But the bullpen was able to cripple the bats of the Tri-City Dust Devils through most of the night. At the plate, timely hitting led by Kyle Gaedele, allowed the Ems to take the first game of their five-game home stand 9-4 on Tuesday night at PK Park.
"I think tonight we did a lot of little things right," said Gaedele, who went 2-for-4 with three RBI. "Every time there was some guy up, we got him over and got him in. We just did the little things well tonight. That's what our club does well, and when we do that, we find a way to win."
One start removed from earning his first win of the year, Needy mixed another shaky outing into his up-and-down season.
This season, Needy has been aggressive inside the strike zone, which has allowed opponents to knock him around, at times. In his last 9 1/3 innings pitched, Needy has allowed 14 hits.
When he has struggled on the mound, he has still attacked the zone—he allowed just one walk in his last 20 1/3 innings pitched.
In his eighth start of the year on Tuesday, Needy came two walks shy of matching his season total of six. He pitched erratically throughout his 2 1/3 innings of work, and when he did pound the strike zone, pitches were left over the plate.
"His fastball was flat and up tonight," manager Pat Murphy said, "and his other stuff wasn't in the zone as much as it should have been.
"I told him, ‘when you have nights like this where your fastball isn't as good, you got to use your other stuff and somehow bob-and-weave. You got to get us five (innings), somehow, even though you don't have your good fastball. You got to go to your other stuff right away.'"
Needy allowed three earned runs on five hits and four walks.
Needy left the game with the score 3-2 and runners on first and second. With Jeremy Gigliotti on in relief, the Dust Devils (27-18) were in position to break the game open early.
The first batter Gigliotti faced, Blake McDade, was robbed of at least one RBI after Gaedele made a diving catch in the right center field gap, which brought the crowd of 3,511 to its feet.
"That catch he made in center field, that was the turning point early in the game to keep the game close," Murphy said. "That's two runs (he saved). Then, offensively, he drove in some key runs. He had three quality at-bats.
"He's coming into his own and we're happy about it. He's great young man, and that catch he made in center, we've seen too many times. Big time catch."
Gigliotti would work two innings without allowing a run and extending his scoreless innings streak to nine.
In the bottom of the fourth and with the score still 3-2, Gaedele would make another contribution—this time from the plate. His RBI single tied the game at three, and Jace Peterson's second hit of the night gave the Ems (28-17) the lead.
"At the plate, I just found myself in good situations, and I told myself, ‘I'm just going to do it. I'm just going to get the job done,' and it just happened for me tonight," Gaedele said.
After Jon Barbato didn't allow a run through one inning, Luis De La Cruz inherited one runner as he entered the game in the sixth inning. Cruz walked the first two batters he faced to load the bases in a one-run game. After striking out Timothy Smalling, Cruz walked home the tying run on a 3-2 breaking ball in the dirt.
Cruz got the next batter, Jared Simon, to fly out to center ending the threat.
Like the Emeralds had done all night, their bats quickly answered back.
The Dust Devils reliever, Ben Alsup, walked the first two batters he faced in the sixth inning. With runners at second and third, it was, again, Gaedele who delivered in an important spot.
Gaedele's third RBI of the night came on a ground out to first base giving the Ems a 5-4 lead.
After a walk to Peterson—he went 2-for-2 with three walks—Donavan Tate—the San Diego Padres third overall pick in 2009—drove in Whitmore on a single to right field. But Tate was thrown out trying to advance to second on the play, ending the sixth inning with a 7-4 lead.
A two-run double by Tate in the eighth inning, gave him three RBI during a 2-for-5 night.
A mostly impressive performance from the bullpen continued as Matthew Stites pitched two scoreless innings, and Simon Berroa pitched a scoreless ninth.
In total, the bullpen allowed just one run through 6 2/3 innings. However, Murphy says the Ems pitching—mostly the starting pitchers—is becoming drained as they close in on the end of the season. He says that starters will be limited to three and four innings of work during the remainder of the season.
"Hopefully, offensively, we'll pick it up a little bit," Murphy said. "Our pitching is getting a little fatigued, I think."