PORT CHARLOTTE — Saturday night’s rainstorm was much appreciated by nearly everyone in Southwest Florida, except for the 25 players on the Charlotte Stone Crabs.
The rain washed away a five-run lead for the Stone Crabs, as the weather appeared to directly impact their 7-6 loss to the Fort Myers Miracle.
But don’t look to manager Michael Johns to make excuses.
“They had to pitch in it too,” Johns said. “You just have to tip your cap to them. It looked like tonight the game was getting out of hand, and they battled back. It rained for both of us, so there are no excuses there.”
Fort Myers plated six runs in the final two innings, four of which came in the eighth inning when the rain was at its peak. A slippery ball came out of the hand of reliever Brandon Munoz in the eighth when he hit Rafael Valera – the first batter he faced – with the bases loaded.
Kevin Garcia followed that up with a two-run single to bring the score to 6-5. All four runs in the eighth were credited to Jairo Munoz, who now holds a 108.00 ERA.
Shane Kennedy and Chris Paul had back-to-back extra-base hits in the ninth to plate the eventual tying and game-winning runs.
The Stone Crab defense made clutch plays all night to help keep their lead at the time.
As the Miracle continued to threaten in the eighth, a low line drive was snagged by shortstop Jake Cronenworth, which saved at least run. Earlier in the game, left fielder Ryan Boldt made a diving catch on a ball tailing away from him, which prevent two runs to come across for the Miracle.
“We made some really nice plays when we needed to,” Johns said. “I thought overall, we played a really good game, but we just lost. It’s a tough loss.”
Lost in the comeback for the Miracle was how well starting pitcher Blake Bivens pitched before handing it over to the bullpen.
For the third game in a row, Bivens pitched at least seven innings, as he surrendered just one run on seven hits with six strikeouts Saturday night.
“He throws strikes with all of his pitches,” Johns said. “He induces early, bad contact. He’s going to give up hits, but he kept them oh-for or one-for with runners in scoring position for several innings.”
The Stone Crabs had built up a 6-1 lead thanks to some timely hitting in the fifth and seventh innings.
Triple-A rehabber Ryan Brett hit a leadoff homer in the fifth inning to beging the three-run rally. Jake Cronenworth and Brandon Lowe each had doubles in the frame, and Peter Maris and Cronenoworth were the other run-scorers.
Charlotte was only 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position, but they still had a good day with quality at-bats.
“They understand the importance of moving a runner,” Johns said. “The more you move, the more chances you have to get a runner to third.”
Brett, Cronenworth, Lowe and Maris all had multi-hit games. Lowe hit a pair of doubles.
Third baseman Kevin Padlo has a left hand injury in his hamate bone. The injury occurred in Lakeland on Charlotte’s previous road trip, one day after a two-home run day for the third baseman.
“He’s just going to be rehabbing right now,” Johns said. “The good thing, if there’s a good thing, is he can keep his legs going and he’ll be able to throw.”
According to Johns, there his no timetable for his return. A combination of Cronenworth and Maris have been filling in at the hot corner in Padlo’s absence.