May 7, 2010 12:08 AM
Though outmanned and outgunned in the first two games of their four game series against Fresno, the Sky Sox looked to carry over the momentum of Wednesday night's win to Thursday afternoon.
The current homestand has been a trying one for the Sox. Combating debilitating losses in the rotation paired with mounting injuries on the diamond, the team's character and drive faced its first significant test this season following back to back losses on Monday and Tuesday. With their lead in first place slipping to just one-half game, the team was in dire need of a win to hold off surging Salt Lake.
Sending recently acquired lefty Josh Muecke (0-0, 8.31) to the mound against the tough Fresno offense, the team needed a fresh start - and quality performance to maintain their footing atop the Pacific North division.
The Sky Sox picked up right where they left off last night, plating three in the opening frame.
A leadoff double by Jonathan Herrera led to a run on a Mike Paulk sacrifice fly two batters later. Extending his hit streak to three games, Brad Eldred joined in on the action with a solo home run the next at-bat, a deep fly that just missed scraping the scoreboard in left center. Chris Iannetta's single set up the Sox' third score of the inning, brought home on a Mike Paulk double that was bobbled by left fielder Jesus Guzman.
The Grizzlies and Sky Sox traded runs in the third and fourth innings, respectively, before the Fresno floodgates opened in the fifth. Connecting for four doubles in the inning, including three consecutive with two outs, Fresno pushed three across home plate to tie the game at four - spoiling an otherwise spectacular start by Josh Muecke.
The Sky Sox responded in the bottom half of the frame with a two-out double by Chris Iannetta that scored Brad Eldred and Matt Miller. The span of the rally occurred with two outs as Herrera and Chris Frey were put down quickly to begin the inning.
In the bottom of the sixth, an RBI single by Jay Payton put the Sox up three, 7-4. However, the attack ended prematurely when Payton was thrown out at home from left field with two outs.
In hindsight, the play at home significantly changed the complexion of the game: had Payton scored, Colorado Springs would have taken a commanding 8-4 lead with Chris Frey standing on second and Matt Miller, the team's leading hitter, at the plate. With, the Grizzlies adding two more in the top of the seventh, the Sky Sox found themselves clinging to a precarious one run advantage, 7-6, setting the stage for a thrilling ninth.
Juan Rincon coming on for the save opportunity, the Grizzlies got to work quickly. A one-out Ryan Rohlinger walk resulted in the tying run when Buster Posey doubled off the wall in right-center, his second of the game and fourth hit. A Brett Pill double play line out ended the threat two batters later, however, with the game still knotted at seven.
But the Sky Sox weren't about to go down quietly, showing poise and willing themselves down the road to victory.
Leading off the home half of the inning, Jonathan Herrera worked a walk, advancing to second on a Chris Frey sacrifice bunt. The Grizzlies intentionally walking Matt Miller, the Sky Sox found themselves just a base hit away from sending Fresno home defeated. With Waldis Joaquin called to the mound in relief of Geno Espinelli, Brad Eldred tapped a slow grounder to short that appeared to be a certain double play. Fate intervened, however, as shortstop Ryan Rohlinger threw the relay into right field, allowing Herrera to score from third for the game winning run.
Sky Sox' closer Juan Rincon (1-1, 4.35) was credited with the win while Fresno's Geno Espineli (1-1, 3.09) took the loss. Colorado Springs improves to 15-12 with the victory, splitting a series that appeared doomed after dropping the first two games. Fresno falls to 17-10.
Friday the Sky Sox will travel to Sacramento to take on the fourth place River Cats.