The Fightins got two insurance runs in the bottom of the seventh inning and it turned out that they needed both of them as Bowie mounted a ninth inning rally that came up short, leaving Reading with a 3-1 win in the opener of the Championship Series.
Zach Eflin was pretty much on cruise control through much of the start against Bowie. Eflin had allowed four hits through the first six innings of the game and kept the Baysox off the scoreboard. Chance Sisco led off the sixth and lined a shot right back at Eflin, who took the line drive off his shin, allowing Sisco to reach on an infield single. The good news is that Eflin came through the play in good shape, but with his pitch count at 93 pitches, manager Dusty Wathan chose to lift him in favor of Edubray Ramos, who has already started to warm up in the bullpen.
"It wasn't my call to come out," said Eflin after the game. "I wanted to stay in, but you do what the manager decides to do and you just trust the guys behind you."
Ramos pitched a perfect seventh, striking out two and stranding Sisco at first. From there, Jimmy Cordero took over and matched Ramos outing in the eighth, striking out two of the three batters that he faced. With Reading up 3-1, it seemed time for Stephen Shackleford to enter, but manager Dusty Wathan elected to go with Cordero for a two-inning save. Cordero, who mixed his pitches between 87 and 102 miles-per-hour, ran into trouble in the ninth when he gave up a one-out double to Quincy Latimore and then walked Sisco. Cordero got Garabez Rosa to fly out to center, but Latimore advanced to third on the play. Another walk, this time to Brandon Snyder, put runners on the corners with two outs. Cordero hoped to get Drew Dosch to end the game, but before he could do that, he uncorked a wild pitch that brought home Larimore and put pinch-runner Glynn Davis on second. Cordero was able to finish off Dosch with no further damage, recording the save in the 3-1 win.
"That's a character builder [to let Cordero work out of the jam] and that's something that we can use in player development, too. We want to win, obviously, and I flet that he had a chance to finish the game, that's another reason. I'm not going to throw him out there if I don't think he can win, but it's a good character building thing for him and his career as far as going forward," Wathan explained.
Eastern League MVP Brock Stassi got the scoring started in the fourth inning when he led off against Bowie starter Joe Gunkel by lashing a pitch out to right-center field. The solo blast made it 1-0, which stood up until Art Charles stepped to the plate to lead off the bottom of the seventh. Charles finished the regular season in a 2-for-22 funk and was 0-for-1 in the postseason, but got the start as the designated hitter. After striking out in each of his first two at-bats, Charles caught up to a fastball from reliever Donnie Hart, who had just entered the game. The shot easily cleared the fence and appeared to bounce literally out of the stadium and onto Route 61 in front of the ballpark.
"I knew I hit it well and I knew it was going out. I just thank God for putting me in the position to play and to help my team win," said Charles. "For him [Wathan] to put me in the lineup today was great. Coming to the field, you prepare for it and kind of go through your routine everyday. When I got to the field, I saw I was in the lineup. It's a good feeling to be able to help your team win in a big moment."
Angelo Mora followed Charles' home run with a double to right-center field and moved to third on a perfectly placed bunt by Nick Williams. J.P. Crawford drew a walk off of Hart to load the bases for Andrew Knapp, who hit a long flyball to center field that allowed Mora to score from third. Stassi then hit into a double-play to end the inning with Reading up 3-0.
Game Two of the series is tonight at FirstEnergy Stadium. Ethan Martin (3-1, 3.14) this season with Reading is somewhat of a surprise as the starter. Martin started just five games during the regular season, but Wathan wanted to give ace Jake Thompson an extra day rest after his complete game performance against Binghamton in the Division Series. Martin will be opposed by Nick Additon, who went 3-2 with a 2.97 ERA in six starts with Bowie. The Orioles signed Additon to a minor league deal on August 9th after he was released by the Brewers a week earlier. Additon threw six shutout innings against Altoona in the Division Series.