By Bryan Levine, SunCoast Sports
PORT CHARLOTTE — From the second pitch of the game to the last of the night, things couldn’t have been any more different for the Charlotte Stone Crabs.
An injured pitcher in the first inning eventually led to a Jonah Heim walk-off single in the ninth inning on the way to a 3-2 victory for Charlotte over the Clearwater Threshers.
Heim and the bottom of the order did the damage against the Threshers, scoring all three runs of the night.
“The bottom of the order really stepped up tonight,” manager Michael Johns said. “Jonah Heim had some good at-bats, Riley Unroe’s two-strike approach (on his single in the ninth) was unbelievable, and Tommy Milone just stayed in there and had some great base-running.”
Tampa Bay Rays starter Matt Andriese, who is attempting to return from a hip injury, threw just two pitches for the Stone Crabs before his rehab start was done.
Lead-off hitter Mark Laird sent a come-backer right at Andriese’s left ankle/calf area, and the hurler immediately appeared to be in pain. After a conversation with the trainer, Andriese was removed from the game, but he didn’t look to be limping when he was walking around the dugout or back to the clubhouse.
Andriese was wearing a walking boot after the game to protect what he said was a bone bruise. He said it’s not too concerning and might not even require X-rays today. It’s been a rocky rehab stint for Andriese, who left an earlier outing with the Stone Crabs due to a blister on his pitching hand.
“It’s alright. It’s just unfortunate,” Andriese said. (The walking boot) is just so that I can keep the weight off the heal. … Being that it’s just a rehab outing, we’re taking the precaution of getting out of the game and getting some treatment for it.”
The Stone Crabs struck for a pair of runs in the second inning. Riley Unroe, Thomas Milone, Heim and Lucius Fox all had consecutive singles. Heim’s and Fox’s base knocks drove in the runs.
Charlotte scored the runs off the Philadelphia Phillies’ No. 2 prospect Sixto Sanchez. The 19-year-old allowed just the two runs in six innings while racking up five strikeouts thanks to his 97 mph fastball.
Tyler Brashears took over for Andriese, and held the Threshers scoreless over 3.1 innings. He allowed four hits and two walks while getting three strikeouts.
Michael Santos and Dalton Moats finished the final 5.2 innings. Santos was credited with two runs allowed, but one of them came with Moats (6-0), who was credited with a blown save and the win.
“I want to touch on the bullpen, first of all,” Johns said. “When your starting pitcher goes out on the second pitch, that’s obviously a lot of outs the bullpen has to cover, and they were just outstanding.”
The teams play the middle game of the three-game series at 6:35 p.m. today. Brandon Lawson is expected to pitch for Charlotte against Clearwater’s Ranger Suarez.