Dunedin, FL - RHP Frank Viola III (W, 1-0) stole the show on the Fourth of July, knuckleballing his way through six strong innings in his Florida State League debut to lead the Blue Jays (6-9, 52-32) to a 5-1 win over the Clearwater Threshers (5-10, 22-61) at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium.
Viola surrendered just one run on five hits with four walks and no strikeouts. He allowed a mere four base runners over his final four innings, and did well to escape an early jam. The Threshers hit a single and drew three walks in the second inning, and plated their lone run on an RBI groundout from Angelo Mora. Viola stranded the bases loaded by inducing a line out to 1B L.B. Dantzler.
As for the Blue Jays offense, LF Nick Baligod opened the first inning with a single to left, and moved to third on a double by CF Dwight Smith, Jr. With RF Marcus Knecht batting, Threshers starter Jordan Guth balked, scoring Baligod to give Dunedin a 1-0 lead.
The score would remain tied until the bottom of the sixth, when the Blue Jays struck for three runs against Lino Martinez (L, 0-5). DH Kevin Patterson and C Jorge Saez drew a pair of walks to start the rally, and 2B Christian Lopes loaded the bases with a single. Baligod gave Dunedin a 2-1 lead with a run scoring groundout down the first base line, and Saez came home with the team's third run on a wild pitch. Smith then provided the only run-scoring hit of the ballgame with an infield single.
Dunedin took a 5-1 lead in the seventh inning with some base running wizardry. SS Emilio Guerrero led off with a single, and moved up on a base hit by Patterson and a fly out from Saez. With runners on the corners and two out, Patterson broke for second, drawing a throw from catcher Gabriel Lino. As Patterson slid in safely, Guerrero broke from third, stealing home to cap a bizarre day of scoring.
LHP Chad Girodo (S, 2) recorded the final nine outs of the ballgame, allowing just a single and a walk with three strikeouts in three innings to keep Clearwater off the board.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.