Tyler Mahle shook off a tough start and was nearly perfect the rest of the way.
The bullpen was lights out.
Brian O’Grady hit a home run that brought the relatively quiet Monday night crowd to its feet and Aristedes Aquino made a catch that didn’t look like one at all.
Those great performances added up to a 3-1 victory for the Pensacola Blue Wahoos in their series opener against the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp Monday night at Blue Wahoos Stadium.
Pensacola extended its win streak to three games and remained in first place in the Southern League South Division with an 8-3 record.
Normally dominant right out of the gate, Mahle (3-0) struggled mightily to get into a groove against the Jumbo Shrimp. He threw nearly 30 pitches in the first inning, giving up three hits and allowing a run.
The highly touted Cincinnati Reds prospect shifted gears the remainder of his night, retiring 13 of the next 14 batters he faced. He went five innings, struck out seven and walked two.
“The first inning was obviously a struggle. He was a little out of whack mechanically but settled down and kept us in the game,” Pensacola manager Pat Kelly said.
The Jumbo Shrimp never scored again after the first and never got a hit against a fearless bullpen that featured Jacob Ehret, Brennan Bernardino, Ariel Hernandez and Geoff Broussard on this night. Pensacola’s bullpen owns a combined 1.65 ERA.
“I knew they had good stuff coming into the season, but you never know how that translates,” Kelly said. “I’m very pleased with what they have done.”
Pensacola led 2-1 after the first inning as Aquino drove in a run. The Blue Wahoos scored their second run off an error.
O’Grady put the punctuation mark on the night with a home run to right field in the seventh that sailed over the party deck, extending his hit streak to six games. It was his second home run of the season and delighted the crowd of 3,646.
“As soon as I hit it, I knew I got it,” O’Grady said. “It’s a good feeling swinging the ball like that.”
Jacksonville (5-6) tried to rally in the eighth and avoid its third consecutive loss. It looked like the Jumbo Shrimp were going to cut the lead to one when Alex Glenn blasted the ball to right.
Aquino effortlessly reached up and made the grab, although it looked at first as if the ball went over the wall because Aquino showed no excitement after his catch.
“I didn’t think he had it. I was disappointed he didn’t jump,” Kelly said. “I thought it was back to a one-run game. All of a sudden, the ball appears. I was a lot happier.”
Cincinnati Reds catcher Devin Mesoraco continued his rehab assignment Monday, working all nine innings behind the plate. He went 0-for-2 and was hit by a pitch in the thigh area.
“He said he felt good physically. It’s just a matter of knocking the rustiness off,” Kelly said. “I see him making progress behind and at the plate. He’s getting closer.”
Read more about the Pensacola Blue Wahoos in the April 20 issue of Navarre Press. Subscribe online at navarrepress.com for as little as $38 per year.