By Josh Vitale, SunCoast Sports
PORT CHARLOTTE — Picture it: Two on, two outs, two strikes, bottom of the sixth inning of a tie game.
Not all the way, of course. The lights in the seating bowl remained illuminated. So did the scoreboard in left-center field, which has flickered often at times throughout this season but shone like a beacon in the dark Thursday night.
But what did not survive the outage was the four light bays that bathe Charlotte Sports Park in unnatural light night in and night out.
Officially, the game between the Stone Crabs and St. Lucie Mets was suspended due to power, which, according to veteran public address announcer Josh Grant and official scorer Rich Spedaliere, who have been with Charlotte since its inception in 2009, is a first in the team’s eight-year history.
So that’s how the game ended — at least for now. Cristian Toribio at the plate with runners on the corners and an 0-2 count against him, Stone Crabs and Mets tied, 3-3, in the bottom of the sixth inning.
“Don’t worry,” Toribio said. “I can wait.”
He’s going to have to. St. Lucie and Charlotte will pick up Thursday’s game right where it left off, but it won’t be until nearly two months from now when the Mets next report to Port Charlotte Aug. 29-31.
And, with this being High-A baseball, there’s a good chance neither team will look like it did Thursday night. Toribio, Mets right-hander Chris Flexen on the mound, Jace Conrad on first, Bralin Jackson on third — none of them might be where they are right now.
They could be on the disabled list. In Double-A or Triple-A. Possibly even the majors, should disaster truly strike their respective big clubs.
“It’s going to be weird,” Charlotte Stone Crabs manager Michael Johns said. “I have to try to keep that lineup card and I have to keep their lineup card for a month or two. We could have a completely different team here.”
Johns felt really good about the team he did have Thursday night though. Coming off a season-worst 13-2 loss to the same Mets the night before, the manager admitted his Stone Crabs lost the first three innings again.
St. Lucie left fielder Kevin Taylor hit a two-out, two-run, first-inning home run for the second straight day to put the Mets ahead 2-0 out of the gate, and the visitors were poised to strike again when they loaded the bases with one out against Charlotte ace Brent Honeywell in the third.
It looked like it might be that type of night for the highly regarded right-hander — uneven, with him allowing two runs in the first and striking out the side swinging in the second.
But after a visit from Watson just before Taylor was set to come to the plate with a chance to blow the game open, Honeywell got the cleanup hitter to ground to third, where Toribio professionally turned an inning-ending 5-4-3 double play.
“It looks routine,” said Honeywell, who allowed just the two runs on four hits while striking out eight over five innings in his second start off the disabled list. “But that was not a routine play.”
It proved a game-changer. After the Stone Crabs and Mets exchanged runs in the fourth and sixth innings, respectively, on a Jackson sacrifice fly and Taylor RBI single off big-league Andrew Bellatti, the home team entered the bottom half of the sixth down by just two.
Catcher Mac James led off and reached when Mets shortstop couldn’t handle the hop on a hard-hit groundball that deflected off the hand of Flexen, who finished his outing having allowed three runs (one earned) on six hits and five walks over 5 2⁄3 innings.
Alec Sole followed with a walk, but the St. Lucie right-hander picked up two of his four strikeouts with whiffs from Justin Williams and Joe McCarthy to get to two outs.
That left it up to Jackson and Conrad, the former who came through with a rope RBI single to left field and the later who legged out a game-tying infield single to Jhoan Urena at third base.
“We had the momentum. We felt good about it,” Johns said. “We outplayed them those last three innings.”
Now, they just have to wait to play the next three.
METS 3, STONE CRABS 3 (Suspended)
HITTER OF THE GAME
Bralin Jackson, Stone Crabs: The left fielder brought home two of Charlotte’s three runs, the first with a sacrifice fly in the fourth inning and the second with a single in the sixth.
PITCHER OF THE GAME
Brent Honeywell, Stone Crabs: Take out the one mistake he made — the home run he allowed to Kevin Taylor in the first inning — and the right-hander’s line would only have three hits and eight strikeouts on it through five innings.
Sixth: Jackson brought Charlotte within one and Jace Conrad tied it with an infield single, and they still have a chance for more: When the game resumes, Cristian Toribio will be at the plate with runners on the corners and two outs.
THEY SAID IT
Michael Johns, Stone Crabs Manager: “What a wacky way to finish it, with the lights going out. I’ve never seen that, and I’ve been doing it for a while. I know a lot of people have, but I haven’t. It’s weird. It’s crazy.”