By BOB REDD
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. It was a seven-inning win, it was a seven-inning loss. It was a great pitching performance, it was a struggling effort from the mound. Thus describes the plight of the Bluefield Blue Jays in their games Thursday night at Bowen Field against the Burlington Royals.
In game one, a game postponed on July 11, the Blue Jays got strong pitching from starter Tom Robson and Brett Barber and picked up a 4-2 win. Game two saw Burlington attack Bluefield hurlers for 18 hits and the Royals claimed a 13-3 win.
Robson was spot-on for the Jays from the get-go in the opener. He retired the first seven Royals until Luis Villegas singled up the middle with one out in the third.
Bluefield started the game out getting its first two runners aboard, but it was Villegas’ defense that literally cut down the Blue Jays. D.J. Davis got an bunt single and was then caught stealing. The next batter, Jonathan Davis, walked only to get picked off first by Villegas.
The Blue Jays put the game’s first run on the board in the second. Jorge Saez singled to left and moved to second on a wild pitch. Mitch Nay’s single pushed him to third and Saez came home on Dawel Lugo’s sac fly to center, Lugo’s 13th RBI of the season, which is among Appy League leaders.
Sparks flew in the fourth inning. An inside pitch by Robson to Mauricio Ramos was at first called a foul ball by plate umpire Matt Kainz. After conversing with base umpire Richard Riley and apparently looking at Ramos’ hand after an appeal by Royals’ manager Tommy Shields, Ramos was awarded first base. Bluefield manager Dennis Holmberg then popped out of the Jays’ dugout and pleaded his case with Kainz before he was ejected.
Burlington’s Andres Machado, after allowing the second inning run, kept Bluefield off the board until the sixth. Alex Maldonado singled to center and D.J. Davis doubled to right to put runners on second and third. Both came home on Jonathan Davis’ double off the wall in dead center. Jonathan Davis then scored on Saez’s single to left.
Robson gave way to Alvido Jimenez to open the sixth. Burlington quickly jumped on the Bluefield reliever with two singles sandwiched around a fielder’s choice. A balk brought in one run and a wild pitch another before Jimenez was removed after retiring only one batter.
Barber came on to extinguish the threat and then sat the Royals down in the top of the seventh to earn the save.
Robson pitched scoreless baseball for five innings and gave up three hits with one walk and two Ks to earn the win. Barber pitched one-and-two-third innings of one-hit ball to earn the save.
“He (Robson) pitched a heck of a ball game,” Holmberg said. “I was in the office after I got ejected, so I didn’t get to see much of his outing. Brett Barber was able to come in, put out the fire and save the game.”
D.J. Davis and Saez were both two-for-two at the plate and Jonathan Davis knocked in two runs.
In the nightcap the wheels came off the wagon early for Bluefield.
Adonys Cardona fanned Alfredo Escalara to open the game but hen Ramon Torres tripled to right. Bobby Brown walked and Sam Bates single scored Torres with the game’s first run. Both Brown and Bates trotted home on Alex Newman’s triple into the left field corner.
Bluefield made a charge against Torey Deshazier in the second. Nay walked and scored on Lugo’s triple that hit and rolled along the top of the wall in right before coming back into the field of play. Lugo scored on Garrett Custons’ double to left and D.J. Jones, who walked earlier in the frame, eventually scored on a wild pitch to tie the game at three.
The game remained tied until the fifth when Bluefield turned to Joe Lovecchio. Four of the first five batters Lovecchio faced got hits, the fifth walked, before a double play got the first outs of the inning. Big hits were a two-run double by Newman and a two-run home run by Torres after which Lovecchio was lifted in favor of Justin D’Alessandro.
When the dust settled and the final out recorded in the fifth, Burlington had banged out seven hits and touched home plate seven times to take a 10-3 lead.
“Lovecchio hasn’t pitched badly here,” Holmberg said. “I thought he was the right guy to come in. Again, doubleheader last night (Wednesday), doubleheader tonight, doubleheader tomorrow (Friday). You’ve got to try to manage your bullpen and not empty it out too quick. I thought he would come in and give us two or three innings. It didn’t happen.”
Bluefield loaded the bases in the fifth but could not get any runs across. Key for the Jays was a pinch hit single by Jones.
Burlington posted two more runs on the board in the sixth and a single run in the seventh to round out the scoring.
The Blue Jays loaded the bases in the sixth off new Burlington pitcher Javier Reynoso, however, once again the Jays could not get any runs across.
A final rally in the seventh saw pinch hitter Nico Taylor get things started with a one-out single to left and Nay followed with a hit to left. The game came to an end when Lugo lined a shot to second that was corralled by Andrew Ayers who flipped to shortstop Torres to double up Taylor and give the Royals a twinbill split.
Holmberg talked about the use and effectiveness of the pinch hitters.
“I was think about tomorrow night’s (Friday’s) lineup and I had both of those guys in mind for playing tomorrow, and sometimes you want to give an at-bat to a guy just to see a live ball, just for one at-bat and it might be able to carry over to the next game...something they can sink their teeth into and carry over to tomorrow’s game,” Holmberg said.
Each Burlington player hit safely in the game and all but three got multiple hits. Escalara was four-for-five and Newman had three hits, falling a home run short of hitting for the cycle, and had five RBIs.
Lugo had two hits for Bluefield.
Deshazier earned the win for Burlington and Lovecchio suffered the loss for the Blue Jays.
The two teams meet in their third twinbill in as many days this evening and Holmberg talked about how that is affecting the team.
“We’ve got to come out tomorrow, continue to play marathon baseball and get one-of-two, if not both games,” Holmberg said.
First pitch is set for 4 o’clock at Bowen Field.
At Bowen Field
Burlington..................000 002 0 — 2 6 1
Bluefield.....................010 030 x — 4 9 1
W-Robson (2-0), L-Machado (0-3), S-Barber (2)
Burlington.................300 072 1 — 13 18 1
Bluefield.................. ..030 000 0 — 3 8 1
W-Deshazier (2-0), L-Lovecchio (1-1)
HR: BUR-Torres (1)