The Birmingham Barons take back-to-back games in Pensacola, with the latest coming in a 4-1 victory over the Blue Wahoos. This win for the Barons checked a lot of firsts off their list: First consecutive win, first successful save and first win of the season for starting right-handed pitcher Matt
The Birmingham Barons take back-to-back games in Pensacola, with the latest coming in a 4-1 victory over the Blue Wahoos. This win for the Barons checked a lot of firsts off their list: First consecutive win, first successful save and first win of the season for starting right-handed pitcher Matt Thompson.
The Barons were first to get on the scoreboard. Centerfielder Yoelqui Céspedes got things started as he hit a ball between the right side of the infield, scoring second-baseman Moises Castillo from third for the lead.
With the one run lead, Thompson went into the bottom of the first inning with a cushion to shake off some of the nerves. Even with the cushion, it didn’t take long for the 22 year-old to find his rhythm.
Thompson would protect the lead by striking out two and growing the energy brewing in the away team's dugout.
The Barons, still holding their one run lead in the third, used left-fielder Duke Ellis' speed to get a runner on. Ellis’ successful bunt attempt made him 2-for-2 in the past two games, and 4-for-5 overall.
Birmingham knows all about the type of speed that they have on the bags when Ellis is on. The Blue Wahoos, if they didn’t know before, know now. A check throw to first, in an attempt to pick off the speedster, goes past the first baseman and Ellis scores from first in a matter of seconds.
Pensacola looked confused as the game's score now doubled in a blink of an eye.
With all the momentum on Birmingham's side, the Blue Wahoos were able to cut the lead in half on a soft hit fielder's choice by shortstop Nasim Nunez. Despite the run cutting the lead, the Barons were quick to answer back by scoring two more runs in the fourth.
Barons catcher Xavier Fernandez was the first to strike as he would send a ball down the left-field line to swap places with designated hitter Tyler Osik at second-base. During the double, first-baseman Chris Shaw would advance to third, but would not stay put for much longer.
Two pitches later, right-fielder Ben Norman hit a tower ball to centerfield for a sac fly, scoring Shaw in the process.
A lot of action happened at the plate for the Barons in the first four innings, but it was quite the opposite for the last five. Instead of the plate being the focal point, the mound was now the center of attention. Thompson would end his day after the fifth inning, finishing with six strikeouts and allowing only two hits.
The bullpen fed off of Thompson’s performance as they would only allow three more hits in the ball game and combine for four strikeouts. Among the four pitchers used in relief of Thompson were: Righty Luke Shilling, southpaw Gil Luna, righty Caleb Freeman and right-handed closer Alex Mateo.
The collective were all used for an inning each, knocking out Blue Wahoos batters for the last four innings. Out of the quad, Freeman and Mateo were asked to close out the game. Freeman came in for setup purposes in the eighth, striking out two batters to hand the ninth to Mateo.
Mateo closed out the game in four batters and secured the first save for both him and the Barons this season. The Florida native has been a reliable option for the Barons so far this season with a 2-0 record and being 1-of-2 pitchers with a 0.00 ERA.
Birmingham now has a 2-0 series lead on Pensacola and improved to 4-7 overall.
The Barons with their first consecutive wins of the year not only have proven to the fans they are capable of doing it, but also have proven to themselves that they can.