GREENSBORO, NC - The Delmarva Shorebirds scored three runs in the top of the ninth to stun the Greensboro Grasshoppers 6-4 and complete the four-game sweep on Sunday afternoon at First National Bank Field.
With the Shorebirds (30-29, 65-61) down 4-3, the Grasshoppers (23-36, 57-71) went with Michael Mertz out of the bullpen for his third appearance of the series. Cadyn Grenier led off, and on a 3-2 pitch he pounded a solo home run to left field, the first of his professional career, to tie it at 4-4.
After a strikeout, Seamus Curran drew a four-pitch walk, and Jean Carlos Encarnacion came in to pinch run. With Kirvin Moesquit at the plate, Mertz threw wildly behind him, allowing Encarnacion to scamper up to second. Moesquit then lined one over short and into left center for a base hit. Encarnacion sprinted home and slid in ahead of a throw from center, and the Shorebirds seized the lead at 5-4. Moesquit soon after stole second base. Branden Becker came up two batters later and hit a sharp grounder to first that Garvis Lara threw away, allowing Moesquit to score and make it a 6-4 lead.
Nick Vespi took the hill for the Shorebirds in the bottom of the ninth. He issued a leadoff walk to Thomas Jones but struck out Jhonny Santos to follow. Vespi then caught an overeager Jones breaking for second before the pitch, picking him off, and finished Greensboro off by freezing Osiris Johnson with a fastball, sealing the deal on the sweep.
Tim Naughton (3-4) picked up the win in relief after pitching a scoreless eighth. Mertz (2-6) suffered his third blown save and took the loss, allowing three runs (two earned) in two-thirds of an inning. Vespi's save was his team-best eighth of the year.
As they did all series, Delmarva took an early lead. Mason McCoy hit his fourth straight lead off single to begin the action and took second on a passed ball. Becker then singled McCoy to third, and Zach Jarrett lifted a sac fly into right to make it 1-0 in the first.
After not holding a lead in the first three games of the series, the Grasshoppers finally took control in the bottom of the third. Samuel Castro hit a liner to first that became an infield hit and eventually stole second base. Jones followed with an RBI double, bringing Castro in with the tying run. Santos drew a walk to put two on, and Johnson belted a double into the left field corner, scoring both runners to put Greensboro up 3-1.
J.D. Osborne belted a solo home run in the fourth to make it 4-1 Grasshoppers, and from there things got heated. Castro doubled with two out, bringing Lara to the plate. Delmarva starter Jhon Peluffo worked the count to 2-2 and then hit Lara with a fastball around the waist. Without warning or hesitation, the home plate umpire threw Peluffo out of the game. That sparked a quarrel with Shorebirds manager Buck Britton, who himself was ejected moments later. Ryan Wilson entered the game in relief for Delmarva, walked Jones, and struck out Santos to strand the bases loaded.
Peluffo allowed four runs on five hits over 3.2 innings in his controversally short start, walking one and striking out five. Wilson led a Delmarva bullpen that kept the Grasshoppers off the board from there on out; he tossed 3.1 scoreless innings before handing it off to Naughton for the eighth.
Down both their starting pitcher and manager, the Shorebirds responded with five unanswered runs. In the fifth, Moesquit singled with two out and McCoy walked, bringing Becker up for an RBI single to make it 4-2. In the sixth. Grenier also lashed a two-out single, and Jean Carrillo pelted an RBI double to the left center gap, cutting the deficit to 4-3 to set up the big ninth.
Grenier finished 2-for-4 with the game-tying solo homer and two runs scored. Moesquit also went 2-for-4 with a pair of runs scored and the game-winning RBI; he also stole his SAL-leading 45th base. McCoy, Becker, and Carrillo each worked out two-hit games.
Osborne and Castro each had two hits for the Grasshoppers, while Johnson drove in a pair with his double.
Greensboro starter endured a no-decision despite a Quality Start, allowing three runs (two earned) on nine hits over six innings, walking one and striking out one. Nestor Bautista pitched two perfect innings for a hold before Mertz's implosion in the ninth.
The Shorebirds now return home to face the Hickory Crawdads in their final four home games of the 2018 season. Delmarva turns to Cameron Bishop (9-6, 2.96) to face Hickory's Tyler Phillips (10-5, 2.78). First pitch is set for 7:05 p.m. with gates opening at 6:00. Monday is the final 47 ABC $2 Buck Monday of the season, presented by Wicomico Heating and Air Conditioning. Pregame coverage on Fox Sports 960 AM and the MiLB First Pitch App begins at 6:50 with Will DeBoer on the call.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.