STATEN ISLAND, NY – The New York-Penn League playoffs begin in one week and the Connecticut Tigers, and Staten Island Yankees found themselves separated by 2.5 games in the wild-card race entering Tuesday’s play with seven games remaining. With their elimination number sitting at five, the Tigers roared to a 6-4 victory over Staten Island.
Coming off a six-inning shutout performance in his most recent start on August 25 against Aberdeen, Simon de La Rosa continued his dominant form early, striking out the side to open the game, but he yielded less auspicious results in successive innings. After a Baltimore chop over Nick Solak‘s head had placed runners and first and second, De La Rosa uncorked two wild pitches to force in the game’s first run.
“A ground ball just caught a lip, and I think it was a two-hopper that just took off and there was top spin, and it bounced over my head and into the outfield. Sometimes the ball just bounces a certain way, and you keep playing,” Solak said.
Connecticut scored two additional runs in the inning to take a 3-0 advantage. The Tigers’ bats continued their damage in the third when third baseman Josh Lester laced a three-run triple into the left field corner to take a commanding 6-1 lead. Lester went 3-for-4 for Connecticut with three runs batted and a run scored.
Due to defensive miscues, De La Rosa labored through five innings, allowing seven hits, six runs, and two walks, while striking out six to drop his record to 6-4 in 12 starts. De La Rosa’s six runs allowed were the most he’s surrendered in an outing since June 28 in a road start against Hudson Valley.
“I think he pitched pretty well actually. The bad hop over Solak’s head cost us a couple of runs, and then we didn’t cover first base, and that cost us three runs. There were a couple of poor plays behind him, but I think he threw the ball well,” Staten Island manager Dave Bialas said.
The Staten Island offense, which contributed ten runs on Monday answered with a run-scoring single by Jerry Seitz against Connecticut starter Gregory Soto in the second to momentarily cut the deficit. Soto worked out of a second and third one out jam the following inning, striking out Timmy Robinson and Drew Bridges to escape unscathed.
Soto was not nearly as lucky in the fifth as Staten Island clawed their way back with three runs in the fifth, highlighted by Bridges’ two-run single. Soto would last 4.1 innings allowing eight hit and four runs in a no-decision. Staten Island registered just one hit against three Connecticut relievers in the final 4.2 innings as their comeback efforts fell short.
“They [Conneticut] have a good bullpen. They are where they are at in this wild card race for a reason. Their pitching is solid, and their bullpen came out this evening and did a good job for them against us, and we couldn’t get back into the game.” Bialas said.
Infielder Billy Fleming played his fifth game for Staten Island on his current rehab assignment and went 1-for-4 with a single as his average stands at .263 since joining the club last Thursday. Fleming was out of action since July 8 after being placed on the disabled list by the Trenton Thunder.
“He feels great right now. He is pain-free. His legs feel good from not playing for almost two months. He is in good shape and his ready to roll. From day one he looked like he was in midseason form swinging the bat,” Bialas said.
Tuesday’s loss drops Staten Island’s lead over Connecticut to 1.5 games in the wild card with six games remaining on the schedule. Despite the magnitude of each game, they players remained in control and focused on the task at hand.
“When you are out there, you are just playing the game and letting your instincts take over,” Solak explains. “You aren’t thinking too much about playoff implications. You are just trying to make the plays and help the team win. Those things take care of themselves.”