JUPITER, Fla. - Sixto Sanchez tossed six innings and allowed five runs in his Florida State League debut, and the Palm Beach Cardinals managed to hold off a pair of late rallies to hand Clearwater a 6-5 loss at Roger Dean Stadium on Saturday night.
Sanchez joined Clearwater after posting a 2.41 ERA in Lakewood, and is considered the top pitching prospect in the Phillies system. The 19-year-old flashed a fastball that sat in the 97-98 mph range, and worked in an upper-80's changeup along with a low/mid 80's curveball.
He set the side down in order on just nine pitches in the first inning, and induced weak contact the first two trips through the lineup. Palm Beach (60-48, 20-21) managed a smattering of soft singles early, and broke out for a pair of runs to break a three-all tie in the sixth.
Sanchez gave Clearwater six innings in the start, and was charged with five runs on 10 hits. He did not issue a walk and struck out three, throwing 75.9% of his offerings (63-of-83) for strikes. Nine of the 10 hits he allowed were singles.
Clearwater (60-52, 22-20) played the long ball early, taking the lead in the first on Zach Green's two-run home run to left off Mike O'Reilly (2-0).
Palm Beach cut the deficit in half on Luke Dykstra's RBI single in the second, but Clearwater got that run right back when Mark Laird unloaded for a solo shot to right in the third, his second home run of the season.
The Cardinals struck back in the fourth, after back-to-back singles to left opened the frame. With one out, Jeremy Martinez knocked one to right to score Leobaldo Pina, and a Jose Martinez sac fly tied the game at three.
It remained knotted up until the sixth. Pina led off with a double to left for the only extra base hit off Sanchez, and a sac bunt moved him to third. Dykstra came through again by dropping a single to right-center to give the Cardinals the lead.
Down 5-3 in the seventh, the Threshers kept it close when Edgar Cabral and Emmanuel Marrero connected for a pair of doubles to bring Clearwater to within one. Thomas Spitz's homer off Tyler Gilbert in the bottom half ended up being the difference-maker, extending the Palm Beach advantage to 6-4.
Clearwater made it interesting in the ninth, after Cabral greeted reliever Dailyn Martinez with a double, his third hit of the night, bringing the tying run to the plate.
With one out, the Cardinals called upon lefty Ian McKinney, and Laird dragged a bunt single down the first base line to put the tying run on. McKinney struck out Cornelius Randolph, but Green struck a single to left to score Cabral and took second on the throw, placing the the tying and go-ahead runs in scoring position with two outs.
McKinney induced a grounder to third from Wilson Garcia to end the game, earning his fourth save.
The Threshers will go for the series win in the finale on Sunday at 1 p.m., when Clearwater will send lefty Ranger Suarez (1-2) to the hill against Sam Tewes (0-0). The game will be broadcast live on threshersbaseball.com starting at 12:45 p.m.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.