By Bryan Levine, SunCoast Sports
PORT CHARLOTTE — The Charlotte bats remained relatively quiet for the third night in a row on Friday, as the Stone Crabs fell 5-1 in their series-opener against Fort Myers.
Tampa Bay Rays Mikie Mahtook and Matt Duffy remained in town for another day of rehabbing. The two big leaguers combined for four of the team’s eight hits, while Mahtook scored the only run, and Duffy drove him in.
The best chance of the night for Charlotte to add to its total came in the eighth inning when a Mahtook single, and walks from Grant Kay and Nick Ciuffo loaded the bases with just one out. The threat ended when Nathan Lukes hit into an inning-ending double play.
“We’ve had good at-bats. It just seems like when they get on, we can’t get them in,” manager Michael Johns said. “We were not good with runners in scoring position again for the third night in a row. We hit into three double plays, and it’s tough to win.”
Of the eight hits for the Stone Crabs, the back-to-back basehits for Mahtook and Duffy were the only times Charlotte managed multiple hits in one inning.
Charlotte had an opportunity in the seventh inning, when Andrew Velazquez had led off with a walk, and made it to third base after some heads up base running on a pair of pitches in the dirt. However, Velazquez was stranded there on a pair of strikeouts and a flyout.
Charlotte starter and loser Benton Moss (6-8) struggled from the first batter of the game all the way to the third inning. Tanner English began the game with a triple, which was followed by a pair of singles for Nick Gordon and Chris Paul, to give the Miracle a 2-0 lead.
Moss shut down the next four bats, but struggled again when the top of the order came around. Tanner’s double kick started the Miracle third inning before Gordon singled, Paul crushed a three-run homer to give Fort Myers a 5-0 lead.
That was extent of the damage against Moss, as he eventually retired the final seven batters he faced before ending his night after the fifth.
“He started pitching in after the third inning,” Johns said. “That was good. I think if he started doing that from the beginning, he would’ve been fine.”
Ian Gibaut had a nice outing in relief work. He tossed two scoreless innings, while allowing one hit and a walk with three strikeouts.
Ciuffo returned on Friday after more than a month on the disabled list with a broken left pinky. The catcher went 0-for-2 with a pair of walks.