BOWIE– The Bowie Baysox had moments of brilliance in Game 2 of their division series. But it wasn’t enough to overcome their sloppy play throughout the game, leading the Harrisburg Senators to a series-tying 5-4 victory in 12 innings on Thursday night.
Harrisburg first baseman Dante Bichette Jr., son of former major leaguer Dante Bichette, delivered the tie-breaking RBI single in the top of the 12th at Prince George’s Stadium. The game-winning hit was set up by catcher Carlos Perez’s throwing error on a stolen base attempt, Bowie’s fourth error of the night.
It was that kind of a game for the Baysox, who were prone to mistakes in the field and on the basepaths.
“In these playoff games, every little thing matters,” manager Buck Britton said. “Every little detail matters. It’s the little things that get you beat, and that’s what happened tonight.”
In the first inning, Perez dropped a relay throw to the plate that would’ve cut down a Senators run. In the second, with two runners aboard, Baysox right fielder Yusniel Diaz failed to catch a Bichette fly ball in foul territory that would’ve ended the inning. Given new life, Bichette hit a routine bouncer to short that Mason McCoy booted, plating Harrisburg’s fourth run.
McCoy later committed a throwing error in the seventh inning, one of two Baysox errors in the frame, though it didn’t cost them a run.
The shaky defense hurt Bowie starter Tyler Herb, though he wasn’t particularly sharp. Herb, who was acquired from the San Francisco Giants for Mike Yastrzemski on March 23, allowed hits to each of the first three Senators batters of the game, including consecutive RBI doubles, as part of Harrisburg’s three-run first inning. Herb lasted five innings, giving up four runs (three earned).
The Baysox struggled with their baserunning, too. In the bottom of the fourth, Ryan McKenna (pictured above) drew a one-out walk to become Bowie’s first baserunner. But he lost track of the count on Anderson Feliz, thinking Feliz drew a walk on ball three, and wandered off the bag and got picked off. The Baysox didn’t score in the inning, despite drawing two more walks after McKenna’s.
Halfway through the game, Harrisburg was in command. Starter Andrew Lee didn’t allow a hit in his five-inning performance, and reliever Sterling Sharp retired the first two batters in the sixth.
All at once, though, the momentum shifted. In a span of three batters, the Baysox not only broke up the no-hitter but put three runs on the board, with a McKenna double and Feliz single preceding a Perez three-run home run down the left-field line, shaving the Bowie deficit to one.
Two innings later, the Senators called upon longtime major league closer Greg Holland, a three-time All-Star, who signed a minor league deal with the Nationals on August 12 after being released by the Arizona Diamondbacks. The first batter he faced, Ryan Ripken, greeted him with a game-tying home run into the trees beyond the right field wall, bringing the announced crowd of 2,164 at Prince George’s Stadium to its feet.
“[Holland’s] got a great pedigree, obviously, and the name is very familiar to everyone who follows baseball,” Ripken said. “But in the moment, I’m really just trying to stick to the game plan, and that game plan was just trying to see a pitch I could drive and execute that.”
The Baysox sloppiness, though, returned in extra innings, ultimately costing them the game. McKenna committed another misguided baserunning mistake in the 11th. Representing the winning run at second base with one out, McKenna took off for third on a Diaz sharp liner to right. The ball hung up, though, for Rhett Wiseman, who made the catch and quickly doubled off McKenna for the final out.
Britton wasn’t pleased with McKenna’s two baserunning blunders.
“Really no excuse for either one of them,” Britton said. “You’ve got to stay engaged in the game, number one. You can’t lose focus in moments like that. Those are things that we preach from spring training. He’s heard the same things for years. At some point, you’ve got to retain information and be able to slow the games down, especially in big games like this.”
The Bowie bullpen, which combined for six scoreless innings from the sixth through the 11th, finally broke in the 12th. Steven Klimek, working his third inning, served up Bichette’s game-deciding hit. The Baysox stranded a walk in the bottom half, finishing a disappointing loss.
“It’s kind of like the story of the year,” Britton said. “We fall back and we come back, and then we just kind of kill ourselves. We’re going to turn the page, and we’re going to get ready for tomorrow and get after it. It’s 1-1. So we’ve still got a chance.”
The best-of-five series now shifts to Harrisburg for games three, four and (if necessary) five. Bowie will pitch its two best starters of 2019, left-handers Zac Lowther (13-7, 2.55) and Alex Wells (8-6, 2.95).
“You can deal with it for the next 20 to 30 minutes and let it sink in,” Ripken said of the Game 2 defeat. “After that, those minutes are up, you’ve got to move on. And come time for us to go to the field tomorrow and get ready, we’ll be focused on Game 3.”