Harrisburg- A pitcher’s duel by Lucas Giolito and Justin Haley was decided by the bullpens as the Senators used a ninth-inning rally to top the Portland Sea Dogs, 2-1, in front of 2,345 fans at FNB Field.
Zach Collier led off the final frame against Portland reliever Luis Ysla with a single up the middle. After a sacrifice bunt by Spencer Kieboom, the Senators (23-21) used patience at the plate against the suddenly wild Ysla. Consecutive walks to Shawn Pleffner and Cutter Dykstra loaded the bases and brought Adrian Sanchez to the plate. Sanchez watched four straight pitches out of the zone for the walk-off walk and game-winning RBI.
“We played really good defense tonight and made some plays,” manager Matt LeCroy said. “Hopefully, we can continue to play like that because they’re starting to gel as a group and figure out ways to win.”
Portland wasted little time in getting on the scoreboard as they got to Giolito for a run in the first inning. Sean Coyle doubled and with Andrew Benintendi at the plate, Coyle took off for third and kept going as Benintendi grounded into the Senators’ shift in shallow right field.
An inning later the Senators evened the score as Collier tripled to lead off the frame and Kieboom singled down the right field line to drive him in. Kieboom was erased as a baserunner, however, as the catcher was thrown out at second trying to stretch the hit into a double.
Giolito went seven strong innings, his longest outing of the season, but earned the no decision for his efforts. The 21-year-old allowed one run on four hits and one walk while striking out six.
“I thought it was by far his best outing of the year,” LeCroy said. “I thought he was in good control of that ballgame.”
“A big key for me is to take everything one pitch at a time,” Giolito said. “Once I commit to that then I’m able to get the ball back and get on the mound, throw a pitch, get the ball back, next pitch. It just goes from there. I’m able to get out of innings quickly.”
In Giolito’s final frame, Portland threatened with their first base hit since the third inning, a Cole Sturgeon double. The go-ahead run subsequently advanced to third on a groundout, but Giolito rose to the occasion as he struck out Sea Dogs’ designated hitter Aneury Tavarez on a sharp breaking ball in the dirt.
“In big situations I always have full confidence behind whatever pitch I’m going to throw,” Giolito said. “No matter how you’ve been throwing it the first five, six innings of the game once you get to that point and need to make a good pitch, you trust it 100 percent.”
“I thought he found a real, nice rhythm from the second inning on,” pitching coach Chris Michalak said. “And then at the end, he made some really big pitches. In that last inning, they had some good ABs against him but he threw probably his best curve ball of the night to strike out [Tavarez] and end the inning with a runner on third base.”
The Sea Dogs threatened in the top of the ninth as they loaded the bases, but Bryan Harper induced a 6-4 fielder’s choice to get out of the inning unscathed and earn the victory.
A Thursday matinee is the last chance to catch the Sea Dogs at FNB Field as the two teams conclude the series at 10:30 a.m. Harrisburg will send Austen Williams to the mound looking for his second straight victory against Portland’s Ty Buttrey.