Salt River Rafters, with a big assist from the Astro contingent, blew their opportunity to improve their Fall League-best record to 8-2 and were forced to settle for a 3-3 tie with the League worst Peoria Javelinas in an excruciating eleven innings at Salt River Field. This was far and away the sloppiest performance by the Rafters, who have been making a habit of just eking out wins of late … the Javelinas had only five hits on the evening but four Rafter errors enabled them to keep scoring rallies alive while the Rafters could score no more than three singletons in spite of punching out eleven hits.
The Astros were spared a leading role in the sloppy defensive play by virtue of only starting a single player, Rio Ruiz batting seventh at DH, though there were three Astros in the game by the tenth inning. Rio had two hits on the evening in four plate appearances, and though his one-out double in the bottom of the ninth led to the tying run, he blew an earlier opportunity when he beat a ball into the dirt in front of home plate with the bases loaded to end a sixth inning rally. But Rio was not the only Astro farmhand to have a good news-bad news game this evening.
Mitch Lambson came on in the fifth inning with the Rafters trailing 2-1, and immediately walked number eight batter Daniel Castro on five pitches … then came back with a solid strike out of League City’s C.J. McElroy. With Francisco Lindor batting, the Rafter’s/Diamondback’s catcher Peter O’Brien attempted a pickoff at first that went through to right field, moving Castro to second where upon Lindor’s ground out moved him on to third and a missed diving catch in left center by Byron Buxton went for a double, scoring Castro. Mitch closed out his inning by striking out the next batter - his final numbers reading one run on one hit, one base-on-balls and two strikeouts.
Trailing 3-2 in the bottom of the ninth the Rafters inserted Andrew Aplin as a pinch runner for Rio Ruiz following Rio’s clutch double … and he was almost immediately wild-pitched to third where he was then driven home with the tying run by Aaron Nola’s clutch single. Astro Tyson Perez pitched the ninth and tenth innings for the Rafters in very business-like fashion, working around a hit in the ninth and an error in the tenth to keep the Javelinas off the board … Tyson finished with just the one hit and one strikeout in two scoreless innings – much improved over his last outing. But in the bottom of the tenth an Astro once again had an opportunity to send the Rafters home a winner and failed.
Two walks and a single loaded the bases with two out and brought Andrew Aplin, inserted to pinch run for Rio Ruiz in the ninth, the plate … Andrew took a called strike, then fouled the next pitch off the plate and his body, causing a break in play for an injury timeout. Aplin gamely resumed his position in the batter’s box but his swing and miss on the next pitch reflected the pain he was still feeling … and the opportunity for another fairy tale ending went down with him. He finished his relief role with a run scored and a strikeout.
Midland’s Reid Redman came on to shut down the Peoria squad in the eleventh, throwing to Tyler Heineman who had replaced O’Brien after he was lifted for a pinch runner in the tenth … and the Rafters had one last chance to send the fans home happy. But with runners on first and second and two out in the bottom of the eleventh, the DBacks’ Brandon Drury struck out to end the game … sometimes you get the bear, sometimes the bear gets you.
Enjoy your weekend.
~ Wallee Wright ~