Sometimes a Minor League game can have a Major League flavor to it, even during a potential championship-clinching contest.
So it went for Double-A Montgomery and Chattanooga, as they trotted out three rehabbing big league pitchers between them on Saturday night.
Led by Nathan Eovaldi and Xavier Cedeno, six Biscuits combined on a four-hitter to defeat the Lookouts, 2-0, at AT&T Field and keep their season alive. The win evened the best-of-5 series, 2-2, and sets up a winner-take-all Game 5 on Sunday that will decide the Southern League co-champion.
Pensacola won a share of the championship by completing a three-game sweep of Jacksonville with a 5-4 victory on Friday night. The Southern League Finals were canceled due to Hurricane Irma.
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"The pitching was just outstanding tonight," Biscuits manager Brady Williams said. "That goes for both sides. They pitched really well, too, and both clubs have been solid throughout the series.
"But tonight our guys stepped up. Sometimes you need to throw a shutout to win and tonight we did that."
Rays No. 25 prospect Nick Ciuffo snapped a scoreless tie with a fielder's choice that plated Grant Kay in the seventh inning. Montgomery added an insurance run in the eighth when an error by Chattanooga second baseman Ryan Walker allowed Rays No. 18 prospect Joe McCarthy to score from second.
More important for the Biscuits, though, was the parade of hurlers who limited the Lookouts to four singles. Following two perfect innings by Eovaldi and Cedeno, Logan Darnell (1-0) allowed two hits with three walks and four strikeouts over 4 2/3 frames. Kyle Bird and Kyle Winkler combined to surrender one hit and one walk with one whiff in 1 1/3 innings. Ian Gibaut struck out two and worked around a walk in the ninth to record his second save of the series.
The irony that both clubs' starting pitchers were rehabbing Major Leaguers wasn't lost on Williams, who understands his role in the Minors.
"Obviously, you want to make the playoffs and win a championship," the 37-year-old son of former Major League manager Jimy Williams said. "But at the end of the day, we're here for the big leagues. If they need a guy to come down here and pitch, that's what happens. We'll welcome them and their experience and make the most out of it for our guys. Eovaldi and Cedeno both pitched well while they were in their and [Darnell] did a masterful job in relief."
The teams will face each other for the 10th consecutive time in the series finale. Montgomery lost all five games in its final regular-season series before dropping the playoff opener.
"It's a very difficult thing to do, for both sides," Williams said of playing one opponent so often. "[Sunday] will be the 30th time we've played them this season. Both teams know each other and each other's tendencies. Add in the times we play in Spring Training as well and there really isn't much of an advantage either way at this point.
"We've talked all season about what it takes to get things done. These guys know what's going on and what's at stake. We just need to play like we have all year, which is loose and aggressive. It's going to come down to pitchers executing pitches and hitters coming through with big hits."
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T.J. White had two hits for the Lookouts, who received five one-hit frames from starter Adalberto Mejia. The rehabbing Twins left-hander struck out five and didn't walk a batter while throwing 50 of 73 pitches for strikes.
D.J. Baxendale (0-1) was charged with two unearned on two hits in three innings, fanning three, for Chattanooga.