By Bryan Levine, SunCoast Sports
PORT CHARLOTTE — Prior to Wednesday, Benton Moss hadn’t earned a victory since May 6.
Moss has pitched well in the five starts since his last win, but not well enough for him to get a mark in the left column.
That streak ended Wednesday night at Charlotte Sports Park, as the Charlotte Stone Crabs defeated the Clearwater Threshers 4-3.
“It’s nice to get the victory,” Moss said. “I have to give credit to those guys for driving the runs across. For the most part, I’ll take full responsibility for my own pitching. There were games where I had decent stuff, but not good enough. That’s on me. I have to take responsibility to pitch better. If you can’t win with two runs, then you have to only give up one run.”
Moss almost left the game on the hook for a loss, but his teammates bailed him out in the seventh inning.
Alec Sole led off the seventh with an infield single, advanced to second on a wild pitch, and moved to third on a sacrifice fly. Cristian Toribio poked what should’ve been a single up the middle, but hustled, as he pushed for an RBI double.
“The big play was Toribio’s hit,” Charlotte manager Michael Johns said. “That was awesome. To me, that was the play of the game.
If Toribio doesn’t get to second on that hit, it’s tough to send him all the way from first on Riley Unroe’s hit. Especially if it’s the winning run.”
Unroe followed Toribio’s double with a two-bagger of his own to knock in the eventual game-winning run. Those two runs gave Charlotte a 4-3 lead, one the wouldn’t relinquish.
“I was just looking to do anything I could to put it in play,” said Unroe, who ripped his double down the first base line. “It’s great to get the winning hit. Anytime you can save some arms in the pen, and avoid extra innings is a bonus.”
Moss hadn’t won since his May 6 start against Bradenton, but Wednesday was his fourth quality start over his win-less streak.
The former sixth-round draft pick was cruising through the first three innings, until he hit a bump in the fourth. Clearwater opened the frame with four consecutive hits before Moss recorded an out.
Three runs came around to score in the Thresher fourth, as Andrew Pullin, Scott Kingery and Kyle Martin all crossed the plate.
Only two of those runs were earned, as Pullin scored on a fielding error by Justin Williams.
“I just had to forget about it,” Moss said. “I made some pitches they took advantage of. They’re a good-hitting team. I left some balls up, and they put the bat on the ball. When you give up four hits in a row, you have to do something different.”
Moss’ final line saw him surrender three runs on six hits over seven innings of work.
The Stone Crabs jumped on Threshers starting pitcher Ranfi Casimiro in the first inning before being silenced for most of the remainder of the game. Unroe and Mac James scored runs on singles from Williams and Bralin Jackson to give Charlotte an early 2-0 lead.
Charlotte tallied three base hits in the first inning, but managed just two over the next five innings.
One of those two hits was Toribio’s first double of the night, as he went 2-for-3 with an RBI.
The Stone Crabs ended the night with eight hits.
Casimiro was removed from the game with Sole standing on third base with one out in the seventh inning. He totaled three runs surrendered off six hits, while striking out three and walking one.
Victor Arano allowed the back-to-back doubles in the seventh, as well as the inherited runner to score. He also let up a run of his own, as he was credited with the loss.
STONE CRABS 4, THRESHERS 3
HITTER OF THE GAME
Cristian Toribio, Charlotte: The third baseman went 2-for-3 with two doubles, drove in the game-tying run, and came around to score the eventual game-winning run on a Riley Unroe double.
PITCHER OF THE GAME
Benton Moss, Charlotte: The right-handed pitcher went seven strong innings while earning the win. He also retired each of the final 12 batters he faced (other than Malquin Canelo, who reach on an error, but was caught stealing by Stone Crabs catcher Mac James).
Seventh: With the tying run at third base and two outs in the inning, Cristian Toribio poked what seemed like an innocent single to even the game at three. Toribio had other ideas, as he hustled his way into second base, putting him in scoring position, which Riley Unroe took advantage of for his own RBI double.
THEY SAID IT
Second baseman Riley Unroe: “I take great pride in it (batting leadoff). I’m thankful my manager trusts me with it. It’s very important for me to get one base, and try to wreak havoc, and go from there.”