By: Mike Kaffee, Hurricanes Baseball Reporter
Miami continues its roller coaster season of ups, downs. twists and turns. Just when it looks like they are finally climbing that upward grade to grab that gold ring, they plunge down into a crashing dive where the offense looks like they are seeing a baseball for the very first time. Even defense playing so well last weekend showed they can make a mistake and it proved costly in game two. Today,they came into Chapel Hill with fires burning coming off of series sweep, and just as quickly they see these same flames extinguished in a matter of hours. Both games, the offense just failed to show until the final innings. Opportunity in both games to pull it out in the 9th only in game one seeing it end at the fence in RF and game 2 with back to back strikeouts. Now they have to look deep within themselves to see if they have what it takes and rebound strongly to come out of this series on a positive note. If they continue to play like the had through most of today’s games then there is little hope of seeing this team reach their dream
Alejandro Rosario started in the opener,coming off of one of his best games last week only to struggle once again through 5 innings. Last week, he was King of the mound with 6 strikeouts and cruising through 6 innings before things starting going south on him in the 7th. Today it all started in the 1st inning and only surviving with giving up one run with an inning ending DP. By the 3rd inning, he started having control issues resulting in the Tarheels picking up their 2nd run on a lead off single, progressing with a 2 out single with runners on the corners. By the 4th you could see he was tiring giving up a lead off HR, hitting a batter to load the bases but coming out of a 23 pitch inning with a strikeout. NC had scored every inning, except the second and Miami had nothing to answer with. Through the first 4 innings Miami would collect a total of 5 hits but each coming with 2 outs. Where NC was getting situation hitting Miami was clueless in being able to tie a couple of hits together. It wasn’t until the 7th inning, with a leadoff single by Dominic Pitelli, that it looked like the sleeping giant was awakening. Gabe advanced him to 2nd, and a WP to 3rd. It was Lala finally able to put Miami finally on the boards with a SF to right. With 4-1, Miami had a long way to climb to get back into the game. The 8th, the bats started awaking with a 2 out double by Alex, single by Gil, and Toral held on 3rd for fear of his lack of speed would nail him at home. Just barely getting into second because of it. Pitelli walks to load the bases. We have seen this so many times in the 8th with BL and failing to capitalize with RISP. Gabe coming to bat and visions of another grand slam only to see the first pitch returned for an unassisted ground out at third. The 9th almost the same story. Another opportunity of taking a 4-1 deficit to a roller coaster finish. Back to back opening walks and an RBI single coming with 2 outs by CDC puts Miami within 2, with Alex coming to the plate. It was a story line waiting to happen. Only problem is NC is writing the story. HR power at the plate and you could hear the holding of everyone’s breath as Alex makes strong contact with the ball and Toral thought he tagged #7 only caught at the top of the fence in right. Opportunity lost to pull it out of the fire in the late innings only to see the flame flicker out.
Before moving on to game two, Raymond Gil should be recognized with a 3-4 outing which unfortunately two of his hit came with 2 outs and his other had a slow Toral in front of him. Recognition to Alex McFarlane who did a commendable job coming out of the BP to pitch 3 scoreless innings without giving up a hit. Just might see him next weekend in the starting rotation in lieu of Rosario.
Game two, DC changed roles to DH with Perez behind the plate batting 9th. Jordan Dubberly on the mound.
Game two started differently in Miami taking the early lead and then same-o, same-o: bats remain silent and starting pitcher running into trouble building up a 6-1 lead going into the 7th. Again the sleeping giant wakes up only to be short circuited in the final inning to tie the score.
Lala got game 2 started with a leadoff single and proceeded to steal second. Like we have seen so often, a grounder to advance the runner only to have a SF for the score. We do this exceptionally well. It is the rest that is so iffy. After Lala’s initial hit, we would not see another hit until the 6th inning and NC had amounted a lead of 6-1. The Heels would tie the score at one in the third with a leadoff single to right which was fumbled by Gabe enabling the runner to advance to 2nd on the error setting up a two out single. Like so many pitchers before him, Jordan had trouble getting beyond the 5th. It was a total collapse with Max Horvath getting his 1st career HR collect 2 RBIs, followed up with a walk and RBI double which ended Dubberly day at 71 pitches. Bodanza came in to pitch to one batter which he struck out,and Gino replaces him with Andrew Walters. With a runner on third, a grounder back to him is deflected off his glove and Vilar unable to collect the deflection and complete the final out. Runs score making it a 4 runs inning and a 5-1 lead. add to their lead in the 6th with a BL walk after the inning started with 2 outs before back to back singles and a walk to load them up. Walters still on the mound. Gino brings in his go-to guy Arguelles and walks in the 6th run. Finally in the 7th, a little late in starting, but starting it is with a couple of opening hits (single,RBI double) before the flicker is extinguished stranding Toral at second with 3 straight strikeouts. 6-1 is now 6-2. With the bats warming up, two out rally with a DC RBI double, followed by Big Brother 2 RBI HR bringing it closer at 6-5. Without the error by Gabe in the 3rd and the deflection in the 5th off of Walter’s glove, we wouldn’t be fighting for our lives at one run down. Pitelli walking in the 9th, again presented another opportunity to tie the game up but again back to back strikeouts by Thomas, PH for Perez, and Lala puts Miami into a Sunday possible sweep.
These two games shows a continual pattern of the inconsistency of Miami hitting until the latter part of the game. Both games our starter ran into early trouble and our offense could not bail them out. Game one no runs until the 7th with 5 scattered hit through 6. Game two a smiggen better getting one run but only on two hits through 6. you can’t wait until the 8th and 9th to try to play catch up. Miami continues on this trend, don’t expect miracle results in postseason.
Sunday a chance to salvage one game in the series and move forward for a four game series with the Eagles (FGCU and Boston).