By Bryan Levine, SunCoast Sports
PORT CHARLOTTE — The Stone Crabs returned to Port Charlotte Wednesday after a lengthy road trip, but were not treated kindly in their homecoming.
Charlotte managed just one run as the Palm Beach Cardinals won 6-1 in front of an audience of 1,546.
“It’s good to be back home,” Stone Crabs manager Michael Johns said. “I thought we played better than (the score indicated). All we can ask for is effort, and we had it tonight, we just didn’t play well enough to win.”
Cardinals’ pitcher Johnny Walter tossed seven scoreless innings to pick up the win. He held the Stone Crabs to five hits, while striking out four and allowing only one walk.
He was removed from the game prior to the eighth inning, where reliever Junior Fernandez allowed the only run, which came on a double from Grant Kay. The double was Kay’s third hit of the night.
Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Mikie Mahtook used Wednesday as a rehab game for his fractured right hand.
Mahtook had solid contact in his first at-bat, but the ball hung up long enough for Palm Beach’s right fielder to grab it. He reached on a bloop single in his second at-bat, and finished his outing with a foul out to the catcher.
Starter Chris Pike was not his sharpest Wednesday night, as he issued six walks over five innings in the loss. Three of those walks came in the second inning, which came back to haunt him as he surrendered four runs in the frame to dig an early hole for the Stone Crabs.
“Everything we do starts on the mound,” Johns said. “Pike is usually a strike-thrower. He just didn’t have his command tonight. They were able to get to him.”
Charlotte had a chance to respond after the Cardinals’ four-run second inning. Grant Kay and Andrew Velazquez each made their way into scoring position, but a pair of ground outs kept them stranded on base.
In total, the Stone Crabs pitchers allowed eight walks, which was still two shy of their season-high.