Morgan Coombs gem helps RailCats salvage series finale
By Michael Osipoff 648-3137 or firstname.lastname@example.org August 23, 2012 11:16PM
Updated: September 25, 2012 10:59AM
GARY — After the last two nights, Morgan Coombs on Thursday delivered exactly what the RailCats needed — and then some.
His season-high eight sparkling innings lifted them to a 1-0 win against Winnipeg at the Steel Yard, after the Goldeyes had won each of the first two games of the series 7-2.
“As a pitcher, you always want to put a little pressure on yourself to win a game,” Coombs said. “That’s your job.
“I had good command of all my pitches. I was hitting my spots. (Catcher) Craig (Maddox) called a good game. We were on the same page.”
The rookie right-hander allowed five hits with one walk and six strikeouts, throwing an efficient 86 pitches. Coombs (6-7) had pitched 61/3 scoreless innings in a win in his last start on Aug. 18 against Sioux Falls, and has run his streak to 151/3.
Marco Gonzalez worked the ninth, surrendering a one-out single before recording his sixth save.
“I have a lot of confidence in our bullpen,” Coombs said. “They’ve been getting it done all year.
“As much as you want to stay in there, he’s the skip.”
Indeed, RailCats manager Greg Tagert would have let Coombs attempt to finish what he started if he had “sailed” through the eighth. But a throwing error by shortstop David Cooper opened the inning, before Coombs struck out Price Kendall and Mike Coles was thrown out at second to complete the double play to end it. Tagert had Dexter Carter — who the RailCats (45-45) acquired from Winnipeg (50-39) in the trade that sent Coles and Chris Allen to the Goldeyes — ready to face Yurendell de Caster, who was on deck.
“I’m still learning a little bit about Morgan Coombs, and he continues to impress me from Day 1,” Tagert said. “I know he wanted to be in that game in the ninth inning.”
The RailCats moved back to .500, and trail Winnipeg by 51/2 games in the wild-card standings, with them having 10 games left in the regular season. They next head to Wichita, which sits atop the Central Division, for their final road trip of the season, closing with seven home games.
After what he termed a “deflating” loss on Wednesday, Tagert had meet with the team before Thursday’s game. He addressed how far it has come recently.
“What they’ve accomplished in the last three weeks or month is something to be very proud of,” Tagert said. “Don’t let two losses take away from that, and from your motivation. … Compete as well as you can, and see what happens.
“I don’t want the last month to go for naught. We’re still kicking.”
He also mentioned to the team how the 2006 RailCats won their final eight games, including a one-game playoff, to reach the postseason.
“Stranger things have happened,” said Tagert, who has received texts and email from members of the ’06 team. “And not only can it happen, but it did happen here.”
The RailCats, who were outhit 6-3, scored Thursday’s only run in the fourth — it was their only lead in the series. Brian Kolb was hit by a pitch to start the inning and stole second, before Mike Rohde lined a one-out double off the left-field wall against Winnipeg starter Matt Rusch (8-4), who allowed the one run on two hits in six innings, actually lowering his American Association-leading ERA from 2.65 to 2.60.
It had appeared the Goldeyes would score in the first inning for the third straight game in the series, stringing together three straight two-out singles. But on the third one, left fielder Trevor Willis threw out de Caster at the plate, with Maddox holding onto the ball after absorbing contact. Willis also made two terrific catches in the sixth.
“As far as sense of urgency wins, that’s as close as you’re going to get,” Tagert said.
“They’re expecting to run the table — that’s what they’re saying in the clubhouse.”