The Bowie Baysox put together a four-run rally in the bottom of the ninth inning to defeat the New Britain Rock Cats 8-7 Thursday. Second baseman Carlos Rojas delivered a two-out RBI single for the winning run and left fielder Joe Mahoney continued his hot start to Double-A play by reaching base in all five plate appearances, finishing 2-for-3 with a double, two walks and a fielder’s choice.
“They were challenging me in with fastballs, real inside,” said Mahoney, who took four cat-bats beyond five pitches. “I was just fouling them off and then they were going soft away. Then, later in the game, they didn’t really want to challenge me so they were just throwing me fastballs out and out.”
Thursday’s win marked the second time this season that the Baysox won a game that they were losing after eight innings. On the previous occasion, they overcame a one-run deficit in the ninth inning at Richmond on July 15.
The victory pushes the Baysox back to their high water mark of nine games over .500 at 57-48 and leaves them in second place, 3.5 games behind first place Altoona in the Eastern League’s Western Division. The Akron Aeros remain on the Baysox heels in the playoff hunt, one game behind Bowie in third place.
Baysox starter Eddie Gamboa put together his best performance of the season, pitching a season-high 5.0 innings while allowing one run, a solo home run, on five hits. Gamboa walked just one batter and notched a career-high seven strikeouts.
“The changeup was a big pitch for me today,” Gamboa said. “I’ve been working on a slider, now that I’m in the rotation I may need something else, a different show to set something else up. [Going five inning] it wasn’t bad. Your body takes a toll, but I was feeling better in the later innings. In my last outing I was huffing and puffing and I didn’t even make it to the fourth. Today was better. [I did] a little more running, it was a little cooler today, so it was nice. It feels good.”
The Baysox jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning. Right fielder Tyler Henson hit a two-out single to right field and stole second base before designated hitter Joel Guzman smashed his 23rd home run of the year on a line drive over the left field wall. With the homer, Guzman reclaimed a share of the Eastern League home runs lead as he pushes his single-season record higher and higher with each long ball.
New Britain cut the lead in half in the top of the third inning with a solo home run to center field by center fielder Joe Benson with two outs.
Baysox third baseman Ryan Adams led off the bottom of the third with a single to left-center field and moved to second on a single to left by Henson. Eastern League Player of the Week Joe Mahoney reached on a fielder’s choice with one out, and the bases were loaded as the first baseman’s throw to second did not catch Henson on the play.
First baseman Brandon Waring drove in the first run of the inning with a single into left field that rotated the runners as Adams scored and the bases remained loaded. Center fielder Danny Figueroa added another run with a ground ball to New Britain third baseman Steve Singleton, who tagged Mahoney out on the basepath as Henson scored to give the Baysox a 4-1 lead.
Gamboa finished his night on a strong note, striking out the Rock Cats in order in the fith inning, and was replaced in the sixth by former Baltimore Orioles reliever Bob McCrory. McCrory pitched well in the sixth inning, retiring the side in order, but hit a wall in the top of the seventh inning.
Rock Cats outfielder Chris Parmelee singled to center field to open the inning, and moved to second when catcher Jair Fernandez hit a grounder to Adams at third base. Adams made an ill-advised decision to throw to second base to catch the lead runner and possibly turn a double play, but his throw flew into center field and Parmelee took third base.
Singleton plated Parmelee on a single to left field to cut a run off the deficit, and first baseman Erik Lis blasted a three-run home run to left-center field with one out, giving the Rock Cats their first lead of the game. McCrory dished out a walk and induced a groundout before finally escaping the inning with a spectacular catch by Mahoney in left field, as Mahoney slid across the outfield on his backside to make the grab. When the dust settled, New Britain held a 5-4 lead.
Eager to seize a win, with 75 losses entering the game, the Rock Cats piled on more runs in the top of the eighth inning off reliever Raul Rivero. Left fielder Ben Revere opened with a bunt single and moved to second as Fernandez drew a one-out walk. Singleton cleared the bases with a one-out triple to right field that gave the Rock Cats a 7-4 lead before Rivero and lefty Chad Thall recorded strikeouts to end the inning.
The Baysox could not score in the bottom half of the eighth inning, despite moving Mahoney to third base after a leadoff walk.
The top of the Baysox order came up in the bottom of the ninth inning, and shortstop Greg Miclat battled through 11 pitches before lining deep to right-center field for a triple. As he came to third base, the center fielder’s throw went awry and ended up in left field as Miclat seized the opportunity to score.
“I was just trying to get on base any way I could to get the guys a chance for us to win,” Miclat said. “I got down real early, then I was trying to battle my way back to an even count. Once I got 2-2 I pretty much knew he was going to challenge me with fastballs and I kept fouling them off until I got one over the plate.
“Off the bat I [thought it was a triple],” he said, “but as I was going into second, I was thinking ‘All right, don’t get thrown out. Don’t make the first out at third,’ but when I hit the bag he hadn’t even thrown it yet so I was going three after that.”
Down 7-5 with the bases clear, Adams struck out and Henson flied out to right field, leaving a grim two-out situation for Guzman. The designated hitter kept hope alive with a single that shortstop Estarlin De Los Santos kept in the infield with a diving grab. De Los Santos pushed his luck trying to throw out Guzman, and his throw flew out of the field of play, giving Guzman a free pass to second base.
Rock Cats reliever Carlos Gutierrez lost control of the strike zone after Guzman reached, and loaded the bases with consecutive walks to Mahoney and Waring. Right-hander Chris Province took over with the bases loaded, and repeated Gutierrez’s control problems, as he walked pinch hitter Steve Lerud as Guzman scored to cut the lead to just one run.
Catcher Adam Donachie tied the game with a single to the third baseman, who bobbled the ball around and could not produce an out as Mahoney scored. Rojas delivered the fatal blow with a single down the third base line to plate Waring, and was mobbed by his teammates after reaching first base as they celebrated an 8-7 walk-off win. Right-hander Sean Gleason earned the win with no runs and one hit in the top of the ninth inning.
“We certainly felt like this was ours to win and then they got up by a couple more runs,” Miclat said. “With this team, you have guys that can hit the ball out of the ballpark, so you are never really out of it. As a table-setter you just have to get on and let those guys swing away.”
The Baysox play three more games against the Rock Cats, beginning Friday at 7:05 p.m. with spectacular fireworks shows after Friday and Saturday’s games. On Saturday, July 31, the Baysox attempt to break several world records, including most people sitting on whoopee cushions at the same time. Sunday’s game features the finale of the Baysox Kids’ Summer Concert Series, with a pre-game performance by Rocknoceros and a special appearance by PBS’s Super Why and Alpha Pig. Fans can purchase a $10 ticket for the Rocknoceros concert that includes a general admission seat for the game.