LAKELAND, Fla. - McKenzie Mills turned in six solid innings, and Derek Campbell reached base all four times on Thursday, but Clearwater dropped its fourth-straight after a 3-1 loss to the Lakeland Flying Tigers at Publix Field.
With 23 games remaining, the Threshers (61-56, 23-24) stand 8.5 games back of Tampa in the division, and two games behind Dunedin in the overall standings. If the Yankees win both halves in the FSL North, the second playoff spot will be awarded to the team with the next-best overall record.
All three runs surrendered by Mills (0-1) came in the third inning.
Luis Valdes greeted him with a leadoff single, and Jose Azocar's double to right set Lakeland (51-58, 21-22) up with two men in scoring position and nobody out. Jake Robson pushed the game's first run across with a sac fly to center.
Cam Gibson followed with an RBI single, and scored on Mike Gerber's double to right that put Lakeland ahead 3-0.
Clearwater got one back in the fourth against Kyle Dowdy (8-9).
Cornelius Randolph struck a deep double to center to open the inning, and Wilson Garcia followed with a knock to right. An out later, Campbell came through with a single through the right side to score Randolph and cut the deficit to two.
Mills struck out eight batters in his six innings of work, facing the minimum through his final three. He was charged with three runs on five hits, and did not permit a walk for the third-straight outing.
The Threshers threatened in the seventh, when Campbell ripped a double to left field to open the inning and bring the tying run to the plate.
Dowdy then struck out Edgar Cabral looking and Emmanuel Marrero swinging, but Grenny Cumana pushed one through the right side to put runners at the corners. Dowdy stranded both by striking out Mark Laird to end the inning.
Blake Quinn kept the Flying Tigers off the board through his two innings of relief, yielding just one hit and one walk.
Campbell opened the ninth with a free pass off Zac Houston, but was left stranded at first as Houston locked down his first save. Campbell finished 2-for-2 with a walk, and was hit by a pitch in the second.
The series will swing over to Spectrum Field for game two on Friday night, with first pitch at 6:15 p.m. Sixto Sanchez (0-1) takes the hill in his home debut, opposed by Spencer Turnbull (6-3). The game will be broadcast live on threshersbaseball.com starting at 6:15 p.m.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.