After a six-game winning streak on the road propelled the Tides into the lead in the IL wildcard race, the club kept rolling with three wild walk-off victories in four games (and two days) in their first series of the homestand. Tides starters John Means, Lucas Long, and Sean Gilmartin combined for 13.1 innings of one-run ball in the three wins, while newly-acquired reliever Cody Carroll hit 99 mph and earned the win in his first outing with the Orioles organization.
Poor weather conditions across the Hampton Roads area forced Norfolk to condense a four-game series against the Syracuse Chiefs (Nationals affiliate) into just two days with a doubleheader on Wednesday and yet another on Thursday. Due to MiLB rules, each game of the two doubleheaders was scheduled to consist of just seven innings. The Tides’ three walk-off RBIs – courtesy of Mike Yastrzemski, Luis Sardinas, and Breyvic Valera – all came within the same 24-hour span.
Tides 2, Syracuse 1
John Means pitched 6.2 sharp innings and the Tides rallied in the bottom of the seventh to push across a pair of runs and walk off with a 2-1 victory. Catcher Andrew Susac reached base in all three of his plate appearances.
Means and Syracuse starter Austin Voth matched each other nearly pitch-for-pitch through the first six innings, though the Chiefs were able to manufacture a run in the third on an RBI groundout. Tides manager Ron Johnson let Means return to the mound in the top of the seventh to try to finish off the complete game, but was forced to bring in Donnie Hart with two outs and two runners on base in order to keep the deficit at one run.
Voth attempted to close out a complete game of his own. However, he was quickly removed after back-to-back singles and a well-executed sacrifice bunt put runners on third and second with one out for Norfolk. Reliever Jimmy Cordero entered the game for Syracuse and immediately surrendered a base hit to Garabez Rosa that tied the game at one. The next hitter, Mike Yastrzemski, lifted a sacrifice fly to right field that allowed Susac to scamper home from third with the winning run.
Syracuse 8, Tides 1
Tides starter Matt Wotherspoon and reliever Francisco Jimenez each struggled with their command in game two of Wednesday’s doubleheader, walking a combined seven runners in 3.1 innings in what turned into an 8-1 loss.
The Chiefs got a pair of runs in the first inning after Wotherspoon allowed the first four hitters to reach base. Though the Tides were able to get one run back on an RBI groundout, Wotherspoon yielded another run in the second inning on an RBI triple. Jimenez entered the game to start the third inning and allowed another run to come across. The Chiefs tacked on four more runs in the fourth on two doubles and a two-run homer.
Three Syracuse relievers combined to hold the Tides scoreless after the second inning. Norfolk’s Tim Melville and Ryan Meisenger combined for 2.2 scoreless innings of relief out of the Tides bullpen. Pedro Alvarez went 1-for-3 with a double and a run scored.
Tides 2, Syracuse 1
Lucas Long threw 3.2 innings of one-run ball and Cody Carroll struck out two hitters in his first inning as an Orioles farmhand as the Tides claimed another come-from-behind walk-off victory.
Though Long and Chiefs pitcher Jefry Rodriguez exchanged zeroes in each of the first three innings, Syracuse managed to score in the fourth after Alejandro de Aza walked and Irving Falu lined a ball past a diving D.J. Stewart in right field for what turned into an RBI triple. Long and reliever Luis Gonzalez managed end the inning while stranding Falu at third. Gonzalez went on to pitch the fifth and sixth innings while holding the Chiefs scoreless.
A base hit and a walk in the Norfolk sixth put runners at the corners with two outs for Chance Sisco. Newly-inserted Syracuse pitcher Josh Edgin proceeded to balk in the tying run from third on a pickoff attempt, though he later managed to strike out Sisco and leave the go-ahead run on second base.
Carroll threw a 1-2-3 seventh inning, striking out two of the three hitters he faced and touching 99 mph on the stadium radar gun. Luis Sardinas then led off the bottom of the inning with a towering home run to left field, giving the Tides their second-walk off win of the series.
Tides 6, Syracuse 5 (13 innings)
In game two of Thursday’s doubleheader, the Tides notched their third walk-off hit in less than 24 hours – though it took six more innings than usual.
Left-hander Sean Gilmartin received the ball in a spot start and breezed through three innings of work, striking out four while walking one. Eddie Gamboa entered the game in relief to begin the fourth inning and posted four scoreless innings and four strikeouts of his own.
Chiefs pitcher Kyle McGowin held Norfolk’s offense in check through six innings, allowing just three Tides hitters to reach base. Austin Adams relieved McGowin in the seventh and pitched another scoreless inning to send the game into extras.
Andrew Faulkner relieved Gamboa in the eighth with the last out of the previous inning, Chris Dominguez, as the runner at second base and no outs (due to new minor league extra-inning rules). A sacrifice bunt moved Dominguez to third and he would ultimately come around to score on Andrew Stevenson’s sacrifice fly, giving the Chiefs a 1-0 lead.
Norfolk tied the game in the bottom half after Syracuse third baseman Drew Ward couldn’t handle a two-out dribbler by Adrian Marin, allowing Sisco to score. Both teams fared better in the ninth inning, with each preventing the opening runner from scoring.
In the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth innings, Norfolk and Syracuse matched each other blow for blow. With Norfolk coming in to hit in the bottom of the thirteenth, the Chiefs had taken a 5-4 lead – a lead that would be erased for good after Mullins and Valera came all the way around to score on Valera’s two-run inside-the-park home run to right field, capping a wild series with an exclamation point.