The Amarillo Sod Poodles headed into last night with two opportunities to win the Texas League championship. As it turns out, they will need both of them.
They also haven't won a playoff game yet at home, as they have won all three of their road games and lost both home games. Here's hoping that trend changes.
Yilber Diaz got the start for the Soddies, and unfortunately, had his roughest outing since his promotion to AA. He went 4.2 innings and struck out 6, but gave up 5 runs. Still, he turned in three scoreless innings to open the game, but Amarillo was only able to manage a solitary run, on a leadoff home run by Camden Duzenack. And then Diaz gave up back-to-back home runs to open the fourth inning, and also hit a batter and walked a batter. Still, he was allowed to return for the fifth inning.
Things started well, as Diaz struck out Connor Hoover to open the fifth. That was followed by another walk and a single, and after a popout, another walk to load the bases. Raffi Vizcaino entered to try to strand the runners and keep it a 1 run game. Unfortunately, he went single, wild pitch, balk, and allowed all three inherited runners to score.
But the Sod Poodles do not go down easy, and no one is ever out of a game at Hodgetown. Juan Centeno led off the home half of the fifth was a home run to make it 5-2. Jancarlos Cintron continued his excellent postseason with a double, chasing Arkansas starter Blas Castano. A sacrifice bunt and a groundout scored Cintron to make it 5-3 after the fifth inning.
Vizcaino and Jake Rice each pitched 1.2 innings of scoreless ball, helped by a pair of double plays. But the Soddies stranded two runners in the sixth. In the seventh, however, things went better, again thanks to Cintron, who led off with his second double of the game and scored on Tim Tawa's single. Seth Beer led off the eighth inning with a home run, and things were all tied up.
Taylor Rashi came on to pitch for the Sod Poodles in the ninth. Rashi, who was an injured waiver wire pickup this past offseason from the Giants' organization, has been excellent. In fact, in 12.1 regular season innings with Amarillo, he allowed just a solitary run, and had continued that excellent form into the postseason, in which he had allowed just the unearned run in the series opener against San Antonio. Furthermore, he had allowed just 2 hits and no walks in 3.2 innings. So, of course, Leo Rivas, who has homered in less than 1 percent of his plate appearances as a professional, drove one over the fence to give the Travelers the lead. Rashi was able to minimize the damage despite walking the bases full, but now the Sod Poodles were trailing.
But Cintron was leading off the ninth. He battled, but wound up grounding out to short. Duzenack and Tawa struck out, and the Sod Poodles now must come back to the park tonight.
Vizcaino, Rice, and Rashi will all be unavailable out of the bullpen tonight. The injuries to Mabrey and Norris also hurt. But it is the injuries to Luke Albright and Jamison Hill that are probably hurting the most, in combination with Yu-Min Lin apparently being in Taiwan, although he is still listed on the active roster. Conor Grammes seems likely to get the start in what will be a bullpen game tonight. Here's hoping the bats showw up in a big way.