St. Lucie 5, Charlotte 2
With their backs against the proverbial wall, the St. Luice Mets staved off playoff elimination for at least one more day following a rare solid performance from starting pitcher Domingo Tapia in a 5-2 victory over first-place Charlotte at Tradition Field on Monday night. The win also halted their six-game losing streak.
The Mets, who are one game away from being bounced out of contention for the postseason, broke open a 2-2 tie with three runs in the eighth inning, and closer T.J. Chism held the Stone Crabs scoreless in the ninth inning to preserve Tapia’s gem. Second baseman T.J. Rivera and outfielder Dustin Lawley each finished with two hits and a pair of RBI for St. Lucie (67-59), which pulled within five games of Charlotte (64-62) for the top spot in the FSL South Division.
Rivera continued his torrid play with a two-run homer in the first inning — his second long ball of the season — to give the Mets an early advantage. Both of his home runs have come in the past 14 games, as he’s staked a strong claim to start the 2014 campaign in Double-A for the first time in his career. The 24-year-old owns a slash line of .358/.424/.457 with 10 RBI in 22 games during the month of August.
Rivera also drew a walk in the decisive eighth inning as St. Luice put its first two runners on base before Lawley stepped to the plate. Just like he has on a routine basis this season, the slugger came through with a key hit and laced a double to left field to score both Rivera and Kyle Johnson. It was his 33rd double of the year and also gave him a whopping 92 RBI in 122 games.
But the Mets were able to lean on their pitching as three players combined to allow just two unearned runs and four hits. Tapia put his recent struggles aside and tossed seven quality innings, surrendering the two unearned runs on three hits — the first time in his past eight starts he was not charged with an earned run. The right-hander still had some command issues, however, and walked five batters while striking out four. He’s issued 17 total walks in his past four starts.
Chism fanned the first two batters he faced in the ninth inning before allowing a single. But the southpaw avoided trouble and retired the next batter on a fly out to lock down his 18th save of the season. He ranks second in saves in the Florida State League behind only Jupiter’s Nick Wittgren (25).
St. Lucie will attempt to remain in the playoff race during the second game of the series Tuesday. Angel Cuan (7-3, 3.72 ERA) is scheduled to make his second start since returning to the Mets’ rotation last week. He permitted four runs and seven hits in seven innings during his previous start last Thursday.
Kyle Johnson: 1-for-3, 2 R, 1 BB, 1 SB
T.J. Rivera: 2-for-3, 2 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI
Dustin Lawley: 2-for-4, 1 R, 1 2B, 2 RBI
Rylan Sandoval: 0-for-2, 1 BB, 1 RBI
Domingo Tapia: 7 IP, 3 H, 5 BB, 2 R (0 ER), 4 K
T.J. Chism: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 BB, 0 ER, 2 K