BOWIE, Md. - In search of a second Eastern League title, the Double-A Bowie Baysox broke a 2-2 tie in the last of the eighth tonight to beat Harrisburg in their playoff opener.
The Baysox take Game 1 of the best-of-five league semifinal series 5-3 after a three-run eighth. They host the Senators for Game 2 on Thursday night at Prince George’s Stadium.
Jesse Valentin drew a leadoff walk in the eighth against Harrisburg right-hander Jhonatan German and stole second with one out. Then Preston Palmeiro tripled into the right-field corner for a 3-2 lead. When T.J. Nichting drove a ball to center, Palmeiro scored on the sac fly for the 4-2 edge. The bottom of the Baysox order got it done.
But they were not done. Leadoff hitter Cedric Mullins walked and stole second. He then scored on Ryan McKenna’s RBI single to left for a 5-2 lead. McKenna went to second on the throw home and to third on an error, but was stranded there.
Baumann retired the first seven batters he faced and had a two-hit shutout through five. Heading into the Harrisburg sixth, he had fanned four of the previous five batters and led 1-0.
But he walked center fielder Cole Freeman and shortstop Luis Garcia, the Washington Nationals’ No. 2 prospect. A single followed to load the bases with no outs and Baumann’s night was suddenly over.
Lefty reliever Zach Muckenhirn came on and fanned three, but also gave a bloop RBI hit and another single to plate a run for a 2-1 Harrisburg lead. But he stranded the bases loaded.
Baumann went five-plus innings, allowing three hits and two runs with three walks and six strikeouts on 92 pitches, 52 for strikes. Baumann began the game with a record of 6-2 and 2.31 ERA in 13 games with Bowie. That included a no-hitter on July 16 against Harrisburg. In fact, until he gave up a one-out single in the third tonight, he had no-hit the Senators on the season over three games and 13 1/3 innings.
Down 2-1, Baysox designated hitter Yusniel Diaz hit a solo homer to left leading off the sixth to produce a tie game. It was No. 12 in 77 Bowie games for Diaz and his second in five games. He ended the regular season going 7-for-15 over his last four games.
Bowie had scored once in the bottom of the first to take a 1-0 lead. With one out, McKenna singled and advanced to second on an Anderson Feliz walk. Both runners moved up with one out on a wild pitch by Harrisburg right-hander Kyle McGowin. Then catcher Carlos Pérez drove a ball deep to center for a sac fly, scoring McKenna.
Right-hander Cristian Alvarado closed out the game with his 14th save, but Garcia’s single in the ninth made the final margin 5-3. Bowie moved within two games of a series win to advance to the Eastern League championship series.
Delmarva lost: In Game 1 of the South Atlantic League playoffs, Hickory beat Delmarva 4-3. It’s a best-of-three series, so Delmarva faces a must-win game at home on Friday night in Salisbury. Right-hander Grayson Rodriguez allowed three runs in the first and took the loss. He went six innings, allowing four hits and four runs. The Shorebirds were 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position.
Manager Buck Britton on pulling it out in the eighth: “That was nice. We had some opportunities early and we couldn’t cash in. Continued to battle and and that’s kind of been the story of our season.”
Britton on Baumann: “Baumann gave up a chance to win. I don’t think he was as crisp as he would have liked to have been. Lot of deep counts drove that pitch count up. But he gave us a chance to win. He left with the bases loaded and Muck came in there and battled for us and got us out of there only giving up two. Baumann did a nice job tonight battling with what he had. Made some pitches when he needed to.”
Palmeiro on his go-ahead triple: “I was looking fastball the entire at-bat. He was coming at me with his heater. So I was trying to stay on that. He threw a changeup and it kind of hung there and floated in and I was able to put a decent swing on it and got lucky with the outfielder diving.”
Baumann on his game: “It wasn’t great for me, but an all-around team win. Great to get that first win and start the tempo. Overall, the guys played really well. (Stuff) was OK. Got by, not the best. But it was enough to keep the team in the game.”