BILOXI – With the Southern League playoffs set to start Sept. 10, the Biloxi Shuckers are looking more and more like the team that cruised to a first-half South Division championship.
Tyler Wagner threw five scoreless innings to get the win and Orlando Arcia had an almost perfect night at the plate as the Shuckers beat the Mobile BayBears, 8-1, Thursday night before a crowd of 2,244 at MGM Park.
The Shuckers (31-28) claimed the five-game series, 3-2, and moved within two games of first-place Pensacola (33-26).
The Shuckers are headed in the right direction with just two more five-game series remaining in the regular season.
“August was a tough one. July was tough too,” Shuckers third baseman Nathan Orf said. “The weather is starting cool off. It's fun to come out with this group every day. We're capable of putting up big offensive numbers. I like where we're at. It's time to start playing some exciting ball the next couple of weeks.”
Biloxi starts a five-game series against the Mississippi Braves in Pearl at 7 p.m. on Saturday before returning home to close out the regular season with a five-game stand against the Tennessee Smokies.
One reason the Shuckers are beginning to resemble the team that rolled through the Southern League early in the year is that Arcia is starting to pick it up at the plate with an 11-game hitting streak.
Arcia, who is batting .304, went 2-for-3 Thursday with three runs scored, two RBIs, a triple and two bases on balls.
“I think the Arcia we saw in this series is the Arcia we saw in April all the way up to mid-May,” Biloxi manager Carlos Subero. “Arcia is patient at the pate. He had great at-bats. He was under control the whole game, basically every time he went up to the plate. It's nice to see him finishing like that.”
The Shuckers touched up one of the BayBears' better pitchers Thursday night with right-hander Gabriel Arias (4-2) giving up five earned runs on eight hits in five innings.
Arias, who spent a good chunk of the season at Triple-A, entered the game with a 4-1 mark and a 1.69 ERA for the BayBears this season.
“Up until now, we haven't been able to hit him,” Subero said. “He's a soft throwing righty. He's got good command on both sides of the plate. The guys did a good job early with key hits there. After that, it was good to see our pitching hold up with the defense.”
Biloxi scored three runs in the first inning on RBI doubles by Nathan Orf and Tyrone Taylor and an RBI single by Victor Roache.
In the second inning, Arcia had an RBI triple and Josh Fellhauer laid down a perfect two-out bunt down the third base line to bring Arcia home from third.
In the eighth inning, Arcia knocked in another run and Orf plated the final two runs on a double to right field.
Every Biloxi batter, except Wagner, reached base in an 11-hit effort.
Orf finished 2-for-5 with three runs batted in. Taylor, Roache and Adam Weisenburger all had a pair of hits as well.
In a five-inning outing, Wagner gave up no runs on four hits while striking out six and walking none.
Wagner improved to 11-4 to move into a three-way tie for the second most wins in the Southern League, only trailing teammate Jorge Lopez (12-5).
“The plan was to let him go five innings and it was five scoreless,” Subero said. “He got in trouble one inning, but was able to get out of it.”