It was there for the taking, but the Stone Crabs couldn’t grab it.
In the span of two innings, Charlotte went from a bases-loaded situation with no outs only needing a run to tie to giving up five runs in the ninth.
Despite a strong four-inning effort from Stone Crabs’ pitcher Brian Shaffer, Charlotte (6-12) fell 9-4 to Tampa (7-11) and are now 3-8 in their last 11 games.
“Those last runs are a bit irrelevant to me because you almost give it to us in that eighth inning,” Stone Crabs manager Jeff Smith said. “We were battling, we’ve been battling all season trying to make things happen.”
Dermis Garcia gave Tampa a 4-3 lead in the top of the sixth inning with a two-run homer to left-center field.
In the bottom of the eighth, Charlotte had its best chance to take the lead with bases loaded and no outs.
A single from Ronaldo Hernandez and walks by Jim Haley and Tyler Frank loaded the bases for Garrett Whitley, who struck out swinging.
Thomas Milone then hit a soft ball to the Tampa first baseman, who threw home to just barely get the force out.
Zach Rutherford grounded out to shortstop for the final out.
“That eighth inning was a bit disappointing,” Smith said. “Our at bats were very tentative at bats. We were put in a position to win a game and we did not take quality at bats. We had a chance to put the game away and do some things. We couldn’t get a ball out of the infield with bases loaded and nobody out. You’re not gonna win many games that way.”
After squandering a golden opportunity in the eighth, reliever Alex Valverde gave up five runs, two of which came on a home run over the center field wall by Steven Sensley.
Moises Gomez hit his second home run of the season in the bottom of the ninth, but it was all for naught.
Despite the late mishaps, Shaffer was solid on the mound, pitching four innings and allowing no earned runs on two hits with five strikeouts. Shaffer has now gone three appearances (9 2/3 innings) without allowing an earned run and has only given up five hits.
“He started as a reliever and we were able to get him out of a relief role with multiple innings there,” Smith said. “The big thing for him is he’s gonna attack the zone, not gonna walk a lot of guys.
“He had a good base of pitches today. He threw a really good mix of slider, curveball changeup. He had a good mix. He pitched ahead of the counts which really helped him. He got into two-strike counts and put away pitchers.