Andrew Carpenter tossed six strong innings Thursday as the Clearwater Threshers edged the Sarasota Reds, 3-2, in Game 2 of the Florida State League West Division Finals.
Carpenter (1-0) limited the Reds to two runs on five hits and a walk while striking out two as the Threshers knotted the best-of-3 series.
The 22-year-old right-hander, who helped Clearwater reach the playoffs by winning his last four regular-season starts, including a seven-inning perfect game against Fort Myers on Aug. 27, felt a little under the weather on Thursday.
"I felt good arm-wise, but I got a little cold going," said Carpenter, whose 17 wins tied for the Minor League lead. "I just tried to block it out, just go out there and pitch. Other than that, I felt really good."
Two of his six losses came against Sarasota and the 6-foot-3, 230-pounder faced a deficit in this contest. Tonys Gutierrez led off the second with a walk, moved up on Eric Eymann's single and scored on Jeremiah Piepkorn's base hit to right field to give the Reds a 1-0 lead.
Carpenter escaped further damage as he caught B.J. Szymanski's bunt pop-up and doubled off Piepkorn before striking out Chris Kroski.
"I tried to treat it like just another start, but I knew it was a big one," said Carpenter, who was tagged for 14 runs -- 12 earned -- on 18 hits over 10 innings in two regular-season starts against the Reds.
The Phillies' second-round draft pick in 2006, Carpenter gave up a two-out RBI single to Gutierrez in the sixth. But catcher Lou Marson nailed Gutierrez trying to steal second.
"I was really tired at that point," Carpenter said. "I don't think I would have had much on my ball [in the seventh]."
Will Savage followed with three perfect frames, fanning five, to notch his first postseason save.
Jake Blalock hit an RBI groundout and John Urick followed with a run-scoring single in the fourth to give the Threshers a 2-1 lead.
Lou Marson, who doubled and scored on Urick's single, delivered an RBI double to make it 3-1 in the sixth.
Reds starter Daryl Thompson (0-1) yielded two runs on four hits and three walks with four strikeouts over five frames.
The decisive third game is Friday at Sarasota, with the winner facing Brevard County for the FSL crown. Antonio Bastardo, who was 9-0 with a 1.87 ERA for Class A Lakewood before he was promoted, starts for the Threshers.
"It's a big confidence-booster, now that we're tied," Carpenter said. "The bats came alive again and I think we have the upper hand with Bastardo going tomorrow. Hopefully, we'll keep it going."