MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. – Riding the momentum of a comeback win Friday night, the Pelicans got comfortable at the bat rack early on Saturday, finding their offensive stroke in the opening frame. It was the middle third of the game, however, that made the difference as the Kinston Indians rolled to a 7-4 win at Grainger Stadium, sending the Birds to their tenth loss in 12 games.
The Pelicans got after Kinston starter Kelvin De La Cruz early. The left-hander, who threw six no-hit innings against the Winston-Salem Dash before being lifted on pitch count considerations in his last start, allowed his first hit two batters into this game on a Yoel Campusano one-out double. Gerry Rodriguez doubled an out later to trade places with Campusano and put the Pelicans on top 1-0. Following a Gerardo Avila walk, catcher Matt Kennelly missed his first home run of the year by a matter of inches, instead settling for a two-run triple he smashed off the center field wall to give Myrtle Beach a 3-0 cushion.
Kinston responded immediately in the bottom of the first inning after Pelicans starter Randall Delgado secured two quick outs to start his night. Jason Kipnis singled, and designated hitter Nate Recknagel crushed a two-run homer to trim the early Myrtle Beach advantage to 3-2.
Each starter settled in following rocky firsts, with Delgado and De La Cruz each facing the minimum in the second and third innings. Delgado ran into trouble again in the fourth, however, when Kipnis homered to open the frame and level the score at three runs apiece. After strikeouts of Recknagel and Kyle Bellows, Doug Pickens singled, went to second on a wild pitch, and chugged around third to score as Roman Pena reached on an error charged to Delgado. Pelicans first baseman Gerardo Avila made a lunging grab of Pena's groundball to first, but Delgado couldn't handle Avila's flip to first for the final out of the frame. The run crossed unearned and gave Kinston a lead it would not relinquish.
The K-Tribe plated two more in the fifth with Ronald Rivas scoring on a wild pitch and Cristo Arnal coming home on a Kipnis double to extend their lead to 6-3. Kinston added one more on Delgado's (0-2) ledger an inning later after Bellows reached on a Shayne Moody error to lead off the inning, went to second when Delgado threw a pickoff attempt away, and scored on an RBI base hit by Pickens to make it a 7-3 game. Five of Kinston's seven runs on the night scored with two out as Delgado struggled to close out his innings.
Myrtle Beach's rally attempts couldn't gain enough traction late on this night after rallying from four down Friday. After Calvin Culver walked and scored to cut the Indians lead to three runs in the seventh, the Pelicans went down in order in the eighth and, despite sending the tying run to the plate twice in the ninth, couldn't bring anything else around.
De La Cruz (1-2) picked up the win, allowing three runs—all earned—on four hits over five innings of work. Steve Smith (S, 4) picked up his fourth save in five opportunities this year. Delgado was charged with five earned of Kinston's seven total runs over his six innings in the loss. David Francis and Benino Pruneda each tossed a scoreless inning of relief for the Pelicans with Pruneda striking out a pair.
The Pelicans and Indians will conclude their three-game series with an afternoon rubber game tomorrow at Grainger Stadium. Southpaws Cole Rohrbough (0-1, 8.71) and highly-touted Nick Hagadone (0-1, 0.00) lock up for Myrtle Beach and Kinston with first pitch scheduled for 2:05. "Pelican Pregame" gets rolling on ESPN Radio The Team at 1:45.
The Pelicans return to the Grand Strand Tuesday for the first of a six-game homestand against the Potomac Nationals and Frederick Keys. Single game and season tickets, flex books, and mini-plans, are available now through the Pelicans Box Office by calling (843) 918-6000 or (877) 918-TIXX or by visiting the Tickets page at MyrtleBeachPelicans.com.