run home in the home half of the first and two more homers in the fifth while defeating the Mudcats 6-3 at Jim Perry Stadium in what was Carolina's final game of the 2018 season.
The loss clinched a series win for the playoff bound Astros (80-57, 43-25) as they took the final series of the year versus Carolina (65-73, 31-37) three games to one. The loss dropped the Mudcats to a league worst 37-32 when scoring first in a game during the 2018 season.
Leadoff man Cooper Hummel got the Mudcats going early as he reached on an infield single to short on the first pitch thrown by starter Carson LaRue. Dillon Thomas followed by grounding out, but then Dallas Carroll walked and Rodriguez then came up and crushed his three-run home run to left to give the Mudcats the early 3-0 lead.
Rodriguez hit fourth in the lineup for the first time and left the game before the seventh while going 1-for-3 with his second home run of the season. Hummel went 1-for-4 with a run while leading off for the second time all year. Hummel finished the season reaching base safely in his final 28 consecutive games and with a Carolina League best .397 on-base percentage.
Carolina's 3-0 lead quickly disappeared, however, in the last of the first when Corey Julks connected on a three-run home run to left off starter Alec Bettinger. The home run was preceded by a leadoff single from Osvaldo Duarte and a walk to J.J. Matijevic. Julks then hammered the first pitch thrown by Bettinger over the left-field wall to tie the game at 3-3.
Bettinger (1-6, 6.91) followed the Julks home run with three straight outs, including two strikeouts, to close out the rest of the first. He also retired the side in order in the second before then facing just three batters (allowing one hit and getting an out on a caught steal) in the third. He then went on to work through a scoreless fourth before later allowing two home runs in the fifth to J.J. Matijevic and Seth Beer.
Matijevic's home run was a solo shot that gave the Astros a 4-3 lead. It was also his 19th home run of the season. Beer's blast drove in two and put Buies Creek up 6-3 in the game. It was also Beer's fifth home run of the season with the Astros.
Bettinger allowed all three Astros homers and took the loss in his final outing of the season. In all, Bettinger walked two, struck out four and allowed six earned runs on seven hits while pitching through he fifth.
Relievers Nathan Kirby and Cody Beckman combined to pitch the final three frames in place of Bettinger. Kirby walked three, but allowed just one hit over two scoreless innings. Beckman then worked the eighth and struck out one while facing three batters in his last appearance of the season.
LaRue (8-7, 4.18) picked up the season finale win for the Astros after working through the fifth with a walk, four strikeouts and three runs allowed on four hits. He allowed two hits in the first, including Rodriguez's three-run home run, but scattered only two other hits the rest of the way while earning the series clinching win.
Buies Creek turned the game over to the bullpen in the sixth and used four different pitchers to finish it out. Gabriel Valdez (H, 3) worked ascoreless sixth while striking out one. Brendan Feldmann (H, 1) pitched the seventh while also totaling a strikeout. Yohan Ramirez (H, 1) then pitched the eighth while striking out two. Carlos Sanabria (S, 2) worked scoreless ninth and earned his second save despite giving up a hit and a walk in the ninth.
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This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.