Despite a shaky first inning for Brevard County starter Wei-Chung Wang that saw him give up three runs, the Manatees offense continued their impressive stretch on Sunday, leading to an 8-3 win and continued a season high four-game win streak.
Wang, who has struggled in his last couple outings, threw 35 pitches in that first inning. He walked Ismael Salgado with one out and Javier Betancourt singled to bring up Dominic Ficociello, who ripped an RBI double to score Salgado, giving the visitors a 1-0 lead. After Ben Verlander flew out, Francisco Martinez who pitched in Saturday night’s 14-0 Manatees win, was back in the batter’s box and stroked a two-run double, giving Lakeland a 3-0 lead.
Flying Tigers starter Ryan Longstreth (2-4) had a similarly miserable first inning, throwing 36 pitches. Jonathan Lucroy, who was playing his last injury rehab game with Brevard County, drew a one-out walk. He moved to third on Clint Coulter’s double to right. Victor Roache followed with an RBI single, making it a 3-1 game. After Taylor Brennan walked, Garrett Cooper hit a sacrifice fly, to make it 3-2. It was Cooper’s fifth straight game with an RBI.
After Rafael Neda walked, Angel Ortega hit one to first baseman Bobby Borchering, who saw the ball go under his glove, allowing Roache and Brennan to score and give the Manatees a 4-3 lead. The Manatees batted around in that first inning, something they did twice Saturday night. They had only done it three times all season, prior to this weekend.
Longstreth, who needed a good outing to save what was a taxed Lakeland bullpen, ran into trouble again in the fourth. Lucroy drew another one out walk and Coulter singled and a single by Roache loaded the bases. That was the end of the day for Longstreth. He was relieved by Brennan Smith.
Smith started his outing by plunking Brennan, bringing Lucroy home to make it 5-3. Cooper followed with a ringing two-run double, breaking the game open, 7-3. For Cooper it was his second and third RBI of the game and his 10th double of the season.
That was more than enough insurance for Wang (3-2), who settled down nicely after that first inning. He gave up three hits in that inning and allowed just two more over his next five innings of work. When all was said and done, Wang pitched six innings, striking out six and walking two.
Brevard County (22-27) got their final run of the game in the sixth. With two outs, Brennan singled and went to second after Cooper reached on an error by Martinez at third. A single by Neda brought Brennan in with the eighth run of the night.
Preston Gainey was called on to take over for Wang in the seventh. He got through the seventh and eighth unscathed, before running into trouble with two outs in the ninth, giving up a single and two walks. Since that put the tying run on deck, Manatees manager Joe Ayrault went to the bullpen again, calling on Tyler Spurlin. One pitch to Jiwan James was all it took, as Spurlin got him to ground out, ending the game. Spurlin’s one pitch effort was good enough for his first save of the season.
For more info: Lakeland @ Brevard County boxscore
Inside the batter’s box: Lucroy finished his weekend in Brevard County, going 1-for-3 on Sunday. He had one hit in each of the four games he played and is now expected to join Milwaukee in St. Louis, in time for Monday’s game.
Coulter, who has struggled in the month of May, ended it on a good note Sunday, going 3-for-5 with two runs scored. Roache was 2-for-5 with two runs scored. Brennan rounded out the multi-hit parade, going 2-for-3 with two runs scored and an RBI.
The series against Lakeland wraps up Monday night at Space Coast Stadium. Brandon Woodruff (1-2, 4.20) is scheduled to take the ball for the Manatees. Game time is set for 6:35 p.m.