Baseball: One hiccup leads to RailCats loss against Lincoln
By Michael Osipoff 713-2485 or email@example.com May 18, 2013 10:34PM
Railcat's Aljay Davis bunts in the bottom of the 5th where the throw was over the head of the Saltdog's 1st baseman giving Davis a double at The Steel Yard on Saturday, May 18, 2013. | Jim Karczewski~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: June 20, 2013 4:53PM
GARY — By and large, the RailCats played a crisp game on Saturday night, especially in comparison to Friday’s.
But a hiccup opened the door for Lincoln to come away with a 4-3 win at the Steel Yard.
On a 3-2 pitch with two outs in the eighth, the hot-hitting Dennis Raben drilled a two-run double up the right-center field gap to snap a 2-2 tie, against Marco Gonzalez. The inning had started, though, when Estevan Uriegas struck out Daniel Carroll on a ball in the dirt, and Ryan Babineau bounced his throw to first baseman Steve Liddle, allowing Carroll to reach on the error.
“That’s something you’re not going to see very often,” RailCats manager Greg Tagert said. “No excuses — that just can’t happen. That 100 percent of the time has to be an out — that’s not even one of those 99 out of 100s. That changes the whole dynamic of the inning.”
The RailCats (1-2), too, lamented a missed opportunity in the seventh. After Danny Pulfer led off with a single, Aljay Davis struck out after failing to get down a bunt earlier in the at-bat. Then, Pulfer, trying to get himself into scoring position, got picked off.
“You couldn’t ask for a worse combination in an inning after a leadoff base hit,” Tagert said.
The RailCats did get a run in the ninth on Liddle’s one-out single and Craig Maddox’s pinch-hit two-out single, but they couldn’t push across the tying run. They struck out 13 times, including Zac Mitchell’s to end the game.
After a rocky beginning, Stephen Hiscock settled in to go five innings, allowing two runs (one earned) on four hits with seven strikeouts and one walk. And right-handed relief pitcher Kyle Lindquist, signed before the game, made a strong debut with two scoreless innings, yielding just a walk.
The RailCats had tied the score with two runs in the fifth. Pulfer led off with a single — their first hit of the game against Lincoln starter Nathan Moreau — and Davis bunted for a hit, with the runners advancing to second and third on a throwing error. Mitchell’s groundout scored a run, and Adam Klein delivered a run-scoring single with two outs.
The Saltdogs (2-1) had grabbed a 2-0 lead in the first, on Carroll’s leadoff triple and run-scoring singles from Stephen Douglas and Raben, who went 3-for-3 with two doubles, a walk and three RBIs.
“I’ve said it time and time again, those are the games that we should win,” Tagert said. “We can’t accept mistakes in those situations.”
Before the game, the RailCats made their first roster move of the regular season, releasing right-handed relief pitcher Takahiro Matsuka and re-signing Lindquist.
In his RailCats and American debut on Friday night, the former Japanese major leaguer Matsuka allowed three runs (two earned), hitting two batters and walking one, in just 1/3 of an inning. He arrived about a week late to spring training, and showed flashes of his ability, but not consistently.
Matsuka apparently has been less than 100 percent health-wise, Tagert said, continuing to deal with injury — he has undergone surgery after a blister on the middle finger of his pitching hand developed into nerve damage — and likely will retire. He was expected to fly back to Japan on Monday, instead of heading to Los Angeles to continue to train.
On Monday, the RailCats had released Lindquist — who had arrived late to spring training to complete his responsibilities as an assistant coach and groundskeeper at Marietta (Ohio) College, his alma mater — then invited him back to work out with the team for at least the first two games of the series, as in insurance policy in the bullpen. After Matsuka’s outing in the second game, they made the move to cash in that policy before the third.
“He’s a gutty little competitor,” Tagert said of the 5-foot-10 Lindquist, who typically throws in the low 80s.
Notes: Though he remained out of Saturday’s lineup, third baseman Brian Kolb’s jammed middle finger on his left hand has improved, so much so that he did not have X-rays. … Right-hander Will Krout was scheduled to start Sunday’s series finale for the RailCats, against Saltdogs righty Ben Henry.