Worcester----Looking for a spark, the Darwin Finches got it today in the form of rookie catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who had four hits and worked most of the innings in a doubleheader sweep of the East-leading Eliminators, on the road in Worcester.
‘Salty’ got rave reviews from fellow youngster Chad Billingsley (2-3, 7.39), making only his second start of the year in place of the ousted Jose Contreras, whose poor body language signaled a crisis for the Finches rotation. Billingsley, largely ineffective this year as a long reliever and twice sent back to the minors, made his second start count. He lowered his ERA over two runs worth and went eight strong innings (4 H, 1 run) to earn the victory in the nightcap over Elims ace lefty Eric Bedard (7-7, 3.03), who left a ball up to Placido Polanco with the bases loaded and would eventually depart trailing 3-1, with the Finches going on to add two runs off Jon Rauch courtesy of a Saltalamacchia single, and going on to win , 5-1.
That, at least, was competitive but in the opener Darwin simply spanked the Elims and struggling lefty Jeremy Sowers (8-7, 5.57) who also had control problems (7 BB) that negated his low hit total, with Lance Berkman hitting a bases-loaded single and a sac fly to drive in four, and give Kelvim Escobar (9-3, 3.81) an easy 10-3 lead after five frames. Darwin would go on to win 10-4, with Cla Meredith (rather than Trevor Hoffman) going three innings for his second save of the season.
In other BARB action:
ARIZONA 9, S-MART 1
WP: Cole Hamels (4-5, 6.31)
LP: Javier Vazquez (4-5, 4.87)
Cole Hamels worked eight strong innings, fanning seven, and Arizona shocked host S-Mart by bunching five walks around bases-loaded singles by Hunter Pence and Mark Loretta, as the visitors scored eight times in the seventh inning to improve to three games over .500 (43-40)
YUMA 5, POTTSYLVANIA 0
WP: Roy Halladay (8-4, 3.65)
LP: Adam Wainwright (2-4, 6.45)
Roy Halladay pitched into the eighth, combining with Scot Shields on a five-hitter, and the Firebirds snapped a five-game losing streak with clutch two-run doubles off the bats of Vernon Wells and rookie Ryan Braun, and the Firebirds went on to shutout the Creepers for their BARB-leading 50th victory.
FROSTBITE FALLS 5, BROOKLYN 4 (12 innings)
WP: Joe Nathan (2-1, 1.87)
LP: Taylor Tankersley (1-1, 3.00)
Michael Cuddyer hit a pair of solo home runs, the second forcing extra innings, but his heroics were denied by the Squirrels pen, which held the Moabs down long enough for Brad Hawpe (who had four hits in the game) to score with two out in the top of the 12th on a Barry Bonds single. Joe Nathan, who blew his last save opportunity, righted things by blowing away the Moabs in the bottom of the inning to seal the deal for the visiting Squirrels.
OAKEYLAND 2, BLACK MESA 0
WP: Josh Beckett (3-3, 4.70)
LP: Jon Garland (6-6, 3.85)
Josh Beckett twirled a six-hit shutout, striking out 10 Anomalies hitters, and Eric Byrnes doubled and hit a sac fly to account for all of the scoring as the Ballers (46-41) continued to keep pace with Las Vegas in the mysterious Central race.