A starting pitcher can live on the edge only so long. That was the story Friday evening as New Britain starter and loser, Pat Dean (6-5, 4.27 ERA), allowed ten hits over 5 2/3, pitching in and out jams, as the Rock Cats dropped a 5-3 decision to the visiting Reading Fightin’ Phils in the opener of a four game weekend wrap-around series.
Dean never got into a groove, allowing the lead-off hitter to reach in three of the first four innings and surrendering one out hits in the third and the fifth. On the upside Dean struck out a pair, didn’t allow a walk, only was only tagged for two earned runs.
“(Dean) didn’t pitch badly”, said fifth year manager Jeff Smith, “He had a few balls drop in and just some tough luck”.
The Rock Cats looked like they’d start game one of the four game home stand, the last series before the all-star break, off on the right foot. Aaron Hicks (1-4, 2B, R) lined a one out double down the first base line, coming home one out later, on all-star Reynaldo Rodriguez’s (1-4, 2B. RBI) 29th double of the season, giving the Cats the early 1-0 lead.
In the third, Eddie Rosario, the number six prospect in the Twins organization, lifted a one out double to left center later scoring on a two-out Brandon Waring single.
After threatening through the first three frames, the Phils knotted the score at two in the fourth, as former Cub and Oriole, Jake Fox, opened with a hit to center. An out later, Aaron Altherr hit a grounder up the middle, putting runners on first and second. On the next at bat, Rodriguez fielded a Brock Stassi grounder, moving to his right, opting for a play at second, but his throw sailed past shortstop Brad Boyer into left, scoring Fox and putting runners at second and third. Despite the bad throw, Boyer was given the error.
“It kind of came apart there”, said Smith of the inning.
A Peter Lavin RBI grounder after the error scored Altherr tying the game at two.
Both squads scored a run in the fifth, including Rosario’s (2-4, 2B, HR, R, RBI) third homer of the year.
The Phils took the lead for good in the sixth, and ended Dean’s day, as three straight two-out singles gave Reading a 4-3 lead. The visitors added an insurance run in the ninth.
After the Rosario homer, the Rock Cat bats fell silent as Fightin’ Phils starter and winner, Severino Gonzalez (6IP, 3R, 1W, 3K, 4.70 ERA), combined with reliever Colton Murray and closer Miguel Gonzalez to set down twelve straight Cats, before a Boyer one-out single in the ninth broke the string.
The Cats have struggled in July after playing .660 ball in June. Smith denied that the turmoil surrounding the teams proposed move to Hartford for the 2016 season was affecting his players.
Said Smith, “These guys as just out here playing ball”, and added, “We just need to play more consistent ball in the second (Half of the season)”.
Game two of the series is this evening, before the team gets two days off for the break.
New Britain is sending five players to Altoona, PA for the Wednesday Eastern League All-Star game, including position players Rodriguez, Kennys Vargas (.291 BA, 15 HR) and Tony Thomas (.247 BA, 5HR, 11SB), with starting pitcher Taylor Rogers (3.91 ERA, 82K) and reliever Cole Johnson (3.00 ERA, 5SV).