Kingsport Mets catcher Luis Ortega, who is not an everyday catcher for the K-Mets, threw out two Rays runners attempting to steal in Monday's win over Princeton.
KINGSPORT — Monday night at Hunter Wright Stadium, the biggest player on the Kingsport Mets roster took advantage of his opportunity to be "Mr. Big Shot."
Zach Mathieu powered a two-run home run over left field with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning, lifting the K-Mets to a 3-1 win over the visiting Princeton Rays.
The walk-off bomb was the second home run of the season for the 6-foot-7, 265-pound first baseman, who has cultivated a thick, black mustache since arriving in Kingsport.
"I was fortunate enough to get a pitch I could handle and drive it over and get the ballgame," said Mathieu, whose seventh-inning sacrifice fly into left field foul territory allowed speedy pinch-runner Branden Kaupe to score and tie the game at 1.
K-Mets right fielder Wuilmer Becerra preceded Mathieu's game winner with a one-out single to right. The lick that plated them both wasn't very tall, but it was unquestionably gone.
"(Mathieu's) been struggling, but he's the kind of guy who can do some damage at any time because of his power," said Kingsport manager Jose Leger.
"He's raw. But you guys could see it. It was a line drive and nobody thought it was going out until they realized, 'Oh my gosh, that ball is going!' I feel really happy for him, because he's one of those guys always out early working his rear end off," the skipper said.
The victory marked the first complete series sweep of an opponent this season for the K-Mets (14-15) and the team's fifth win in its last six games.
Ismael Tijerina (1-0), who has three saves this season, picked up his first win of the year despite giving up three hits during his lone inning.
The right-hander got some help from a Kingsport defense that turned two double plays on the night.
Thomas Milone's leadoff single for Princeton got wiped when he was gunned down by catcher Luis Ortega attempting to steal second for the second time in the ballgame. Third baseman Pedro Perez came up with another clutch out in the ninth, skidding into foul territory toward the Kingsport dugout to glove Riley Unroe's pop foul.
On balance, it was a solid collective outing for Kingsport pitchers.
Starter Andrew Massie allowed three hits over his six innings, an RBI single by Princeton's Angel Moreno being the only one that really stung. Massie struck out two and walked three.
Matt Blackham and Persio Reyes provided one shutout inning of relief apiece.
"Finally our starting pitchers are going deeper and our bullpen has been outstanding all year long," Leger said. "When you can get your starter to go six innings and you're playing good defense behind it, then you have a really good chance to win the ballgame."
Leon Canelon went 2-for-4 with a double for Kingsport.
The K-Mets welcome Greeneville to Hunter Wright on Tuesday night. First pitch is set for 7 o'clock.comments powered by Disqus