BRADENTON -- Even before the Marauders series opener against the Miracle began at 6:35 p.m., they found themselves in trouble. Scheduled starting pitcher Frank Duncan fired warm-up pitches during his bullpen session when he had to cut it short. A sickness has been going around the Bradenton clubhouse -- it kept JaCoby Jones out of Friday's lineup -- and Duncan was its latest victim. On short notice, Andy Otamendi started warming up.
By the fourth inning, the new starter had exhausted his arm and Bradenton dug into its bullpen. By the end of the fifth, Fort Myers had piled up six runs. Monday evening at McKechnie Field started poorly for the Marauders and ended even worse with a 11-5 loss to the Twins' Class A-Advanced affiliate in the finale of a four-game Bradenton homestand.
Otamendi has often been the Marauders' (19-18) savior during lost games in 2015. Of his 11 appearances this season before Monday, only five have lasted an inning or fewer. For two innings, he pitched Bradenton out to a lead. The Marauders have the most productive offense in the Florida State League in terms of batting average, on-base percentage and slugging and in the second inning they put Bradenton ahead.
With one out, second baseman Erich Weiss bounced a single to left. After a strikeout by Fort Myers starter Aaron Slegers, Jhang smacked a single into right, placing runners on first and second. Third baseman Wyatt Mathisen came to the plate with an
eight-game hitting streak and slapped a ground ball to the Miracle shortstop. Engelbe Vielma forced a throw on the run.
The ball sailed over the first baseman's head and Weiss dashed home to give the Marauders a 1-0 lead.
It was the only time Bradenton held a lead.
Despite striking out three and preventing a single baserunner for Fort Myers (18-20) through three innings, Otamendi (2-4) failed to record an out in the fourth. Miracle outfielder Zach Granite led off with a single and Otamendi issued his first walk to Jason Kanzler, moving Granite into scoring position. Elarton came to visit Otamendi.
By this point, Otamendi, a reliever by trade, had already thrown 51 pitches. The Marauders needed help after their starter was scratched, though, and let Otamendi pitch to Niko Goodrum.
Four pitches later, the Fort Myers third baseman knocked a single into center field that drove Granite home and tied the game at 1-1. Elarton came back to the mound. Bradenton was into its bullpen and in trouble.
Julio Eusebio was the first to get the call, his season debut. He first let up a single to outfielder Chad Chrristensen then saw runs scoot home on a sacrifice fly and an RBI groundout that left the Marauders in a 3-1 hole.
Slegers (2-2) wasn't at his best against Bradenton, but did enough to get the Miracle a win.
He lasted five innings and didn't allow an earned run -- just another unearned in the bottom of the fourth -- while limiting the Pirates' affiliate to four hits. Mathisen only got one more plate appearance and walked, ending his hitting streak.
And for the Marauders, bad became worse in the top of the fifth. With one out, Vielma blooped a double in front of Michael Fransoso in left field.
Two batters later, Kanzler smashed a two-run home run halfway up the bleachers beyond the boardwalk in left.
The game was slipping away from Bradenton, but not over yet.
That didn't happen until Goodrum's line drive bounced off shortstop Chris Diaz's glove to keep Fort Myers' inning alive and let the Miracle tack on one more run and stretch the lead to a daunting four runs.