- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Sugar Land rallies to win with four runs in ninth inning
By DALLAS COGLEStaff writer
It turned out to be a Memorial Day to forget for the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs, particularly closer Jim Ed Warden.
Warden reverted to his earlier troubles this season with his fifth blown save in eight chances after seemingly turning the corner over the previous 12 days and returning to form that made him the Atlantic League’s top bullpen anchor the last three years.
Warden sustained his worst outing of what has already been a trying season as host Sugar Land roughed him up for four runs — three of them earned — on five hits in a nightmarish ninth inning for the Blue Crabs.
Warden only retired one of the seven batters he faced, that coming on a sacrifice bunt that Sugar Land was willing to give up to move runners to second and third bases with one away while down a run.
After tying the game on a Warden wild pitch, which of all things came on ball four of an intentional walk, Sugar Land capped their monstrous rally with player-coach Victor Gutierrez stroking a walk-off single to center field that plated former Blue Crabs catcher Octavio Martinez with the winning run from third in a thrilling 5-4 victory for the first-year expansion Texas club.
The Blue Crabs handed Warden a 4-1 lead entering the ninth set up by an impressive seven-inning outing from starting hurler Dan Reichert, who yielded just one run while scattering eight hits.
Warden was unable to deliver his third straight save after having two shutdown appearances in his previous two outings, used in stints of 1 2/3 and 1 1/3 innings with five combined strikeouts with only one hit allowed to close the door on Bridgeport and York earlier on this season-long 11-game road trip.
“It’s a tough loss, this one hurts. If I said no, I’d be lying,” Blue Crabs manager Patrick Osborn said after his team lost the Memorial Day opener to the four-game series in the Houston suburb. “Dan Reichert threw the ball really well, and Jim Ed struggled a bit.”
The skipper added about his closer, “I’m going to run him back out there [for another save opportunity]. He’s throwing the ball well and honestly I still think he gives us the best opportunity to close games with the stuff he has and with his experience of anyone in our bullpen. And that’s half the battle — having the experience to close.”
The Blue Crabs (14-17), which lost four of five entering Tuesday’s contest at Sugar Land that finished too late for inclusion into this edition, had plummeted to 6 1/2 games behind league-best Long Island (20-10) in the Liberty Division. No other team in the league has less than 15 losses.
“It was really tough,” Blue Crabs starting catcher Christian Lopez said about Monday’s heart-wrenching defeat. He got the night off. “Reichert pitched his [butt] off as usual. It was even tougher because everyone was kind of dragging from the travel, and we had the game pretty much in the bag. But that’s why you play until the last out.
“You never know what’s going to happen. Jim Ed seemed to be getting his confidence back. It looked like he was just leaving his pitches out over the plate, good pitches to hit, and they just hit them.”
The Blue Crabs’ hectic travel schedule saw them stomach another late-inning loss Sunday night in 3-2 fashion at York, which tallied the winning run on a two-out home run from former major leaguer Bobby Kielty. That contest ended at 7:49 p.m.
The Blue Crabs bus then traveled back to Southern Maryland later on Sunday night and the team boarded a flight out of Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport at 9:40 a.m. Monday. Lopez said the flight landed in Houston around 2 p.m. central time, four hours before the first pitch against Sugar Land.
“This is definitely not the position we want to be in,” Lopez said about the Blue Crabs placement in the standings, “but we’ve got some resilience and great players. So we’ll be all right. We’ve just got to get a nice little win streak going.”
Osborn added, “We’re in a tough time right now, not only with wins and losses but with healthy bodies. We’re grinding right now. Every game is so important now.”
Memorial Day marked an improbable second straight night with a walk-off hit for Sugar Land (15-15), who celebrated a 4-3 triumph over Freedom Division-leading Lancaster at home Sunday in the 10th on a two-out solo homer from Dominic Ramos. Sugar Land tied that game in the ninth on a one-out wild pitch, ironically the same way it knotted the Blue Crabs in the final inning Monday.
After a promising start to this road trip for the Blue Crabs — taking two of three at nemesis Bridgeport with Warden shining in last Wednesday’s rubber game as he was perfect in 1 2/3 innings for his best outing of the season — the Blue Crabs found ways to lose tight games at York (12-17), sporting the worst record in the league through Monday.
Thursday’s series opener at York resulted in a 7-6 shortcoming, followed by Friday’s 4-2 setback. After the Blue Crabs gritted out a 2-1 win Saturday, with Warden again seamless in garnering the save, they stumbled Sunday in getting a split in the series with a 3-2 loss.
The Blue Crabs left 13 men on base in Sunday’s defeat, including 10 through the first five innings.
York also received a stellar defensive play Sunday from first baseman Chris Nowak in the fifth as he robbed Lopez of an extra-base RBI hit down the line with runners on first and second and two away. Upon gobbling up the ball, Nowak hustled to first for the unassisted putout to end the Blue Crabs threat and keep York ahead, 2-0, at the time.
“The wheels will not fall off this team,” Osborn proclaimed. “I can guarantee you that. We have too good of people and too good of players. There is a lot of stuff that’s not gone our way due to injuries and players leaving. We have to do the best with what we have.
“We’re in every ballgame we play. We just can’t seem to get on the right track and get any momentum going.”
Atlantic League standings
(Standings as of Monday)
Liberty Division W L Pct. GB Streak Last 10
Long Island 20 10 .667 ---- W-3 7-3
Bridgeport 16 15 .516 4.5 L-3 4-6
Southern Maryland 14 17 .452 6.5 L-2 3-7
Camden 13 17 .433 7.0 L-1 5-5
Freedom Division W L Pct. GB Streak Last 10
Lancaster 16 15 .516 ---- W-1 4-6
Somerset 15 15 .500 0.5 L-2 3-7
Sugar Land 15 15 .500 0.5 W-3 8-2
York 12 17 .414 3.0 W-2 6-4
MondaySugar Land 5, Blue Crabs 4
Blue Crabs 000 201 010 4 9 1
Sugar Land 000 001 004 5 13 2
WP Nix (1-3), LP Warden (1-4)
Extra-base hits: 2B Padgett (BC, 7), Botts 2 (SL, 10); HR Mercado (BC, 1)
SundayYork 3, Blue Crabs 2
Blue Crabs 000 000 020 2 10 1
York 002 000 01x 3 10 1
WP Thomas (1-1), LP Morlan (1-1), Save Rodriguez (5)
Extra-base hits: HR Owens (BC, 4), Perez (Y, 3), Kielty (Y, 1)
SaturdayBlue Crabs 2, York 1
Blue Crabs 000 000 020 2 8 0
York 000 000 010 1 7 0
WP Green (3-1), LP Cody (1-5), Save Warden (3)
Extra-base hit: 2B Scott (Y, 2)
FridayYork 4, Blue Crabs 2
Blue Crabs 000 100 010 2 6 2
York 001 300 00x 4 8 2
WP Feierabend (3-1), LP Suarez (0-2)
Extra-base hits: 2B Hu (BC, 10), Perez (Y, 6); 3B Scott (Y, 2)
ThursdayYork 7, Blue Crabs 6
Blue Crabs 200 004 000 6 10 1
York 120 400 00x 7 11 3
WP Thurman (2-1), LP Schlact (0-2)
Extra-base hits: 2B Barton (BC, 4), Figueroa (BC, 6), Giannotti (BC, 6), Paniagua (Y, 2); HR Castro (Y, 2), Shanks (Y, 4)