- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Daryl Thompson was the headliner Tuesday, debuting as the starting pitcher for his hometown Southern Maryland Blue Crabs just hours after signing with the club earlier that afternoon.
The 26-year-old is attempting to parlay a successful run with the Blue Crabs into landing with another major league organization, hoping to return to the big leagues in the wake of brief stints at the lofty level in 2008 and a year ago.
So Waldorf’s Regency Furniture Stadium was obviously buzzing with anticipation among the near 3,500 fans who turned out to see the hard-throwing righty consummate a Southern Maryland marriage made in baseball heaven.
Thompson, a 2003 La Plata High School graduate and a native of Hughesville, personally knew many of the Blue Crabs fans in the stands, a rare luxury in the professional baseball ranks. Among Thompson’s biggest supporters at the game included an array of baseball and softball players from Hughesville Little League, where he began life in the sport as a 4-year-old in T-ball.
But it was the revitalized Blue Crabs offense that became the story of the game, constructing one of the most thrilling comebacks in the history of the fifth-year franchise with a 5-4 dramatic victory in 10 innings.
The Blue Crabs erased a 4-1 ninth-inning deficit to put the game into extra innings before finishing off Long Island in the additional frame.
So the start of the Thompson era with the Blue Crabs was much more memorable than for the obvious reasons. He got a no-decision on the mound for a 101-pitch outing that started shaky but ended in solid form, allowing three earned runs in six innings with six strikeouts and three walks.
“I had a little adrenaline rush, I was excited about it,” Thompson said after signing autographs for a plethora of little leaguers following the game. “It kind of took me back to my senior year [of high school] with all the [major league] scouts right before I got drafted and everybody wanted to see me throw. The family was there [for my high school games that year], all my friends were there. It was pretty much the same thing [tonight].”
He yielded three scores, including a two-run homer, through his first two innings of work, obviously affected by the excitement and nerves of performing in front of the hometown folks in addition to being in his first game since May when he was pitching for the Minnesota Twins’ Triple-A affiliate Rochester.
“I try not to let too much get to me, but I wanted to do good and I just couldn’t get the ball down the first couple innings,” Thompson added. “It’s my first time actually throwing to hitters in like two and-a-half months. For me to go six innings and give up three runs, I felt like that wasn’t bad. I just got to keep building on top of that.”
Thompson blanked Long Island in his final four frames of work, ending the third through the fifth innings with swinging strikeouts.
Tuesday’s victory sparked the first-place Blue Crabs to another one-run victory of 4-3 over Long Island in a Wednesday morning start time, turning around about 12 hours later to play that game.
The Blue Crabs, owners of the Atlantic League’s best record with a Liberty Division-leading 11-7 mark in this second half, were assured of no less than a four-game split with Long Island entering Thursday’s series finale that finished too late for inclusion into this edition.
“I thought Daryl threw the ball well,” Blue Crabs manager Patrick Osborn said. “His command isn’t where he would like it, but you saw the raw stuff he has. He made some adjustments after the second inning and did a great job.”
Blue Crabs pitching coach Reggie Harris added, “Part [of his shaky start] was him coming back, pitching at home. You’ve got a lot of people in the stands. I think he was a little amped up early, maybe a little bit of jitters. We were just hoping to get five out of him, and we got one inning more than we expected. He helped us a lot. We shortened the bullpen and we were just trying to get innings [from him] the best we can.
“He’s the type of guy that’s going to get better and better. He definitely has the stuff or he would’ve never been to the major leagues. You could see it inconsistently tonight. When he really gets his arm going and gets the ball out in front, he has life on his fastball.”
That fastball peaked around the lowered 90s in speed for Thompson against Long Island.
“He has secondary pitches,” Harris said, also noting that Thompson will work out of the bullpen while vying for that fifth starter’s role in the Blue Crabs rotation. “He has a really good curveball and needs to throw his change-up a little more too.”
