CLEARWATER, Fla. - Backed by a career best, seven innings from James McArthur, the Clearwater Threshers defeated the Lakeland Flying Tigers 5-1 at Spectrum Field on Wednesday night to take the first three of the four-game set. The win keeps the Threshers at the top of the Wild Card standings by percentage points over the Daytona Torutugas.
McArthur (3-1) set the tone out of the gate for the Threshers (67-68, 31-38), facing the minimum through the first two frames with a hit allowed. The right-hander ran into trouble in third when Nick Ames belted a home run to right to put Lakeland (65-69, 36-33) ahead 1-0.
Clearwater gave its starter immediate help in the bottom of the third when Matt Kroon led off against Elvin Rodriguez (11-10). The Oklahoma State product drove a 2-0 delivery from the right-hander into the bullpen for a solo shot to even the game at one.
The run helped McArthur settle in, as the starter retired the next seven batters he faced after allowing the Ames round-tripper, and gave the offense a chance to get the lead in the fifth.
With two outs in the frame, Kroon singled to right for his second hit to keep the inning alive. Daniel Brito followed up with a line drive double to left-center that scored Kroon and put the Threshers ahead 2-1.
Clearwater added on in the sixth against Rodriguez. Simon Muzziotti drove a double to center to get the inning started and advanced to third after Raul Rivas reached first safely on a bunt. A wild pitch against Jhailyn Ortiz moved Rivas to second and gave the outfielder a chance to drive in runs.
The 20-year-old worked a full count before lifting a sacrifice fly to center to score Muzziotti and extend the lead for the home team to 3-1. After Luke Miller struck out Matt Vierling laced the third double of the night to right field to score Rivas and give Clearwater a 4-1 lead.
The three-run cushion helped McArthur toss a scoreless seventh and gave the starter a new career-high in innings pitched. The New Braunfels, Texas native allowed four hits and struck out six with one run allowed through seven frames. The 2018 12th-round pick has won a career best three consecutive starts after starting the year 0-7 with Clearwater and Lakewood.
The Threshers tacked on another run in the eighth against Max Green and the Flying Tigers' bullpen. Ortiz crushed a hanging pitch from Green onto the berm in left for a solo shot to give Clearwater its fifth run. The offense has scored 15 runs over the first three games of the series with 29 hits, 11 of them for extra bases.
Keylan Killgore (SV 11) entered to pitch the final two frames to lock down the win for the Phillies' affiliate. The southpaw walked two batters in the eighth but worked around trouble by retiring Brock Deatherage with runners on first and second. The Wichita State product set down the Lakeland offense in order in the ninth to lock down the save. Killgore has picked up a Florida State League leading 11 saves in 2019 out of 12 tries.
Clearwater goes for the series sweep in the finale of a four-game set with Lakeland in the final home game of 2019 at Spectrum Field on Thursday night. RHP Kyle Glogoski (2-2 1.95) will get the ball in the finale for the Threshers against Flying Tigers' Tom de Blok (2-12 4.13). First pitch is scheduled for 7 p.m. with coverage beginning at 6:45 p.m. on Threshers Live! The Pregame Show at threshersbaseball.com.
Thursday night's contest is the final Taps and Tacos Thursday presented by Tijuana Flats. The game features half price on all beverages in the ballpark and food from the T-Flats cart on the left field concourse.
Thursday's game also features the return of Lil' Anglers Kids Club presented by Tampa Bay Times. Designed for children 13 and older, membership includes admission to and a food voucher for Thursday home games, gifts and special club activities. Only $25 per child per season.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.