By Bryan Levine, SunCoast Sports
PORT CHARLOTTE — The Charlotte Stone Crabs’ bullpen couldn’t protect Genesis Cabrera’s gem in a 4-3 loss against the Palm Beach Cardinals Tuesday night.
Reliever Brandon Lawson allowed three runs – including a two-run homer to Andy Young – in the eighth inning to erase what would’ve been Cabrera’s fifth victory of the season.
“I think with a game like that, you have to look at the positives,” manager Michael Johns said. “(Cabrera) threw the ball really well for the first six innings and we played good defense on a wet field. There’s a lot of positives, it’s just a tough loss when you’re going into the eighth inning with a lead.”
Even after losing the lead, Charlotte still made a strong comeback attempt in the eighth and ninth innings, but came up short.
In the ninth, a Dalton Kelly walk followed by a David Rodriguez single, and then a wild pitch by by Ramon Santos, gave the Stone Crabs runners on second and third with nobody out. Santos got Haley to ground out, which scored Kelly from third, but it was up to Jacob Evans to close things out.
Evans got pinch-hitter Brandon Lowe and Thomas Milone to strike out to record the save.
“We brought the winning run to the plate in the ninth inning, and I always say the more we can do that, the better off we are,” Johns said.
The way the game ended, it erased the positive feeling of how well Cabrera started in the first two-thirds of the game.
Cabrera held the Cardinals to just one hit over his final five innings of work to continue to build his resume as the team’s ace. He allowed three hits and a run in the first inning, but gave up only two base runners after his rocky opening frame.
The left-hander used plenty of fly balls to get through his night, retiring 10 batters on balls in the air compared to just four on the ground. The other four batters were strikeout victims.
“That’s the kind of stuff he has,” Johns said. “When he trusts his fastball, he has as good of stuff as anyone in the league.”
Brett Sullivan’s home run to lead off the fourth inning looked like it was going to hold up as the game-winner, as it gave the Stone Crabs a 2-1 lead which they held for four frames. The solo shot was his third of the season, and he also had a single and a stolen base in the loss.
Charlotte got on the scoreboard in the third inning when they tied the game at 1-1 on an RBI double for Peter Maris. Jake Cronenworth was running from first base on the pitch by Connor Jones, which allowed him to easily score the run.
“We were really just trying to steal the base,” Johns said of Cronenworth running before the pitch. “I think it was a 1-2 count, and usually that’s an off-speed count. We were able to get good contact and score the run.”
Maris had a single earlier in the game.
Cabrera out-dueled Jones, who kept the Stone Crabs in check for the most part, but gave up just two runs and five hits in six innings.
The Cardinals clinched the first-half South Division Monday night which gives them an automatic berth to the playoffs.