Coombs pitches RailCats to victory
By Michael Osipoff 648-3137 or email@example.com June 11, 2012 10:36PM
Updated: July 13, 2012 6:23AM
GARY — Morgan Coombs wasn’t even initially scheduled to start on Monday night. But, boy, he took full advantage of the situation.
The rookie right-hander from Ball State retired the first 17 batters of the game, and spun 62/3 innings of one-hit ball, as the RailCats knocked off American Association-leading Wichita 6-0 at the Steel Yard.
With Andrew Johnston out for a minimum of two weeks with a back problem, Coombs was reinserted into the rotation, with Derek Drage’s start pushed back from Monday to Tuesday for an extra day of rest. He was perfect through 52/3 innings, before Mike Conroy doubled off the wall in left-center field for Wichita’s first baserunner of the game. A number of fans gave Coombs a nice little ovation.
He then walked back-to-back batters to load the bases, before John Rodriguez flied out just short of the warning track in right to end the sixth.
“You try not to think about it (the perfect game),” Coombs said. “You don’t want distractions to get in your mind and take you out of your rhythm. ... You just have to be consistent, and have the same mindset all game.
“I just tried to command the zone and make quality pitches. I’m not going to overpower people.”
The Wingnuts (18-6) had entered the game having scored a league-high 164 runs, and hitting .302, second in the league. And on the heels of Kyle Wilson’s seven-inning outing — the longest by a RailCats starter — in Sunday’s win against Newark, Coombs followed up in style.
“It was pretty impressive what Morgan did tonight,” manager Greg Tagert said.
“That first five innings, I’d be hard-pressed to find a better five innings pitched. Talk about the club we’re playing, and their experienced lineup. They had one of those tough overnight trips that happen in this league, but I’m not going to take anything away from Morgan.”
The RailCats (12-12), who started the night seven games behind the Central Division-leading Wingnuts, reached .500 for the first time since they were 4-4 after a loss to Wichita on May 25 — the first game of a three-game sweep at the hands of the Wingnuts in the RailCats’ home-opening series.
“You can get so far in a hole that you can’t get out,” Tagert had said before the game. “So it’s important that we play well in this series. Whether that translates into wins, we’ll see. But it’s important that we play well in this series. Because we didn’t the last time we played them. We clearly were outplayed.”
That wasn’t the case on Monday, as the RailCats scored at least one run from the second through fifth innings.
They manufactured a two-out run in the second. Brian Kolb singled and stole second — they stole six bases on the night — before Sean Smith delivered a single.
They added two runs in the third, sparked by a double steal by Adam Klein and Mike Massaro. Craig Maddox (sacrifice fly) and Mike Rohde (single) drove in the runs.
The RailCats made it 4-0 in the fourth — on Massaro’s sacrifice fly — but could have had more after loading the bases with no outs.
And they scored another run in the fifth, as Kyle Haines doubled home Rohde.
Tagert described Johnston returning in two weeks as “a best-case scenario.” The right-hander was scheduled to have X-rays on Monday, and an MRI on Tuesday.
With Johnston sidelined, the RailCats were planning to sign left-handed relief pitcher David Quinowski, likely officially adding him to the roster on Tuesday. The 26-year-old spent six seasons in the Giants organization, reaching Double-A for all of last season and part of 2010. He pitched earlier this season for Somerset in the Atlantic League. Depending on the results of the tests, Johnston either will head to the disabled list or the inactive list; the latter would put him out for a minimum of 30 days.