TAMPA, Fla. - Call it what you want - it’s o”fish”ally a rivalry. A beautiful day at George M. Steinbrenner Field turned ugly fast between the Tampa Tarpons (6-9) and the Clearwater Threshers (9-6). Poor play and a WWE-style brawl capped off an ugly week for the Tarpons, who lost
TAMPA, Fla. - Call it what you want - it’s o”fish”ally a rivalry. A beautiful day at George M. Steinbrenner Field turned ugly fast between the Tampa Tarpons (6-9) and the Clearwater Threshers (9-6). Poor play and a WWE-style brawl capped off an ugly week for the Tarpons, who lost Sunday afternoon, 12-3.
Looking to salvage a series split, Tampa handed the ball to RHP Justin Lange (0-2) who was all over the place. Lange had very little command of his pitches today, throwing strikes only 48% of the time (1.0IP, H, 5R, 4BB, 3K).
In the first inning, DH Ben Rortvedt picked up the first hit of his rehab stint, lining a 105 MPH double down the right-field line to set the Tarpons up early. After advancing to third on a groundout, last night’s hero, CF Anthony Hall, stepped up to the plate and delivered once again. He looped a single into left field to give Tampa an early one-run lead.
"Take your base". That phrase is what Clearwater batters heard numerous times from home plate umpire Justin Hopkins in the second frame. Lange loaded the bases on two walks and a HBP. The command issues continued as he walked another two batters to gift Clearwater the lead. Manager Rachel Balkovec saw enough and called on RHP Alex Bustamante to stop the bleeding with the bases loaded and no one out. Bustamante did not get the memo, and drilled the first batter he faced, increasing Clearwater’s lead, 3-1. Caleb Ricketts continued his monster week by slapping an RBI-double to left field to plate an additional run. The torturous inning continued when Gabriel Rincones Jr. swung and missed on a ball in the dirt, but C Omar Martinez sailed the throw into right field. The miscue cost Tampa another two runs. The Threshers kept the beatdown going when Jordan Viars picked up an RBI groundout, giving Clearwater a six-run advantage.
Just when you thought things could not get worse, a benches-clearing brawl ensued during the top of the third. On a 3-2 pitch with two away, Bustamante drilled Erick Brito, and just like that, with tensions already hotter than the Florida sun, a rivalry was born. Threshers’ manager Marty Malloy was tossed for arguing the intent of the HBP. The benches cleared, the bullpens cleared; it was all out chaos at home plate. Punches were being thrown left and right, followed by numerous ejections. After the twenty-minute delay, play resumed, and Ricardo Rosario and Ricketts hit back-to-back singles to add to Clearwater’s lead.
Rortvedt’s strong game continued as he roped his second double of the day down the right-field line. Despite the big deficit, Tampa kept chipping away. RF Daury Arias looped a single into center field, racking up his fifth RBI of the season.
In the fourth, Clearwater started a two-out rally. Otto Kemp worked a walk, and Cole Moore executed a hit and run to put runners at the corners. A HBP followed, and Brito dumped a single right under the glove of a diving Hall to add another pair of runs on the board.
More defensive miscues from the Tarpons led to the Threshers extending their already sizeable lead in the seventh. After a walk to Kendall Simmons, Kemp legged out an infield single; however, 3B Jesus Rodriguez launched the ball into the stands, advancing both runners into scoring position. Moore lifted a high pop-up to short, but SS Roberto Chirinos lost the ball in the sun and it dropped on the infield dirt. Another two runs crossed the plate to extend the lead to double digits.
The Tarpons fought back in the ninth, but the game was too far gone. 2B Brenny Escanio singled to open the inning and DH Nelson Medina reached on a fielding error by Wesely Moore. Tampa was able to add one more to their tally when Clearwater’s first baseman Chad Castillo did his best Bill Buckner impersonation, letting a groundball roll through his legs. That was all Tampa was able to muster, ending the eventful evening with a final score of 12-3.
Next week, the Tarpons will hit the road and travel to Jupiter on Tuesday night where they will take on the Hammerheads. First pitch set for 6:30 p.m.