The Gulf Coast League Yankees East squad needed one win to stay alive Tuesday, and usually, that means asking a lot of that day's pitchers. Led by a 17-year-old right-hander, the Yanks' arms answered the call.Starter Roansy Contreras tossed five scoreless innings while relievers Deivi Diaz and Ron Marinaccio held
The Gulf Coast League Yankees East squad needed one win to stay alive Tuesday, and usually, that means asking a lot of that day's pitchers. Led by a 17-year-old right-hander, the Yanks' arms answered the call.
Starter Roansy Contreras tossed five scoreless innings while relievers Deivi Diaz and Ron Marinaccio held down the fort the rest of the way as Yankees East edged the Nationals, 2-1, in Game 2 of the GCL Finals on Tuesday, forcing a decisive Game 3 tomorrow.
Contreras struck out five and allowed only two hits and one walk in his five frames Tuesday. He settled down nicely after allowing a leadoff double to Ricardo Mendez in the first and retired nine batters in a row before Jose Sanchez's single -- the Nationals' only other hit off Contreras -- broke the stretch in the fifth.
Signed out of the Dominican Republic in July 2016, the 6-foot right-hander started the season in the Dominican Summer League, where he posted a 3.68 ERA with 17 strikeouts and five walks in 22 innings before making the jump to the Gulf Coast League on July 13. His numbers in Florida weren't quite as rosy (4.26 ERA, 17 strikeouts, 12 walks in 31 2/3 innings), but he showed signs of improvement with scoreless outings in two of his last three regular-season starts.
Contreras left the game with a 1-0 lead after the Yankees got on the board thanks to leadoff hitter Jose Devers in the first inning. The 17-year-old shortstop singled to left to lead off the game, then stole both second and third base before scoring on a passed ball with two outs in the frame. Six innings later, the Yanks got some insurance when center fielder and No. 2 hitter Robert Javier plated Borinquen Mendez with a single to left.
That proved to be all the runs the offense would need as Diaz and Marinaccio shut the door. Diaz, who owned a 1.96 ERA in 23 innings with the GCL Yankees East this season, worked around three walks (but no hits) to keep the zero on the board in the sixth and seventh. Marinaccio gave up one unearned run in the eighth and left a runner on second base in the ninth to end Tuesday's Game 2. Marinaccio, a 2017 19th-round pick out of the University of Delaware, was rewarded with his first save of the postseason. He was 5-for-6 in save opportunities during the regular season to go with a 2.30 ERA and 15 strikeouts in 15 2/3 innings.
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The Nationals nearly had enough pitching of their own to capture the GCL title. Right-handed starter Malvin Pena suffered the tough-luck loss despite yielding one unearned run and one hit over five frames. Nector Ramirez kept it close by allowing one earned run on three hits and a walk over four innings.
The pivotal Game 3 of the GCL Finals will be played Wednesday at 10 a.m. ET, two hours earlier than previously scheduled, to allow extra time for evacuation as Hurricane Irma approaches Florida. If a nine-inning game is not completed Wednesday, the Nationals and Yankees East will serve as 2017 co-champions.
Sam Dykstra is a reporter for MiLB.com. Follow and interact with him on Twitter, @SamDykstraMiLB.