TAMPA, Fla. - The Tampa Tarpons dropped both ends of a doubleheader, 7-1 in Game One and 6-1 in Game Two, to the Lakeland Flying Tigers, falling further behind first place in the second-half Florida State League North Division Standings on Friday afternoon at George M. Steinbrenner Field.
The critical five-game series began with both Tampa (32-30, 60-68) and Lakeland (34-29, 63-65) trailing first-place Dunedin by 1.0GB and 1.5GB, respectively, with 12 games remaining in the regular season. The Tarpons now sit in third place, 2.0GB of the Blue Jays and 1.5GB of the Flying Tigers, with 10 games left, including six more against Lakeland.
RHP Glenn Otto got the nod in Game One and struggled with command. After issuing a walk in a scoreless first, Otto allowed a pair of walks following a one-out double by Ulrich Bojarski, and John Valente followed with a bases-clearing triple. One walk later, Valente scored on a sacrifice fly by Brock Deatherage, putting the Flying Tigers ahead, 4-0.
Tampa was held scoreless by RHP Elvin Rodriguez in the first three frames before Oswaldo Cabrera singled and scored on a double by Alexander Palma in the fourth, cutting the deficit to 4-1. Rodriguez escaped the jam, getting two pop-outs and a flyout to end the frame.
Otto retired eight-straight hitters before Reece Hampton blasted a leadoff homer in the fifth. Deatherage followed with an infield single and took second on an errant pickoff throw before stealing third and scoring on a double by A.J. Simcox. Brady Policelli followed with a base hit, scoring Simcox to give Lakeland a 7-1 cushion.
RHP Hobie Harris relieved Otto and got a pop-out and a flyout to escape the fifth. Harris then stranded a two-out walk in the sixth before getting a pair of strikeouts while working around two more walks in the seventh.
Rodriguez (W, 11-8) retired 12-straight to finish his first-career complete game, yielding one earned run on three hits in seven innings, walking two while striking out five on 87 pitches (61 strikes). Otto (L, 2-3) allowed a career-high seven earned runs on six hits in four and a third innings, walking four while striking out two on 83 pitches (47 strikes).
Deatherage began Game Two with a leadoff walk against RHP Alexander Vizcaino but was caught stealing by catcher Donny Sands while Vizcaíno struck out the next two batters.
Wilkerman Garcia singled into left before Estevan Florial reached on a drag bunt to begin the bottom of the first. Cabrera followed with a base hit to center, loading the bases with no outs. Garcia scored on a sacrifice fly by Palma, but LHP Jared Tobey escaped further damage by getting an inning-ending double-play grounder by Mickey Gasper .
Vizcaíno induced a double-play of his own before stranding a pair of infield singles in a scoreless second, but the Flying Tigers rallied to take the lead for good in the third. Three-straight one-out singles by Deatherage, Simcox and Policelli tied the game before Simcox scored on a go-ahead double by Bojarski.
Jordan Pearce followed with a walk to load the bases before a wild pitch allowed Policelli to score. One out later, Valente reached on a fielding error at second base by Kyle Gray , scoring Bojarski for a 4-1 Lakeland lead.
Tobey pitched through the third and retired the final eight batters he faced, allowing one earned run on three hits while striking out one and walking none on 40 pitches (23 strikes).
Tampa brought the tying run to the plate when Palma and Gasper both singled with one out in the fourth, but LHP Liarvis Breto (W, 1-1) got Sands to ground into an inning-ending 6-4-3 double-play to maintain a 4-1 lead for Lakeland.
Vizcaíno bounced back with a scoreless fourth but left after walking Hampton with one out in the fifth. LHP Anderson Severino took over and made a throwing error, allowing Valente to reach. Hampton then scored as Cole MacLaren reached on an infield single and, after a walk by Clarke Brinkman, Valente crossed the plate as Deatherage reached on a fielder's choice.
Severino picked up a strikeout while working around a two-out walk in a scorless sixth. Manager Aaron Holbert turned to Gasper to pitch the seventh in order to conserve relief pitchers. Gasper walked three batters, but stranded the base loaded in a scoreless frame.
RHP Jason Foley tallied three strikeouts while stranding a two-out single by Cabrera in the sixth in relief of Breto. RHP Billy Lescher stranded a two-out single by Steven Sensley in the seventh to close the game for the Flying Tigers.
Vizcaíno (L, 1-1) allowed five runs (four earned) on seven hits in four and a third innings, walking four while striking out six on 104 pitches (57 strikes).
Cabrera (4-for-6, R) singled twice in both ends of the doubleheader and now has multiple hits in six of his last 10 games, batting .421 (16-for-38) in that span. Palma (2-for-5, 2B, Sac-F, RBI) drove in both runs and now has 21 RBI in 25 games since rejoining Tampa.
The series continues on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. on Baseball in Tampa Night. RHP Daniel Bies (0-1, 5.79) scheduled to start against RHP Tom de Blok (2-11, 4.00). Live play-by-play of the action will be available on the Tampa Tarpons Baseball Network.
On Strikeout Saturday, strikeouts by Tampa pitchers will determine the special of the day. When a Tarpons pitcher strikes out a batter, a select special will be activated for the night (each special lasts 60 minutes). In addition, fans can collect player autographs on the concourse from 5:40-6:00 p.m.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.