JUPITER, Fla. - 2B Alejo Lopez had not homered since August 18, 2017. On Wednesday evening, he uncorked a two-run shot as a part of a three-hit, three-RBI performance, as the Daytona Tortugas staved off the Palm Beach Cardinals, 5-3, at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium.
Scoreless through two frames, Daytona (3-4) jumped ahead in the top of the third. With men at first and third and two outs, Lopez (3-5, 2 R, HR, 3 RBI) poked a ground ball straight through the middle. The single scored the game's first run and put the Tortugas ahead, 1-0. DH Yonathan Mendoza (2-4, 2 RBI, BB) followed by smacking a base-hit right back through the same spot Lopez did. This time two runners crossed the dish to push Daytona's advantage to 3-0.
In the fifth, the Tortugas erupted again. 3B Jonathan India (2-3, 2 R, 2B, BB) wallopped a pitch down the left-field line for a one-out double to set the stage for Lopez. On a 1-1 offering, the 22-year-old unleashed a towering fly ball that sailed over the fence in right towards the Cardinals' offices. The two-run blast - his first of the season - stretched the lead to 5-0.
Palm Beach (5-2) would continue to chip away at the lead but was kept at bay thanks to some stellar defense.
The Cardinals finally got on the scoreboard in the bottom of the fifth inning. With men at second and third and two away, 1B Luken Baker (1-3, R, RBI, BB, SO) rapped a single into left. One run scored, but LF Miles Gordon unleashed a tremendous throw to the plate. C Mark Kolozsvary applied the tag on the runner attempting to score from second to end the frame.
Once again, it was a heady defensive play that quelled Palm Beach's rally in the eighth. After consecutive two-out walks, LF Bryce Denton (1-4, RBI, 2 SO) plopped a base-hit into shallow center. One man came home, but 1B Leandro Santana cut off the throw from centerfield. Denton - who was trying to advance to second on the toss - was tagged out as Santana relayed the ball to the bag, once again, ending the attack.
Now a 5-2 game in the ninth, the Cardinals had one last gasp to try and even the tide. DH Yariel Gonzalez (3-5, 2B, RBI, 2 SO) chased RHP John Ghyzel (1.0 IP, 2 H, R, ER, BB, SO) from the contest by uncorking an RBI double down the left-field line. With the tying runs on-base at second and third, manager Ricky Gutierrez brought in RHP Ryan Nutof (0.1 IP) to try and end the game. The former Michigan Wolverine induced 2B Nick Dunn (1-5, SO) to pop out to short to finish off the game and the Tortugas' victory.
RHP Ryan Lillie (4.2 IP, 5 H, R, ER, 2 BB, 5 SO) worked around some early trouble to piece together a stellar start in a no-decision for Daytona. RHP Cory Thompson (2.1 IP, H, SO) was nearly unhittable in relief, earning his second win of the year, while Nutof collected his first save.
For Palm Beach, RHP Edgar Gonzalez (2.2 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, SO) failed to escape the third inning. The 22-year-old yielded three runs, suffering his first defeat of the spring.
The Tortugas will look earn as a series split on Thursday, as LHP Packy Naughton (1-0, 4.50 ERA) - Cincinnati's No. 21 prospect according to MLBPipeline.com - is expected to toe the slab. Palm Beach is expected to counter with RHP Alex Fagalde (0-0, 3.60 ERA).
The Tortugas Pre-Game Show will kick off the broadcast at 6:15 p.m. ET, leading up to the 6:30 p.m. ET start at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium. Thursday evening's contest can be heard on daytonatortugas.com or via the TuneIn Radio and MiLB First Pitch apps.
Following the road trip, the Tortugas will return home to open up a three-game homestand against the Tampa Tarpons, High-A affiliate of the New York Yankees, on Friday, April 12. That night, Daytona will kick start its Jackie Robinson Weekend by wearing special No. 9 uniforms - the number Jackie wore during his history-making debut on City Island in 1946 - as part of the team's Best Dressed Friday series. It will also be the Tortugas' Friday Night Done Right, as the organization partners with One Voice for Volusia to recognize local children and heroes who continue to break barriers. Fans are encouraged to stick around until the final out, as they will be treated a spectacular Postgame Fireworks show after the game.
Season ticket and multi-game plans are still currently available and can be purchased online at www.daytonatortugas.com, or by calling the Tortugas' Ticket Office at (386) 257-3172.
ABOUT THE DAYTONA TORTUGAS
The Daytona Tortugas are the High-A Affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds and a member of the Florida State League. The Tortugas play at Jackie Robinson Ballpark in downtown Daytona Beach, Fla. Jackie Robinson Ballpark also plays host to Bethune-Cookman University and many large community events and initiatives throughout the season.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.