In Game One of the first-round playoff series between the St. Francis Friars and the Yuma Firebirds, Chris Melkonian’s team rapped out 17 hits and 13 runs in a rout. They began Game Two much the same way, with five first-inning runs—but the Friars were up to the challenge this time around.
Roy Oswalt, 9-5 with a 3.09 ERA in the regular season, walked on the mound in the bottom of the first after his offense failed to score a run despite putting runners on first and third with two out, and he nearly walked off without finishing the inning.
Rafael Furcal, who had homered twice in game one, struck out to lead off, but Nick Markakis and Ryan Braun both walked. Oswalt got lucky when Joey Votto smoked a liner right at new third baseman Mark Reynolds (taking over for Neil Walker, who botched the job in game one) for the second out. Ryan Zimmerman, however, put one past Reynolds down the line to score two. Vladimir Guerrero walked on a full count, and Martin Prado lofted a ball that kicked up chalk down the right field line to plate Zimmerman.
Shane Victorino reached when Alexei Ramirez couldn’t handle a grounder, and the error scored Guerrero for a 4-run lead. The barrage was nearly over, but Rod Barajas added an exclamation point with a run-scoring single. The St. Francis brain trust left Oswalt in to face Furcal for the second time, and it the short righty induced a groundout. But by all appearances, the Firebirds were going to run away with another playoff win.
YUMA 5, ST. FRANCIS 0!
Oswalt settled down and kept the deficit at five runs for the next two innings, which allowed the Friar sticks to finally break out in the fourth.
Matt Cain had a mostly easy time through the first three innings, but he allowed a Kelly Johnson double with one out in the top of the fourth, which was the first base runner with less than two out for the Friars in the game. Outfielder Chris Young stepped up next and, with one swing, brought the Friars to within three runs. Young’s majestic shot arced just inside the left-field foul pole and silenced the home crowd for a moment.
Cain, back to the windup, had a chance to put an end to the rally, but A.J. Pierzynski lined a single to right-center. Reynolds and Ramirez also singled to load the bases and bring up Walker, who was given the opportunity to make up for his first-game troubles. Cain stepped up, though, dropping the hammer and sending Walker back to the bench.
Jose Bautista, however, wasn’t fooled. The first Cain offering to BARB’s leading home run and RBI man was at the belt as it approached the plate, but just a few seconds later it was rolling to the wall in left-center field! Pierzynski scored easily. Reynolds came across. The Firebirds got the relay home, but Ramirez scored standing up to tie the game!
That was all for Cain, and Clay Buchholz got Paul Konerko to pop out on the second pitch and end the inning.
ST. FRANCIS 5, YUMA 5
From that point until the eighth, only one runner from either side reached base. Oswalt, in fact, finished six innings and threw 113 pitches. Amazingly, Oswalt was perfect for his final five frames, retiring 15 straight. Buchholz went 3.1 scoreless and handed it off to Tyler Clippard for the top of the eighth.
Young led off with a single but was erased when Pierzynski hit into a force play (somehow beating out the return throw). Reynolds singled, however, and Ramirez walked to load the bases with the same triumvirate. Walker came through this time, singling to right to give the Friars a one-run lead. Luke Gregerson entered and struck out Bautista on three pitches, but Konerko drew a walk for force in another run.
ST. FRANCIS 7, YUMA 5
Yuma finally gave the home crowd something to cheer about when Markakis walked in the bottom of the inning (their first runner since the first inning), but nothing came of it. Ramirez continued his good day at the plate with a run-scoring single in the top of the ninth. Heath Bell came on and shut down the Yuma batters, and the series was tied.
ST. FRANCIS 8, YUMA 5
With the series tied, the action shifted to St. Francis for games three and four. Stay tuned for more action in the BARB playoffs!