Unlike Games 1 and 2 of the series, Friday’s contest seemed over almost from the moment it began. The Jaxx jumped out to an 8-0 lead, chasing Carolina starter Luke Lockwood after only one and one-third of an inning.
A six-run Jaxx second inning was highlighted and capped off by a grand slam to left from Sing, who had previously homered in his first at-bat of the night off Lockwood to give West Tenn a 2-0 lead. Sing finished the series 5-for-12 with seven RBIs.
“The first couple of games in this series, I was hitting the ball well and felt really good,” Sing said. “I struggled in August and early on this month, but now I feel totally relaxed.”
Last season, Sing was part of a Class-A Daytona team that was crowned Florida State League co-champions along with the Tampa Yankees. Sing’s team won its opening series in the post-season against Vero Beach, but the league championship series was postponed because of Hurricane Ivan.
Many of Sing’s teammates from a season ago at Daytona are present on this year's West Tenn playoff roster. The brief but important taste of post-season experience a year ago has helped several from that team prepare for playoff action in 2005, Sing believes.
“We’ve been here before,” Sing said. “I was in the playoffs last year, as were pretty much all of these guys at some point or another. It sets the tone for everybody else. I screwed up a little last night with the bases loaded, but I got comfortable tonight and settled in.”
Sing's last comment was in reference to his strikeout with one away and the bases loaded in the ninth inning of the Jaxx 2-1 win over Carolina in Game 2 of the series on Thursday night. He quickly recovered by going 3-for-4 on Friday and now has four multi-homer games this season. Sing's 26 home runs in the regular season led the Southern League.
On the mound, Marmol allowed two runs on six hits in 6.2 innings for his first win since July 28. He struck out five and walked one. Jaxx starters finished the series allowing just two runs in 21.2 innings. The Mudcats lost a lot of offensive ammunition when top prospects Jeremy Hermida and Robert Andino were called up by the Florida Marlins. Hermida, the Southern League's 2005 All-Star Game MVP, hit a pinch-hit grand slam in his first career major league at-bat on Aug. 31.
“Carolina obviously wasn’t the same team that they had all throughout the year, but in both of the first two games of the series they deserved to win just as much as we did I think,” noted Jaxx General Manager Jeff Parker. “They played hard and I think it was a great series.”
Jaxx manager Bobby Dickerson said, “I thought [Marmol] did a great job considering that a lot of times when you get a lead that big, it can get harder on you to pitch.”
“The hitters on the other side can become a lot more relaxed and care-free,” Dickerson noted. “They keep coming at you. I thought his biggest inning was the sixth. He gave up a run in the fifth, but settled down the next inning. After that, we knew it was over.”
Right-handers David Aardsma and Randy Wells combined for 2.1 perfect innings in relief to close out the game. Neither allowed a ball to leave the infield. Lockwood was charged with the loss, falling to 0-8 on the year as a starter. The left-hander finished the year with nine consecutive losing decisions. His last win came on May 15 in relief.
With the victory, the Jaxx have now won six in a row dating back to the regular season. They will meet the winner of the Jacksonville-Birmingham series for the outright league championship beginning Wed., Sept. 14 on the road. Jacksonville leads the series with Birmingham 2-0.
The Jaxx finished the regular season with an 8-4 record against Birmingham, but only a 2-6 mark against Jacksonville. The Suns and Barons, like the Jaxx, posted 20 wins in the span of a month at one point this season.
“Nobody really scares us right now,” Sing said. “We’ve been in the playoffs before and we’ve played both teams this year. We just need to keep scoring runs like we did tonight. Our pitching staff is so unbelievable that if we score runs ... that’s all we really need to worry about.”
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