Bullpen helps carry Power to win
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A hustling gamble, a few clutch hits, a defensive gem and some shutdown bullpen work earned the West Virginia Power its second straight win over the Savannah Sand Gnats Thursday night at Appalachian Power Park.
Lance Breedlove, Clario Perez and Jhondaniel Medina combined for five shutout innings out of the bullpen, allowing two hits and no walks while striking out seven to lead the Power to a 5-3 win.
Breedlove (3-2) got the win with two innings of one-hit relief of starter Clay Holmes, who was yanked after allowing three runs in four innings. Perez followed with two more scoreless innings and Medina struck out the side in the top of the ninth to record his second save.
"Our bullpen has been excellent the past month or so," Power manager Mike Ryan said. "Breedlove set the tone with two quality innings and Perez and Medina came in and did what they're supposed to do. The key was absolutely Breedlove coming in and shutting the door."
The Power took the lead for good by scoring three runs in the bottom of the fourth, erasing Savannah's 3-1 advantage. Josh Bell led off the frame with a double to left off SandGnats starter Marcos Camarena (4-1) and moved to third on Eric Wood's infield single to short.
Walker Gourley, who finished the night with three hits, followed with a line single to center, scoring Bell. Rounding second on the hit, Wood rolled the dice and headed for third.
A good throw might have nailed him, but the throw by Savannah center fielder Brandon Nimmo skipped past third baseman Jorge Rivero and rolled into the SandGnats' dugout, allowing Wood to score the tying run and moving Gourley - who took off for second on the throw - to third base.
"That's what gave us the spark," Ryan said of Wood's hustle play. "We talk to these guys about being the most aggressive team in the league and putting pressure on the defense, and that's exactly what we did.
"Woody recognized that the outfielder wasn't charging the ball like he should've and took that gamble and it paid off."
The Power took the lead for good a few pitches later when Gourley came home on a wild pitch.
Savannah's only real threat against the Power bullpen came in the top of the seventh against Perez.
Nimmo led off with a bunt single and moved to second when Perez's errant pickoff throw got past Gourley at first. A grounder moved Nimmo to third with the potential tying run, but with one out and the infield in, Wood made a diving snag at third base of a hot shot off the bat of Savannah cleanup hitter Stefan Sabol for the second out.
Perez then induced a popup off the bat of Eudy Pina to end the threat.
"It's just reaction," Wood said of his defensive gem. "You don't have any time to think about it.
"It was a great team win. Everybody contributed, the bullpen did a great job and the bats came through when we needed it."
The Power added an insurance run in the bottom of the seventh when Max Moroff lined a two-out single and scored on Dilson Herrera's double to right-center.
Ryan called on Medina to pitch the ninth, and he closed out the win with three strikeouts.
"If he gets ahead and gets some chases, he can strike some guys out, but I wouldn't consider him a strikeout pitcher," Ryan said of Medina. "He did a great job tonight."
The win, in front of 2,236 on a hot and muggy night, leaves the Power (14-11) just a game and a half behind Northern Division-leading Hickory in the South Atlantic League second-half standings.
The three-game series with Savannah concludes at 7:05 tonight, when right-hander John Kuchno (4-4, 4.65 ERA) takes the mound for the Power. He'll be opposed by Savannah lefty Matt Koch (5-4, 4.54).
The homestand continues Saturday with the start of a four-game series with the Kannapolis Intimidators.
Reach Nick Scala at 304-348-7947 or firstname.lastname@example.org.