Thursday night at Hunter Wright Stadium, Persio Reyes decided to give the bullpen a night off.
The 20-year-old Dominican right hander wowed the home crowd with his first professional complete-game victory, tossing a four-hitter as Kingsport swept its home series with the Elizabethton Twins, 3-1.
Reyes (3-1) struck out seven and walked none as he efficiently worked on the Twins lineup. He gave up a lead-off single to Zach Granite in the first inning and proceeded to retire 18 in a row before giving up his second hit.
But for his first-pitch mistake in the seventh — one that resulted in Dereck Rodriguez’s mile-high solo homer over the HMG sign in left — Reyes would have had a shutout.
“He came out throwing a lot of strikes. In order to pitch a complete game you’ve got to throw a lot of strikes. He pounded the strike zone with curve ball and changeup command and he was just fantastic,” said Kingsport Mets manager Jose Leger, who didn’t resolve to let Reyes finish until he’d watched the youngster pitch in the eighth inning.
“He came out and he wasn’t even sweating. He was just throwing the ball,” Leger said.
In the ninth, Reyes still had enough of the wicked stuff to whiff leadoff hitter Logan Wade with three pitches. But there was enough heightened suspense left over to make the finish memorable for both Reyes and his well-wishing K-Mets fans.
After Reyes’ ‘K’ at the bottom of the order, Granite singled and then got to second on a wild pitch. The fidgety, jangled fans gasped in unison when Rodriguez cranked a tall one toward the scoreboard in right field.
When Jeff Diehl put a glove on it, the collective relief was palpable.
When Bryan Harr grounded the next one back to the mound, Reyes grinned like Cool Hand Luke and legged it to first base for the unassisted put-out.
“When I got the ball I felt like it was mine, so I wanted to take the last out and step on the bag myself,” said Reyes, speaking through a translator. “I thank God that I was able to go for nine innings.”
Zach Mathieu, who stroked a double in the eighth inning, plated Kingsport’s first run with a fielder’s choice groundout in the second inning.
Jonathan Leroux made it 2-0 in the fifth when he chopped an infield single to a hole in short with two outs to push across Bradley Marquez.
Marquez gave Reyes an insurance run in the eighth with his sacrifice fly to right field. Mathieu was scrambling to third when he got nailed by Dereck Rodriguez’s throw from right for the double play.
The K-Mets (19-14) head to Bristol for a three-game series with the White Sox followed by three games at Elizabethton.
They’ll return to Hunter Wright on Thursday for a three-game homestand with the Johnson City Cardinals.
Leger expects the fun to continue for the Model City fans.
“We hope to see more fans joining us. It’s going to be something special this season,” he said.