Rough Night on the Mound and at the Plate Leads to Wilmington Blue Rocks’ Defeat

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Michael Cuevas winds up for his pitch earlier this season. Cuevas and the rest of the pitching staff struggled with walks in Thursday night's matchup, giving up a total of eight. Sunday, May 28, 2022. - Staff Photographer / Ashley Craven

In a game that had more batters reach first on balls than hits, the Wilmington Blue Rocks failed to capitalize on offensive opportunities and dropped their Thursday night matchup to the Brooklyn Cyclones 3-2.

Offensively, the storyline for the Blue Rocks was one they found themselves repeating; the team struggled to drive in runs with men on base. Wilmington would end the night with nine base runners left stranded, in a game where they only needed to drive in two to win.

“It’s tough, we’re kind of in a rough stretch when it comes to hitting with runners in scoring position right now,” Blue Rocks’ Infielder Darren Baker said. “You know, it kind of spreads and it only takes one, and I feel like we would have gotten it going, just the big hit never came tonight.”

However, both clubs struggled on the mound as they combined for a total of 16 walks over the course of the game, with eight apiece. 

For Wilmington, this was more than double their average for the season, which is just under four. Starter Michael Cuevas tallied over half of the pitching staff’s walks, as over the course of his three innings of play, he gave up five. 

“It’s bad every time you give up free bases,” Blue Rocks’ Manager Mario Lisson said. “They hurt us, we got to be better at that.”

Cuevas would be taken out of the game in the top of the fourth, after walking the first batter of the inning. Troy Stainbrook came in to relieve their starter, but got into trouble of his own when he walked the second batter he faced. After that, Stainbrook would give up three RBI singles, the first two driving in the two base runners who were walked. 

Walks were something the Cyclones also struggled with, as Brooklyn’s starter Mike Vasil gave up five walks of his own.

Vasil started his night by walking the first batter he faced, Darren Baker. The Blue Rocks’ leadoff man would then steal second and reach third on a wild pitch, which allowed Yasel Antuna to hit a sac fly to easily drive him in.

The Blue Rocks’ only other run on the night would be in the bottom of the fourth when Vasil walked Baker again with the bases loaded and one out.

“On both sides, it’s free base runners. [Vasil] had good stuff, but he just recently got here from Low-A, so he was kind of everywhere today,” Baker said. “So I just tried to be patient and swing at a good pitch.”

After Baker’s at-bat, Brooklyn took out Vasil and put Nathan Lavender’s fresh arm on the mound. The Cyclones didn’t give up another walk throughout the inning and, much like a majority of the game, the Blue Rocks were unable to use their bats to drive another one of their three men on base. 

Despite being given chances during the last five innings, both teams would leave zeros on the scoreboard throughout the remainder of the night. 

“We have to be able to execute our situations and opportunities,” Lisson said. “Again, it’s hard to get hits with two outs, you always suspect them, you want them, but it is a hard game.”

The Blue Rocks’ biggest opportunity came in the bottom of the ninth when the Cyclones once again walked the leadoff batter. This time it was Cole Daily, who would also steal second and have the chance to reach third on a wild pitch. 

Daily, however, would prematurely take off for home as well, allowing the Cyclones to easily tag him for the second out of the inning.

“[Daily was] overly aggressive. He probably thought he had a good chance,” Lisson said. “If we had second with the two and three holes at the plate, I would like those chances better, but it is a learning curve and we’re going to learn from this.”

The Blue Rocks now head into the backend of this eight-game series tied with the Cyclones 2-2. The two division rivals with face off again on Friday, June 17, at 6:35 p.m.

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