By Bryan Levine, SunCoast Sports
PORT CHARLOTTE — Charlotte bats couldn’t get things going until it was too late, as the Stone Crabs fell 4-2 to the Clearwater Threshers on Thursday night at Charlotte Sports Park.
“We put some good at-bats together,” Charlotte manager Michael Johns said. “We just couldn’t string together hits. I thought we battled. There were a lot of positives. They just got the hits, and we didn’t.”
Charlotte made its comeback attempt in the seventh inning, when the Stone Crabs plated a pair of runs to bring the score to 3-2.
Mac James got things going with a single, and eventually came around to score on a triple by Alec Sole, who also scored on a Bralin Jackson groundout.
“I just think it was one of those days you hope doesn’t happen as a team.” said Sole, who went 2-for-3 with an RBI and run scored. “Guys were hitting the ball hard, but it was right at guys. It was just one of those days.”
Starting pitcher Greg Harris began his outing in the second inning after veteran Jonny Venters used the first inning as a rehab outing.
Harris allowed a leadoff double to Malquin Canelo in the fourth, but thanks to a strikeout, flyout and groundout, he escaped the jam without any harm.
Canelo’s hit was Clearwater’s eighth over the first four innings. Harris wasn’t able to get out of a jam in the previous inning, as an Andrew Pullin triple and Scott Kingery single led to two runs for the Threshers.
In one stretch of the game, Harris retired 10 batters in a row, including 12-of-13 at one point as well. He ended the night allowing one earned run on six hits, while striking out four over six innings of work.
“I thought Harris was really good,: Johns said. “His fastball command was good. Changeup was good. Curveball was just OK, but I thought overall his stuff was really good. He kept us in the game, and that’s all you can ask your starters to do.”
Clearwater starting pitcher Shane Watson not only matched, but exceeded that streak from Harris. Watson downed 11 consecutive Stone Crabs over the fourth through sixth innings.
Watson dominated Charlotte, striking out five batters, surrendering five singles, and allowed two runners to reach scoring position. He was removed from the game with Mac James standing on second base, and was relieved by Ulises Joaquin, who was unable to keep the inherited runner from scoring.
Cristian Toribio continued where he left off Wednesday with a leadoff single in the third inning. Jace Conrad followed Toribio’s single with another basehit, but was thrown out at second base trying to push it to a double.
“That was a big play in the game,” Johns said. “It was a bang-bang play. It would’ve been second and third with nobody out. The guy made a nice throw. I didn’t think it was going to be close.”
Toribio was stranded at third base as Watson benefited from a pair of strikeouts to get out of the frame.
The first time through the order for Clearwater, five different Threshers had a basehit, but a pair of 6-4-3 double players limited the damage for Charlotte.
33-year-old Venters got the start for Charlotte in a scheduled rehab appearance. He tossed one inning, retired the first batter he faced, allowed three straight singles, and was bailed out with an inning-ending double play.
Venters, who is recovering from three Tommy John surgeries since 2012, was tagged for one earned run, and was credited with the loss. He needed just eight pitches in the inning, five of which the Threshers put in play.
CLEARWATER 4, CHARLOTTE 2
HITTER OF THE GAME
Chase Numata, Threshers: The catcher went 2-for-4 in the win with a home run in the ninth inning. The dinger, coincidentally, or not, brought rain with it, and a rain delayed ensued moments later.
PITCHER OF THE GAME
Greg Harris, Stone Crabs: The right-handed pitcher threw six strong innings in the losing effort. He only surrendered one earned run, and retired 10 consecutive Threshers at one point.
Third: Clearwater made the lead 3-0 lead in the third inning when Scott Kingery and Andrew Pullin got on base and came around to score. Those two runs proved to be all the Threshers needed
THEY SAID IT
Manager Michael Johns; “We put some good at-bats together. … We just couldn’t string together hits. I thought we battled. There were a lot of positives. They just got the hits, and we didn’t.”