By Josh Vitale, SunCoast Sports
PORT CHARLOTTE — Entering the start of a nine-day, 10-game homestand, Benton Moss had never allowed more than five runs in a start in his career, and the Palm Beach Cardinals hadn’t scored more than five runs in a game in a 10-game losing streak.
Both things happened in a span of three innings Wednesday night.
Casey Turgeon tagged Moss for a three-run home run as part of a seven-run outburst in the first three innings, giving the Cardinals more than enough ammo to pick up their first win in the month of May, 10-3, over the Stone Crabs.
“It was terrible,” Moss said. “Plain and simple. … I was leaving it up, and they were aggressive.”
Prior to Wednesday, the worst outing of Moss’ career had come in his penultimate start of the 2015 season, when he allowed five runs (four earned) on seven hits over 3 1⁄3 innings for short-season Hudson Valley.
Against Palm Beach, the right-hander allowed seven runs on eight hits and three walks over 4 1⁄3 innings. The Cardinals finished with 10 runs on 16 hits, totals which tie and set single-game highs for Stone Crabs opponents this season.
Blake Drake started the scoring with a two-run triple in the first, Turgeon belted his first home run of the season onto the right-field boardwalk in the second, and Darren Seferina and Steve Bean drove in a run each in the third.
Seferina also drove in the night’s final run, lofting a solo home run to right off side-arming position player Pat Blair in the ninth.
Moss said “the stuff was there” — he struck out a season-high eight batters — but he had trouble keeping the ball down in the zone.
“I’m used to striking out more guys than runs allowed, but I don’t know that I’ve ever had an outing where I’ve had eight Ks and seven runs,” Moss said. “But when you leave the ball up, in this league, it’s going to get hit. Always.”
The loss halted a three-game Stone Crabs winning streak, dropped them out of a tie with Fort Myers for first place in the Florida State League south division and marked just the fifth time in 33 games Charlotte pitchers have allowed more than five runs in a game.
Alec Sole drove in the first two Stone Crabs runs with a single in the first and a 4-3 groundout in the third, respectively, off Cardinals starter Matt Pearce, who allowed two runs on five hits and three walks while striking out four over 5 2⁄3 innings.
The Stone Crabs loaded the bases with one out in the seventh and eighth innings against the Palm Beach, but got nothing out of it other than an RBI single from Grant Kay. They went 3-for-15 with runners in scoring position and left two touchdowns on base, making eight of their final nine outs via strikeout.
“When it’s a team that’s lost 10 in a row, they’re bound to get hot,” manager Michael Johns said of the Cardinals. “And they got hot tonight.”
CARDINALS 10, STONE CRABS 3
HITTER OF THE GAME
Casey Turgeon, Cardinals: Finished a triple short of the cycle, going 3-for-5 with a double, three-run home run and three runs scored out of the leadoff spot.
PITCHER OF THE GAME
Neil Wagner, Stone Crabs: The rehabbing veteran was the only Charlotte pitcher to not allow a run, striking out one over 1 1/3 perfect innings before leaving after taking a ground ball off the chin.
Seventh and eighth: The two frames might not have ultimately impacted the outcome of the game as the Stone Crabs already trailed by five, but they loaded the bases with one out in both innings and scored only one run.
THEY SAID IT
Right-hander Benton Moss: “I knew they would be aggressive, because they haven’t been hitting as well as they wanted to. Whatever their losing streak was, I knew they would be aggressive. We talked about it before. I have to keep pitches down, and I didn’t do it tonight.