The Pelicans’ last eight games had been marked by either timely, powerful hitting or dynamic, lockdown pitching – resulting in a season-long eight-game winning streak.
None of that came Monday night, as the high-flying Pelicans landed with a thud in the final home game at TicketReturn.com Field at Pelicans Ballpark before heading on a road trip, falling 10-4 to the Carolina Mudcats.
“We’ve just been playing good and today their starting pitcher just controlled the game,” said shortstop Hanser Alberto, who went 2-for-3 with a triple. “We didn’t hit it like we usually do, but we’re playing good and I think we go to the road, keep playing hard and do the same thing. “
Alberto got the Pelicans on the board first, slapping a two-RBI triple to center field in the second inning, but that was all the Pelicans could muster against Mudcats starter Cole Sulser.
The Mudcats answered right back in the next frame, with Erik Gonzalez notching a two-RBI double before scoring on a Jerrud Sabourin single.
The Pelicans (37-18) threatened to score with runners at first and third in the following inning, but Sulser notched strikeouts of Pelicans sluggers Joey Gallo, Jorge Alfaro and Christopher Bostick to end the threat.
Mudcats third baseman James Roberts sent a two-run home run over the left field wall to give the Mudcats (23-31) a 5-3 lead in the fourth.
Then the walks came.
Pelicans starter Luis Parra began the inning, walking the first two batters before getting two quick outs. After walking Luigi Rodriguez to load the bases, he was replaced by Sam Stafford. The righty went on to walk Roberts, hit Logan Vick with a pitch, then walked LeVon Washington, allowing the Mudcats to score three runs without a base hit. Parra (5-4) took the loss, and Alex Claudio finished out the final two innings.
The Pelicans had chances to score in the later innings, but Sulser (2-5) – who finished six innings, allowing just four hits and two earned runs – worked out of trouble each time. The Pelicans cut the deficit to five after a Zach Cone RBI groundout off reliever Jacob Lee plated Hanser Alberto, and Alberto had his own sacrifice fly to plate Gallo in the eighth, but it was too little too late.
“We’ve just been playing together, try to have fun and enjoy the game,” Alberto said. “We just know we’re working and everyone has been doing the little things, and that’s why we’re playing good. … The last few games I’ve been seeing the ball pretty well and hopefully I can keep seeing the ball on the road”
The Mudcats put a stamp on the win after a two-RBI triple from Gonzalez in the ninth. The shortstop finished 3-for-5 with two doubles and a triple.
The loss ended the Pelicans’ streak, but their latest winning trend has put them well clear of the field with just 14 games to play. They lead the second-place Salem Red Sox by 10.5 games.
The Pelicans have not lost back-to-back games since May 5, and look to keep that trend going as they head out for a short, three-game road trip against the Lynchburg Hillcats.
• Notes | The 10 runs allowed matched a season high for the Pelicans, dating back to a 10-3 loss to Salem on Opening Day (April 30). … The Pelicans were playing under the direction of manager Joe Mikulik for the first time in four days. Pitching coach Steve Mintz had been filling in for Mikulik, who was on a Texas Rangers-mandated vacation required of all coaches in the organization.