Mitchell, Yanks take 2-1 lead in Finals

Tosses 5 1/3 scoreless frames as Tampa tops Charlotte in Game 3

D.J. Mitchell went 8-6 with a 2.87 ERA in 19 appearances for Tampa this year. (Mark LoMoglio/MiLB.com)

By John Torenli / Special to MLB.com | September 14, 2009 7:00 PM

Rain forced D.J. Mitchell to cut his first career playoff start short five days ago. The 22-year-old right-hander made up for it in Game 3 of the Florida State League Finals.

Mitchell tossed 5 1/3 scoreless innings and league MVP Austin Romine drove in a pair of runs Monday night as Tampa held off the Charlotte Stone Crabs, 3-1, to take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-5 series.

After tossing two innings of one-hit ball in the Yankees' opening-round, series-clinching 5-2 win at Brevard County on Wednesday, Mitchell (1-0) was forced to watch the rest of the contest from the bench due to a 47-minute rain delay.

However, New York's 10th-round pick in the 2008 Draft appeared rested and ready to pitch Tampa to the brink of the league crown before 1,143 fans at Charlotte Sports Park.

"I felt real good," Mitchell noted after limiting the Stone Crabs to four hits and two walks with two strikeouts. "It's always disappointing when you get ready and you can only get out there for two innings.

"I'm glad I had the opportunity to come out and do it again. I knew it was probably my last start of the season, so I gave it all I had."

Mitchell, who induced 13 groundouts, mixed his fastball, curve and changeup to baffle the same lineup that pounded out 14 hits in a 9-2 victory in Game 2 at George M. Steinbrenner Field on Sunday.

The 6-foot, 170-pound Clemson product retired the first seven batters he faced before Nevin Ashley's bunt single with one out in the third inning. Mitchell got Matthew Hall to ground into a force play before Emeel Salem rolled one to first for the final out of the frame.

Following a 1-2-3 fifth, Mitchell worked into and out of trouble again in the sixth, yielding two singles and a walk before Salem grounded out to second to end the threat.

Drew Anderson doubled leading off the sixth, but Mitchell got Gregory Sexton on a grounder to third before Tampa manager Luis Sojo turned to his bullpen.

"They're a patient team, but if you throw a good pitch, they'll hack at it," said Mitchell, who went 8-1 with a 2.10 ERA in nine road starts for Tampa this season.

"My teammates joked around with me a lot because I pitch a lot better on the road. It's fun to compete with this atmosphere on the road or away."

While Mitchell was mowing down Charlotte batters, Stone Crabs starter Alex Cobb (1-1) kept his team in the game, allowing a run on four hits and two walks with five strikeouts over six frames.

Romine, who batted .276 with 13 homers and 72 RBIs in 118 games this year, snapped a scoreless deadlock in the sixth when he followed Damon Sublett's two-out walk with a run-scoring double to left-center.

New York's second-round pick in 2007 added another RBI double in a two-run ninth as Tampa got some much-needed breathing room entering the final frame.

After tossing a scoreless eighth, ambidextrous Yankees reliever Pat Venditte yielded a leadoff walk to Matthew Sweeney and a single to Shawn Williams before being pulled for closer Jonathan Hovis.

The circuit's regular-season saves leader with 22, Hovis gave up an RBI single to Ryan Royster before Ashley sacrificed to move both runners into scoring position.

With little margin for error, Hovis caught Reed Fronk on a called third strike before Salem grounded to second for his third inning-ending out of the night.

"That's when I'm most nervous, when I'm not in the game," Mitchell admitted. "They fought back hard and it got a little nerve-racking."

Tampa, which is competing in the playoffs for the first time since 2004, will try to close the series out Tuesday night.

"We're still relaxed," said Mitchell, who went 12-7 with a 2.63 ERA in 25 outings between Class A Charleston and Tampa this year.

"Even after we lost [Game 2], we were relaxed. We know we're playing a good team. We're just out there competing and we all have one goal in mind."

John Torenli is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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