A trio of pitchers who normally pitch out of the Tides bullpen combined for 12 strong innings during a four-game series against the Gwinnett Stripers, helping Norfolk kick off what could be the most important homestand of the year by sweeping all four games. Pedro Alvarez had five RBIs in three games, including a walk-off two run double in the tenth inning of the series finale.
TIDES SEASON TO DATE
The Tides (40-35, 2nd in the IL South through Wednesday) returned home on Monday after stumbling their way through a six-game road trip with a record of 1-5. On Wednesday morning, three Tides – outfielder D.J. Stewart, third baseman Drew Dosch, and pitcher Jimmy Yacabonis – were selected for July 11th’s AAA All-Star Game in Columbus, OH.
The four-game set against the Stripers began a grueling homestand in which Norfolk will play ten games over nine days, including four against the division-leading Durham Bulls.
SCOUTING THE OPPOSITION: GWINNETT STRIPERS
MLB Affiliate: Atlanta Braves
Record: 34-43, 4th place in the IL South
TOP TIDES PLAYERS OF THE SERIES
Wotherspoon, Rodriguez, and Love each threw four innings and allowed a total of two runs while striking out thirteen Stripers hitters. Wotherspoon and Rodriguez started the second and third games of the series, respectively, – even though both traditionally pitch out of Norfolk’s bullpen. Love, a 26-year-old lefty, recorded the win on Tuesday night in relief after being called up to AAA for the first time in his career.
INDIVIDUAL GAME RECAPS
Tides 4, Gwinnett 1 (7 innings, game 1 of a doubleheader)
Asher Wojciechowski battled through five innings – allowing baserunners in each frame but managing to hold the Stripers to just one run – as the Tides took game one of Monday’s doubleheader by a 4-1 score.
The Norfolk offense played small ball to push across the first run of the evening in the bottom of the third. Adrian Marin doubled to lead off the inning, slapping a ground ball down the third base line and into left field. Cedric Mullins then dropped down a sacrifice bunt to move him to third and Steve Wilkerson lifted a sacrifice fly to plate Marin.
Gwinnett tied the game in the top of the fourth when former mega-prospect Ronald Acuna (playing with the Stripers as part of his major-league rehab assignment) lined a two-out RBI single to left field. He has been sidelined from the major leagues since May 27 with a sprained ACL.
The Tides retook the lead in the bottom half of the inning after Joey Rickard’s one-out single sparked a rally. Garabez Rosa followed Rickard with a line drive double to put runners at second and third and Andrew Susac walked to load the bases. The next hitter, Ruben Tejada, hit a chopper back to the mound that pitcher Miguel Socolovich couldn’t handle, allowing Rickard to score.
A bases-loaded walk from Mullins and another sacrifice fly by Wilkerson added two important insurance runs in the bottom of the sixth, pushing the score to 4-1.
Ryan Meisenger pitched a scoreless sixth inning in relief of Wojciechowski and Jhan Marinez worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the seventh for his ninth save.
Tides 7, Gwinnett 4 (7 innings, game 2 of a doubleheader)
A terrific start by Matt Wotherspoon and three first-inning runs helped propel the Tides to a doubleheader sweep on Monday night.
Mullins singled to left field to open the bottom of the first and eventually came around to score the game’s first run on a passed ball. Drew Dosch followed with a two-run double to give the Tides an early 3-0 lead.
The Tides added another run to their lead in the second inning after yet another sacrifice fly from Wilkerson and made it a 5-0 game in the fourth-inning on a home run by D.J. Stewart.
Wotherspoon, making just his third start of the season, struck out seven hitters and yielded one hit in four scoreless innings.
Andrew Faulkner threw a scoreless fifth inning in relief but ran into trouble in the sixth, allowing the first four hitters of the inning to reach while walking in a run. Paul Fry entered the game with the bases loaded and no outs and would surrender three runs, all credited to Faulkner, before tight roping out of danger with a one-run lead.
Interestingly, Gwinnett summoned catcher Rob Brantly to pitch the sixth inning with the score still 5-4 Tides. Brantley gave up two runs on RBI hits from Alvarez and Chance Sisco while throwing the majority of his pitches within the 55-60 mph range.
Lefty D.J. Snelten tossed a scoreless seventh to seal the win for Norfolk.
Tides 3, Gwinnett 2
For the second straight game, the Tides received a strong pitching performance from a spot starter and used it to squeak past Gwinnett by a 3-2 score on Tuesday night.
Joely Rodriguez – making his first start since 2015 on account of the Orioles’ promotion of the evening’s scheduled starter, Jimmy Yacabonis – tossed four innings of one run ball.
Wilkerson blasted a solo home run into the bullpen in right field in the bottom of the first to give the Tides a 1-0 lead.
Rodriguez allowed just one hit through the first three innings, but got into trouble in the top of the fourth after Rio Ruiz floated a bloop single into left field to score Michael Reed, who had doubled to lead off the inning. He finished the fourth inning having struck out three while walking none.
Reed came back to haunt the Tides again in the sixth when he lifted a fastball from newly-promoted lefty Reid Love that barely cleared the right field wall for a home run. Love managed to escape the inning without any further damage.
Wilkerson led off the bottom half of the sixth with a double and Stewart followed with a walk. With two outs, Alvarez hit a fly ball to right field that Gwinnett’s Dustin Peterson appeared to lose in the lights (though it was scored a double). Alvarez’s hit plated both Wilkerson and Stewart and allowed the Tides to retake the lead.
Love remained on to pitch the seventh and eighth innings and retired all six hitters he faced. He finished his AAA debut having thrown four innings out of the bullpen while striking out three and allowing only one run en route to earning the win. Meisenger pitched a scoreless ninth for his first save of the season.
GulfBird Sports/Craig Landefeld
Tides 6, Gwinnett 5 (10 innings)
Alvarez emerged as the hero of the series finale by belting a walk-off, two-run double with two outs in the tenth inning as the Tides swept Gwinnett on Wednesday afternoon.
Means retired the first six batters he faced in order, but the Stripers offense used four hits in the third inning to take a 3-0 lead. The Tides answered immediately in the bottom half of the third, using a pair of doubles by Ruben Tejada and Mullins as well as a seeing-eye single from Rickard to close the deficit to 3-2.
Means and Gwinnett’s Michael Mader each put up zeroes on the mound in the fourth and fifth innings before Alvarez lined a base hit to right field in the bottom of the sixth to score Mullins and tie the game at 3.
The game remained tied until the tenth inning, when the Stripers scored twice off Tides reliever D.J. Snelten on a walk and a wild pitch. Not to be outdone, however, the Tides’ Adrian Marin doubled home Renato Nunez to begin the inning (thanks to the new MiLB rule that starts every extra inning with a runner at second base). After Mullins and Rickard were retired, things began to look bleak with two outs and Marin, the would-be tying run, still stranded on second base.
A walk by Stewart extended the inning for Pedro Alvarez, who then smashed a line drive to center field for a double that scored both Marin and Stewart and somehow sent the Tides home with a wild 6-5 victory, a series sweep, and the club’s fourth straight win.