The Eugene Emeralds have had a memorable first season back in the Pacific Northwest –– and, as of Wednesday, are now playoff-bound.
It’s been anything but a smooth ride to this point so far, however.
The Emeralds' biggest kryptonite this year has been starting pitching. Statistically speaking, Eugene’s staff gives the team one of the least amounts of starting innings in the minor leagues.
Kai-Wei Teng had something to say about this, though.
The righty gave the Emeralds seven strong innings, while only surrendering one run. He put the team in a position to win. Unlike the Emeralds, however, they couldn’t come through for their starter.
They dropped Thursday’s affair at Gesa Stadium against the Tri-City Dust Devils, 3-1, thanks to a familiar foe's clutch seventh-inning hit and some lackluster offense.
After Teng picked up four strikeouts while facing the minimum through three, the Emerald bats got on the board in the fourth. Brett Auerbach, the Swiss Army knife infielder and catcher, led off the inning with a single. He then showed his versatility with a stolen base and scored on a Sean Roby bullet single to right.
After the singular run, the Emeralds would get one more runner in scoring position for the rest of the game: Marco Luciano, who was thrown out at home on an outfield assist by the Tri-City left fielder.
The Dust Devil pitching staff limited the Emeralds to just six hits and recorded 13 strikeouts in what ended up a bullpen game by the third inning.
Tri-City wouldn’t break through until the seventh. With one out, Teng gave up an infield single, a hit by pitch and a walk –– his first and only of the day. With the bases loaded, a sacrifice fly to right field knotted the game at one apiece.
Solomon Bates took the pitching reins in the eighth to end Teng’s masterful day. The San Francisco Giants prospect went seven innings while striking out 12 and allowing just one run. With every start, Teng seems to look more confident in his abilities just ahead of the playoffs
Bates would go on to be the losing pitcher after a tough eighth inning. Tri-City quickly put “ducks on the pond” off a hit by pitch and a double. The next batter, former Duck Kenyon Yovan, did what he did so many times in the green and yellow: made it hurt.
Yovan lined a single right back where it came from to score two runs and give Tri-City a 3-1 lead. With the way their pitching was dealing at the time, this all but clinched a victory.
For the second time in as many innings, Eugene’s lack of control on the mound came back to haunt them.
Sure enough, Nathan Burns, the Dust Devil closer, sealed the deal with an impressive six-out save to claim the win.
The Emeralds (66-50) have now split the first two games of the last regular-season series against the Dust Devils (43-65). They sit just a half game behind the Spokane Indians and five games above the Everett AquaSox, who have completely fallen apart as of late
With just three games left in the season, the two teams will line it up and do it again on Friday at 7:05 p.m. in Pasco, Washington.