When Lakewood batter Henri Latrigue took a strikeout looking to end the eighth inning, he stood in the batter’s box almost in disbelief of the at-bat.
It was a feeling that was all too familiar for most of the BlueClaws lineup against Rome on Friday night.
Behind the pitching of starter Ian Anderson and reliever Kevin Matthews, the Braves relied only on a second-inning rally to escape with a 3-2 win at State Mutual Stadium. The win gave Rome the series win and was the fifth straight game in which it’s allowed two runs or less.
“Every game this series has been a great ballgame, and in great ballgames you have to be sharp,” Rome manager Randy Ingle said. “Each pitcher did their job, and when you get that it’s hard to lose a ballgame.”
Randy Ventura recorded four hits for the Braves, while Jordan Rodgers had two hits and an RBI, and Austin Bush tallied a double in the second. It was nothing spectacular, but it was enough to allow the pitching to do its work.
Lucas Herbert took a base after getting hit in the second inning and Bush followed that with his double.
After a Kurt Hoekstra single and Marcus Mooney sacrifice fly scored two runs, Rodgers’ RBI single provided the decisive run of the game.
It may not have been the most impressive way of scoring, but singles and stolen bases have been Rome’s identity all season long.
“We still got work to do, and we are going to go out and work to improve every day,” Ingle said.
“Sometimes we are not going to get many hits, but we can still win ballgames with tough pitching and solid field play.”
Anderson was in complete control for the three innings he pitched, retiring all nine batters he faced and recording six strikeouts.
Only two balls in play even went beyond the infield as the right-hander confused Lakewood with his fastball and changeup.
While less than his usual outing, Anderson’s three innings continued his recent pitching prowess.
It’s his fifth straight appearance in which he allowed one run or less. It’s a development for a pitcher who has seen his ERA go from 4.64 to 3.70 since the beginning of June.
“As far as his potential and his arm and his tools, it is big league stuff,” Ingle said. “He’s a young but talented arm, and he threw the heck out of the ball tonight.
“He was in command all night and getting ahead of hitters.”
The top of the sixth saw Lakewood lead off with two singles, but Matthews retired the next three batters to get out of the inning with one run allowed. The BlueClaws loaded the bases with one out in the seventh, but Thomas Burrows came in and forced a double play on his first batter.
Lakewood tallied one more run in the eighth and got the tying run on second, but Burrows struck out Latrigue on a 3-2 count to end the threat.
Taylor Lewis came in to pitch in the ninth, retiring all three batters for the save.
“Each guy made the pitches they needed. They bent but they didn’t break,” Ingle said.
“They were able to make big pitches that minimized whatever damage was created, and that double play in the seventh was real big.”
The Braves begin a four-game home series against the Delmarva Shorebirds tonight with the first pitch at 6 p.m.