The Dunedin Blue Jays returned home to Florida Auto Exchange Stadium on Saturday evening for game one of their three game set with the Bradenton Marauders and left victorious thanks to a strong performance by their offense and another stellar outing by RHP Josh DeGraaf. The Blue Jays scored in each of the first four innings off Bradenton starter Mitch Keller on their way to an 8-4 win.
RHP Josh DeGraaf entered tonight's game on a roll, having pitched to a 2.20 ERA in 28.2 innings since returning to Dunedin from AA-New Hampshire. He continued his strong second half on Saturday evening, allowing just two hits over 5.2 innings and striking out six. DeGraaf allowed three runs (two earned), with most of the damage coming in the sixth inning on a two-run home run by Jordan George. A bullpen combination of RHP Ryan Cook and RHP Adonys Cardona combined to throw the last 3.1 innings, allowing just an unearned run, to preserve DeGraaf's third win of the season.
"The game plan was to go right after them," Max Pentecost, DeGraaf's catcher for the game, said following the contest. "We wanted to start from the beginning throwing all three pitches and keep them guessing. It was beautiful. He kept all three pitches down, was able to nibble at the corners with the fastball. You couldn't ask for a better performance."
Bradenton went up 1-0 in the first inning, using a pair of errors by 1B Juan Kelly to push the run across. Dunedin answered in the bottom of the first, scoring three times against Bradenton starter Mitch Keller. Prior to tonight, Keller had thrown 11.0 innings against the Blue Jays this season and allowed just two hits and no runs while striking out eleven.
"We could tell from the beginning that he wasn't quite the same pitcher we had faced the previous times," Pentecost said post-game. "We went up there and attacked the fastball and were able to get in hitters counts. It really worked to our advantage."
Keller hit the leadoff batter in the first, DH Anthony Alford, and SS Bo Bichette singled on the first pitch he saw to put two runners on with no outs in the bottom of the first. On a double steal by Alford and Bichette, Bradenton catcher Christian Kelley overthrew third base, allowing Alford to score to tie the game at 1-1. A single by Max Pentecost and walk to Juan Kelly loaded the bases with just one out. Cavan Biggio singled home a pair to give Dunedin a 3-1 lead.
Dunedin added a run in the second on an RBI single by Alford, a run in the third on a sacrifice fly by Eduard Pinto, and two runs in the fourth on an RBI single by Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and a run-scoring wild pitch to go up 7-1.
Bradenton got two back in the sixth on the two-run homer by George, but Dunedin added an insurance run in the seventh thanks to a sacrifice fly by Bichette.
Dunedin knocked ten hits in the game and stole five bases. Pentecost finished 3-5 with a run scored. Bichette had his fourth straight multi-hit game, finishing 2-3 with an RBI, two runs scored, and two stolen bases. 2B Cavan Biggio also had a pair of hits and drove in two.
The win evens Dunedin's second half record at 11-11 while Bradenton remains in second place in the FSL South with a 13-8 record. The two teams will play again tomorrow night with RHP Conor Fisk on the mound for Dunedin coming of a stellar performance in his last start, a 7.0 inning, two hit, nine strikeout, shutout outing against Clearwater. The game's first pitch is scheduled for 5:00 PM.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.