CLEARWATER, Fla. - Spencer Howard whirled a gem in his return from the injured list, but the Clearwater Threshers' bullpen allowed six runs after the sixth inning in a 7-2 loss to the Palm Beach Cardinals at Spectrum Field on Monday night. The defeat extends the Thresher's home losing streak to five games.
Howard was lights out in his return to Clearwater's (48-39, 12-9) pitching staff. The hard throwing right-hander struck out the side the first four batters he faced to set the tone, and allowed just one baserunner through the first three frames.
The Philadelphia Phillies fifth-ranked prospect (MLB.com) finished the night with seven punch outs across four innings of work. Of the starter's 56 pitches, 40 went for strikes.
Palm Beach (41-42, 6-13) could not figure out Howard's stuff, as the 22-year-old finished with seven strikeouts through four shutout frames. Howard pitched in his first game for the Philadelphia Phillies' affiliate since April 23.
Clearwater struck first against Cardinals' lefty Diego Cordero with a solo shot from Jhailyn Ortiz in the second. The Threshers would add to their advantage with Rodolfo Duran's solo blast to left to start the fourth.
The lead would shrink in the fifth with Andrew Brown on for the Threshers in relief. The starter-turned-reliever allowed two hits to start the frame before recording an out. Andres Luna followed with a double down the third base line to get Palm Beach within one.
The Cardinals rallied against Brown again in the seventh after the first two batters reached. Luna grounded a pitch from Brown over to short to plate Juan Yepez and knot the game at two.
The Threshers were stunned by a four-run eighth with Keylan Killgore (1-2) on the mound. Dennis Ortega ripped a double to left to give Palm Beach a 3-2 lead. Two batters later Juan Yepez drove a ball to left for a three-run shot to break the game open for Palm Beach. The Cardinals added another run in the ninth against Luis Carrasco for a 7-2 advantage over the Threshers.
Cole Aker (1-0) retired Clearwater in order in the bottom of the ninth to secure the win for the St. Louis Cardinals' affiliate.
Clearwater aims to even the four-game series against Palm Beach on Tuesday night at Spectrum Field. It is yet to be determined who will start for either team in game two of the series. First pitch is scheduled for 7 p.m. with coverage beginning at 6:45 p.m. with Threshers Live! The Pregame Show on threshersbaseball.com.
Dollar Tuesday returns to Spectrum Field for tomorrow's contest. Berm tickets are just $1 and available at walk-up at Spectrum Field. Fans can enjoy $1 hot dogs, 16oz fountain sodas, chips, peanuts and more.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.