Cloudy weather and downpours gave way to bright sunshine just in time for the Portland Beavers and Omaha Royals fourth and final game of the series. After an exciting ninth inning win Monday, the Beavers were looking to turn that momentum into back-to-back wins, for the first time in a week. Going into the ninth inning today, it looked like that might happen with Leo Rosales taking the mound and a three-run lead. But, the Royals put a three spot on the board to tie the game and hand Rosales his first blown save of the season.
On paper, the starting pitching match-up heavily favored the visiting Royals. Omaha's Matt Wright has posted a 0.92 ERA over his last three starts, picking up his first decision in the starting role last Thursday in Tacoma by pitching 6.1 innings, striking out six and allowing just five hits in the 4-1 victory. Meanwhile, the Beavers sent Mike Thompson to the hill, who has been far from spectacular in seven appearances this season for the Beavers. He has given up 53 hits and 35 runs in just 28.2 innings of work, which has led to a 1-5 record and a 9.73 ERA. In Thompson's last start, however, he got his first win by pitching seven innings and allowing only one earned run against Iowa.
The lone Omaha run off Thompson in this game came in the second inning when Justin Huber teed off and sent a ball over the left field wall that gave the Royals a 1-0 lead on his fifth homer of the season. Without that mistake pitch, Thompson put together a solid seven innings of work, scattering five hits and walking one. In each inning where the Royals threatened with runners in scoring position, Thompson was able to escape harm with double play balls by a seemingly more focused Portland defense and kept hitters off balance with his pitch selection.
"The defense did really well today," said Thompson. "They were behind me the whole time. I had two strikeouts and so the rest was all them. They did a hell of a job."
Thompson credits the small adjustments on the mound to his recent success in the two starts. "Going back to the third base side of the rubber, where I've always thrown since day one of my life, and staying with what I've been doing in the past years, he said. "An inch at the mound can be a foot at home plate, so little adjustments like that can make a big difference."
Craig Stansberry, who singled in the first inning to extend a hitting streak to eight games, tied the game at one by singling again in the third to score Michael Johnson from second and move Josh Howard from first to third base. The two runners were on base after making contact for base hits themselves. Stansberry abused Wright all game, as he picked up his first loss as a starter, lasting just four innings while giving up eight hits and four runs.
In the next inning, Brian Myrow, Monday night's hero, led off with a ground rule double and advanced to third on a fly ball to right by Huffman. Oscar Robles, who started in place of the injured Ray Chang, singled up the middle against the Royals drawn infield to plate Myrow and give the Beavers a 2-1 lead.
The Beavers continued to circle the bases in the fifth inning, when an error, a walk, and a bunt base hit by Howard loaded the bases for Stansberry, who is hitting above .800 on the season with the bases loaded. He came through again with a bloop single that dropped in front of Joey Gathright in center field to score two more Portland runs. John Bale relieved Wright for Omaha and made short work of the next three Portland batters, striking out two and getting Huffman to fly out to end the inning with runners in scoring position.
Scott Cassidy entered in relief of Thompson, working a perfect eighth. But, in the ninth Leo Rosales struggled to get outs as he blew his first save in 15 opportunities. The Royals rocked Rosales for three runs on five hits to tie the game, including a leadoff homer by Craig Brazell, which tied him for third in the league with 14 dingers, and two doubles. With the tying run on second base, Joey Gathright hit a ground rule double off Rosales before Royce Ring replaced him. Ring recorded the third out on the first batter he faced, and shut down the heart of the Royals order in the tenth to set up the eventual winning run for the Beavers in the bottom half.
The Beavers have an off day tomorrow, and travel to Salt Lake to face the Bees on Thursday. Ryan Ketchner will look for run support as he tries to pick up his first win of the season.