A day that began with fanciful thoughts of a no-hitter and the possibility of a spirit-boosting get-away day triumph over the Kinston Indians, turned into one ugly mess and a 10-4 loss for the Potomac Cannons Sunday afternoon.
Cruising along in front of a season-high crowd of 2,512 at Pfitzner Stadium, the Cannons were feeling pretty good when starting pitcher Chet Medlock climbed the mound to begin his fourth inning of work. The rain and dark clouds that hung around for much of the season-opening homestand gave had finally given way to a bright April sun and Medlock was in complete control in his first Carolina League start.
Then, he threw three warm-up pitches to the backstop and, just like that, the joyride ended. Forging unwanted memories of a 2001 campaign when Potomac pitchers Chris Narveson and Blake Williams each suffered season-ending arm injuries, Medlock left the game prior to the start of the fourth inning and took Potomac ‘s best chance at victory along with him.
“He said it didn ‘t hurt. It just felt funny,” Cannons manager Joe Cunningham said. “It ‘s a dead arm thing. Pitchers go through that.”
It doesn ‘t happen too often, though, in the midst of a no-hitter. But that was the case on Sunday.
Medlock was nearly unhittable in a late-season tour of duty with the Cannons last summer. Following a promotion from low Class-A Peoria, he went 1-1 with a 0.55 ERA and did not allow an earned run in 11 consecutive relief appearances.
In his first start since the 2000 season, Medlock was just as impressive against the K-Tribe. Facing an Indians squad that sauntered to the park with a league-best .303 batting average, the 23-year-old right-hander faced 10 batters in three no-hit innings before being pulled from the game as a precautionary measure well before he reached an 85-pitch limit.
“It ‘s a shame. You hate to see that happen,” Kinston manager Ted Kubiak said. “He was pitching really well.”
Medlock returned to the clubhouse with a 2-0 lead, but it took reliever Mike Meyer less than an inning to give it all away. Unexpectedly rushed into action, Meyer allowed five runs on five hits in the fourth, including two-run, two-out doubles by Eric Crozier and Nate Janowicz. Cleanup hitter Ryan Church, who was hitting .370 prior to a 2 for 5 performance, added a two-run homer in the fifth for good measure.
The Potomac bullpen struggled the entire day. The K-Tribe scored two runs against Jeremy Cook and another against Doug Kohl to cap a 13-hit afternoon.
“We just didn ‘t play well at all,” Cunningham said. “Errors, not paying attention to the number of outs. There were numerous things. We didn ‘t play with our heads.”
Indians starter Carlos De La Cruz had his troubles as well. He gave up Ricardo Cordova ‘s first homer of the year, surrendered seven hits overall and hit two batters, but still pitched well enough to earn his first Carolina League victory. The 19-year-old distinguished himself as a budding prospect during a winter ball stint in Panama, and in his second start of the season he alternately resembled the fledgling star and the pitcher who brought a 5-7 career record and a 5.25 ERA to the mound.
De Le Cruz gave Potomac batters fits early on. He struck out three batters in the first two innings, including Dustin Brisson on a controversial check swing and Al Rodgers on a phantom foul tip in the second. The Cannons got a small measure of revenge and built a brief two-run lead – an inning later when Seth Davidson ‘s one-out double set up Skip Schumaker ‘s RBI single and Matt Williams ‘ run-scoring double.
The cushion was wiped out in decisive fashion by the Southern Division ‘s first-place team. The K-Tribe, which has now won three consecutive series to open the season, took the field without Saturday night ‘s hero, Alex Requena, but they didn ‘t miss him.
Requena hit an inside-the-park three-run homer in Kinston ‘s 5-4 10-inning victory in game two of the series, but was unavailable for the finale after getting hit on the calf by a pitch in the ninth inning. The Indians started Church in center field and all he did was drive in two runs and score twice.
After going hitless the first time through the batting order, the Indians wound up with six extra base knocks and improved to 7-2 overall. Third baseman Corey Smith, who started the day with a .471 average, doubled and scored to extend his hitting streak to nine games.
Crozier delivered a pair of two-run doubles and right fielder Jorge Moreno went 3 for 5.
“It ‘s good for us to do that today. We haven ‘t done much with guys in scoring position or with two outs,” Kubiak said. “Maybe this game for us will be a turnaround. We ‘ve played well but we haven ‘t been really sharp. We haven ‘t been hitting the ball the way we ‘re capable. Things turned around and we got a lot of big hits.”
The defense also came up with some big plays. The Indians turned two double plays and worked out of a pair of bases-loaded jams to help prevent the Cannons from coming back.
Cannons leadoff batter Christopher Morris, who terrorized the K-Tribe in the first two games of the series, had a quiet day on the bases. He went 2 for 5 to extend his hitting streak to six games, but did not steal a base or score a run.
The runs came from the bottom of the order. In addition to Cordova ‘s solo homer, Davidson doubled and scored twice. Skip Schumaker went 2 for 4 and drove in a run, while left fielder Johnny Hernandez (2 for 4) reached base safely for the seventh straight game.
“Until today we ‘ve been right in every game until the last out,” Cunningham said. “We just didn ‘t do things well today. They scored five runs with two outs. You can ‘t let that happen.”