By Jordan Kroeger, SunCoast Sports
PORT CHARLOTTE — For the second time in as many nights, the Tampa Yankees cooled the Charlotte Stone Crabs’ red-hot offense.
This time it was pitcher Brody Koerner, who held the Stone Crabs to no runs on five hits to lead the Yankees to a 2-1 win Wednesday night. The right-hander also had four strikeouts in 7.2 innings before Andrew Schwaab picked up the save in a rocky final 1.1 innings.
The game surprisingly became a pitcher’s duel as scheduled Charlotte starter Brock Burke was scratched for soreness in his shoulder. Tyler Brashears was forced into the start and threw five innings, giving up two runs on two hits with three walks and a pair of strikeouts.
Spencer Jones, who was just promoted from Low-A Bowling Green on Tuesday, relieved Brashears to begin the sixth and held the Yankees (44-32) scoreless the rest of the way. He surrendered just two hits and a walk with three strikeouts to keep the Stone Crabs (34-40) in the game.
“Any loss stinks, but in a 2-1 game we fought back in the ninth and our pitching was outstanding,” Charlotte manager Michael Johns said. “Brashears had a spot start and we couldn’t ask any more of him to cover five (innings). Spencer Jones debuted in those four innings with no runs against a really good team so I thought there were a lot of positives.
“We played really good defense and we had the right guys up in certain situations, we just didn’t get the hits we’ve been getting all year. They have really good pitching and we have a really good offense so it makes for a pretty good game.”
Koerner’s outing was especially impressive considering eight of Charlotte’s nine hitters in the lineup were left-handed. The Stone Crabs only put two runners in scoring position the whole night against the ace.
“That guy has good stuff. He knows how to manipulate the baseball. He’s given us fits now for the second time,” Johns said. “He knows how to pitch, knows when to drop a fastball and set us up with the off-speed away so it’s tough for a right-hander to face an all left-handed lineup except for (David) Rodriguez and he did a really nice job.”
Tampa struck for its first run in the fourth on a ground out by Trey Amburgey and added another in the fifth on a sacrifice fly by Jhalen Jaackson that scored Tim Lynch, who doubled to lead off the frame.
The Stone Crabs nearly rallied in the ninth to force extra innings as Brett Sullivan led off with a single and Ryan Boldt walked. A fielder’s choice by David Olmedo-Barrera put runners on the corners and Sullivan later scored on Rodriguez’s ground out.
Schwaab then walked Nathan Lowe to set the stage for Thomas Milone, but Milone grounded out to second to end the game. Lowe made his first start for the Stone Crabs at first base after Dalton Kelly was promoted to Double-A Montgomery on Tuesday.
Milone was the only Stone Crab with multiple hits, going 2-for-4 with a pair of singles. After scoring 39 runs on 55 hits in their four-game series against St. Lucie, the Stone Crabs were held to four runs on four hits on Tuesday and then just one on four hits on Wednesday.
“If anybody thinks we’re going to get 15 or 20 hits every game they’re fooling themselves but I think we’re on such a hot run that it comes like that,” Johns said. “We’ve got really good hitters. We had good at-bats tonight and we had the right guys up in the right situations. That’s all we can ask for.”
Charlotte welcomes Palm Beach at 6:35 p.m. today for the start of a four-game series. Palm Beach won the Florida State League’s South Division first-half championship.