The Norfolk Tides (47-44, 2nd place in the IL South through Sunday) stumbled to three losses in four games against the Gwinnett Stripers during the team’s first series since the AAA All-Star break. Center fielder Cedric Mullins, the No. 5 prospect in Baltimore’s minor league system, collected six hits in the series while extending his hitting streak to 15 games. Starting pitcher Asher Wojciechowski was another bright spot, tossing eight innings of one-run ball during Friday’s game.
Gwinnett 4, Norfolk 1
Gwinnett shortstop Luis Marte went 3-for-4 at the plate, helping the Stripers hold on to an early lead and take the first game of the second half by a score of 4-1. Tides starter Matt Wotherspoon took the loss after allowing three runs in four and two-thirds innings pitched.
D.J. Snelton, Joely Rodriguez, and Tim Melville yielded just one run over five and a third combined innings out of the Tides bullpen. Left fielder Mike Yastrzemski had two hits, including a double, to pace the Norfolk offense.
Tides 5, Gwinnett 4
The Tides fought off a ninth-inning Gwinnett rally with a rally of their own, ultimately needing ten innings to take game two of the series by a 5-4 score. Starter Wojciechowski yielded one run through eight strong innings while Yastrzemski went 3-for-3 at the plate.
Wojciechowski struck out eight hitters while walking none. With the game scoreless in the bottom of the fifth inning, the Tides’ offense used an RBI groundout from Ruben Tejada and a sacrifice fly from Mullins to stake their pitcher out to a 2-0 lead. Stripers catcher Jonathan Morales cut the lead in half in the top of the seventh after an RBI groundout of his own.
Things got dicey for Norfolk in the top of the ninth after manager Ron Johnson opted to bring in Tim Melville to try to close out the game with a 2-1 lead. After Austin Riley singled to lead off the inning, Dustin Peterson launched a two-run homer to give the Stripers a sudden 3-2 lead. Xavier Avery followed Peterson with a double, later coming around to score on an error by Garabez Rosa and pushing the lead to 4-2.
The Tides refused to go quietly in the bottom of the ninth. Drew Dosch led off the inning with a bunt single to beat the shift and advanced to third on a two-out double by Yastrzemski. With the Tides down to their final out, Tejada sliced a line drive into center field to tie the game at four.
Per the new minor league pace-of-play rules, each team starts extra innings with a runner on second base. Knuckleballer Eddie Gamboa was able to prevent Gwinnett from scoring in the top half of the tenth, while D.J. Stewart led off the bottom of the inning by grounding a ball into center field to score Luis Sardinas from second base and give the Tides the victory.
Gwinnett 4, Norfolk 3
Tides starter John Means threw six innings while giving up three runs, but it wasn’t enough as Norfolk dropped game three. Mullins and Tejada each had a pair of hits in the losing effort.
The Stripers opened the scoring in the third inning after Michael Reed lifted a sacrifice fly to plate Sean Kazmar. They pushed across two more runs in the following inning on an RBI groundout and another sacrifice fly to widen the lead to 3-0.
The Tides battled back in the bottom of the fifth, pushing across a run on Renato Nunez’s sacrifice fly. The bottom of the sixth produced two more Tides runs on an error by Kazmar and a Tejada double, knotting the score at three apiece.
Rio Ruiz’s RBI single in the top of the seventh gave the Stripers a 4-3 lead that they would hold on to for the win. Reliever Francisco Jimenez took the loss for Norfolk, though the run he allowed was unearned.
Gwinnett 9, Tides 2
Chris Tillman battled through five and a third innings of work in another rehab start and Tejada and Stuart Levy hit a pair of home runs, but Norfolk dropped the series finale after the bullpen struggled in the late innings.
Tillman struck out three hitters while giving up a pair of runs on eight hits and a walk. His fastball sat in the upper 80’s for the majority of his outing, though it briefly touched 92 in the sixth inning.
Gwinnett jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the third inning after Michael Reed hit a long home run into the visitor’s bullpen in left center field. The Stripers tacked on another run in the fourth on an RBI double.
Norfolk came roaring back to tie the game in the bottom of the fifth on a pair of solo homers by Ruben Tejada and Stuart Levy. Tillman returned to the mound in the top of the sixth but was relieved after allowing a double and reaching 100 pitches for the afternoon. Lefty D.J. Snelten recorded the final two outs to end the top of the sixth inning still tied at 2.
Four straight Gwinnett singles to open the seventh gave the Stripers the lead again. Gamboa entered the game with one run already in and two runners on base with no outs but managed to wiggle out of the jam with the score remaining 3-2. The Stripers added four runs in the eighth and two more in the ninth to push the score to 9-2.
Mullins extended his hitting streak to 15 games with a bunt single in the third inning. The switch-hitting outfielder is batting .379 (25-for-66) with ten extra-base hits over that stretch.