PaybackThe blown save giveth and taketh away for both clubs on consecutive nights as the Blue Crabs got revenge after closer Jim Ed Warden allowed Long Island to tie Monday’s game in the ninth with a run before yielding three more scores in the 10th of a 10-7 heartbreaking loss.
Down 4-1 with one out in the bottom of the ninth Tuesday, the Blue Crabs rally started with what seemed to be an innocent single by Richard Mercado. That was followed by an RBI double from Paco Figueroa.
Then with two outs, Jeremy Owens, Mike Daniel and Brian Barton combined for consecutive infield singles in improbable fashion. Barton just hustled out the throw from short on his dribbler to score Owens from third with the tying run, sending the game to extra innings.
In the 10th, Owens drew a bases-loaded, two-out walk to end the contest in dramatic 5-4 comeback fashion for the Blue Crabs. Mercado also sparked the 10th-inning heroics for the Blue Crabs by drawing a walk after the first two batters of the frame were retired.
“There’s never any quit on this team. Everybody’s fighting until the end,” said Mercado, Thompson’s catcher on the night. “It’s definitely nice to come back and win especially after dropping that one [on Monday].”
He added about Thompson, “He’s got amazing stuff. He’s got a sharp breaking ball. He’s got a really good fastball, just lightning fastball. When he started getting down [in the zone] later in the game, he started going through guys, being able to throw his cutter and curveball for strikes.”
Mercado boasted a seven-game hit streak through Tuesday, getting the day off Wednesday.
Daniel upped his hit streak to eight games Wednesday. He thrived with the bat Tuesday, going 3 for 5 with a double.
“[Tuesday’s comeback] shows how we’ve been playing in the second half. We’ve shown some resilience,” said Daniel, who played with Thompson in 2006 for the Washington Nationals’ Single-A affiliate Vermont. “We’re focused on the second half. We want to win it and go to the playoffs.”
Thompson added about the memorable comeback highlighting his Blue Crabs debut, “It was fun. I was glad to see we were able to come back and win. I’m more worried about the team winning than me going out there getting wins.
“It was exciting. I love that kind of baseball. Just playing and playing and playing until the last out.”
Atlantic League second-half standings
(Standings as of Wednesday)
Liberty Division W L Pct. GB Streak Last 10 Overall
Southern Maryland 11 7 .611 ---- W-2 6-4 41-47
Bridgeport 10 8 .556 1.0 W-3 6-4 41-47
Camden 10 9 .526 1.5 L-1 5-5 44-44
*Long Island 6 13 .316 5.5 L-2 2-8 45-43
Freedom Division W L Pct. GB Streak Last 10 Overall
Sugar Land 11 9 .550 ---- W-1 5-5 40-50
*Lancaster 10 9 .526 0.5 W-1 4-6 55-34
York 9 10 .474 1.5 L-2 6-4 45-44
Somerset 9 11 .450 2.0 L-1 5-5 44-46
*First-half division winner, playoff berth clinched
WednesdayBlue Crabs 4, Long Island 3
Long Island 100 101 000 3 7 0
Blue Crabs 100 030 00x - 4 6 0
WP Green (7-6), LP Loree (4-7), Save Mobley (1)
Extra-base hits: 2B Brodin (LI, 1), Nelson (LI, 22), Garcia (BC, 5), Pedroza (BC, 2); HR Sing (LI, 15), Owens (BC, 14), Padgett (BC, 8)
TuesdayBlue Crabs 5, Long Island 4 (10 inn.)
Long Island 120 000 001 0 4 9 1
Blue Crabs 100 000 003 1 5 12 0
WP Manning (3-3), LP Lansford (0-1)
Extra-base hits: 2B Gorecki (LI, 13), Perez 2 (LI, 3), Daniel (BC, 17), Benjamin (BC, 15), Figueroa (BC, 12); HR Williams (LI, 6)