By Bryan Levine, SunCoast Sports
PORT CHARLOTTE — The Charlotte Stone Crabs woke up Thursday morning with a five-game losing streak, but were winners of two in a row by the time they went to bed.
The opener was more dramatic than the nightcap in a doubleheader sweep for the Stone Crabs over the Daytona Tortugas.
“For whatever reason, we play really well against Daytona,” manager Michael Johns said following Thursday’s pair of seven-inning victories. “With the walk-off win in the first game, you kind of hope that spring boards the team. You almost need a win like that when you have a bad streak going.”
Brandon Lowe hit a three-run homer in the bottom of the eighth inning to give Charlotte a 3-2 victory in the opener.
“It felt really good. I wasn’t trying to do anything special, just trying to get the barrel on the ball with a runner in scoring position,” Lowe said. “In pro ball, that was my first walkoff anything, so that was pretty special.”
Lowe’s winning shot was only Charlotte’s fourth multi-run home run of the season, and matched their run total from the previous three games.
They had no problems scoring runs in Game 2, taking the lead for good in a four-run fifth inning on the way to a 6-2 win.
David Olmedo-Barrera carried a strong opener into the second billing, totaling a 4-for-5 evening with three runs scored and two batted in.
“We were really good with runners in scoring position in the second game,” Johns said. “(Olmedo-Barrera) is starting to swing the bat very well. When he starts taking pitches and not offering at balls out of the strike zone, that’s when you know he’s locked in.”
Starting pitcher Genesis Cabrera continued his dominating month of May in the opener. Since the calendar switched from April, the Rays’ No. 28 prospect has surrendered just two runs in 25 innings pitched.
On Thursday, Cabrera tossed seven scoreless frames, allowing just one hit with seven strikeouts and a walk.
Cabrera’s outing was spoiled by a lack of hitting from his offense, who couldn’t manage any runs until Lowe’s homer in the eighth. Reliever Drew Smith took over for the left-hander in the eighth – technically an extra inning – and allowed two runs in two-thirds of an inning before Brandon Lawson came on to halt the threat and claim the win after Lowe’s hit in the bottom of the frame.
Newcomer Travis Ott looked strong in a no decision in the second game. Called up earlier in the week, Ott had six strikeouts among the first 10 batters he faced.
“It was just one of those things where you feel like you’re on cloud nine and you’re ready to go out there and prove yourself,” Ott said. “I was extremely pumped.”
He was eventually taken out of the game with two outs in the fifth after allowing a run and Daytona still threatening. Reliever Dalton Moats allowed an inherited runner to score, but he and Greg Maisto locked it down out of the bullpen, allowing just one hit and no runs.
The Stone Crabs finish the homestand with a three-game set against Fort Myers that begins at 6:35 p.m. today.