TAMPA, Fla. - A quality start by RHP Alexander Vizcaino and home runs by Jason Lopez and Diego Castillo was not enough as the Tampa Tarpons fell, 5-4, to the Charlotte Stone Crabs on Saturday night at George M. Steinbrenner Field.
Tampa (24-25, 52-63) has now lost four-straight games and sits one game back of first-place Dunedin with 24 games remaining in the regular season. Lakeland (1.5 GB) and Clearwater (2.5 GB) also remain in the hunt for the final North Division playoff spot.
Vizcaíno retired seven of the first eight batters he faced before Zach Rutherford lined a double to left in the third. Later, Rutherford scored on a two-out ground-rule double down the left field line by Wander Franco, giving Charlotte (36-15, 71-46) a 1-0 lead.
Lopez answered by clobbered a leadoff homer in the home half of the third off RHP Tommy Romero. It was Lopez's fourth home run of the season, and his second in two games.
Estevan Florial lined a leadoff single in the fourth, stole second and advanced to third on an errant throw by catcher Ronaldo Hernandez. One out later, Mickey Gasper delivered a go-ahead RBI single to right, and Castillo followed with a two-run homer to right.
After retiring the side on nine pitches in the fourth, Vizcaíno was not able to hold the 4-1 lead in the fifth. Garrett Whitley smashed a leadoff homer to left and, later, Jake Palomaki reached on a fielder's choice with two outs.
Franco lined a single to left-center, and Palomaki scored as Florial misplayed the ball, allowing Franco to take second. On the next pitch, Hernandez sliced a single into right, scoring Franco to tie game before getting thrown out stretching for second base.
Vizcaíno returned for the sixth and worked around an error in a scoreless frame. The 22-year-old tallied nine strikeouts while yielding four runs (three earned) on seven hits in six innings, walking none on 99 pitches (79 strikes) in his ninth quality start of the season.
RHP Jefry Valdez relieved Vicaíno in the seventh and Rutherford lined a one-out single to right. Palomaki followed with a go-ahead RBI double into the right field corner, giving the Stone Crabs a 5-4 lead.
Romero (W, 10-4) retired eight-straight before yielding a leadoff single by Castillo in the seventh. The 22-year-old was lifted after 89 pitches (63 strikes) after allowing four earned runs on six hits in six innings, walking none while striking out three.
Valdez (L, 0-3) stranded Palomaki in the seventh and a one-out double by Mosies Gomez in the eighth before facing the minimum in the ninth, getting Rutherford to bounce into a 5-4-3 double-play. The 23-year-old tallied three strikeouts over his three innings of relief.
LHP Christopher Sanchez (H, 2) retired all six batters he faced in relief of Romero. RHP Alex Valverde (SV, 3) worked around a leadoff single by Alexander Palma in the ninth, getting Castillo to ground into a game-ending 5-4-3 double-play.
Castillo (2-for-4, HR, 2RBI, R) logged his second-straight multi-hit game, including his third home run of the season - his first since 6/23. Lopez (1-for-3, HR, RBI, R) extended his season-best on-base streak to nine games.
The series concludes on Sunday at 1:00 p.m., with RHP Clarke Schmidt (4-4, 2.98) scheduled to face RHP Tobias Myers (5-1, 2.71). Live play-by-play of the action will be available on the Tampa Tarpons Baseball Network.
As part of Family Funday Sunday, fans can take advantage of $40 Family 4-Packs, which include four tickets, four hats and four $5 concession vouchers (Family 4-Packs are only available at the George M. Steinbrenner Field Box Office. In addition, Kids 14-and-under can the run the bases after the game.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.