BILOXI – Right-hander Jorge Lopez was outstanding in the regular season, but he saved his best performance to start the playoffs for the Biloxi Shuckers Thursday night.
Lopez allowed just one run on two hits in 6 2/3 innings to pick up the 4-2 win over the Pensacola Blue Wahoos in game one of the Southern League South Division playoffs at MGM Park.
Lopez struck out seven and walked three, giving up no earned runs on two hits.
When asked which pitches were working for him Thursday, Lopez answered “Everything.”
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Sun Herald
“It was an awesome night,” Lopez said. “I was going to compete with guys. (Catcher Adam) Weisenburger did a really good job of giving me pitches. We did a really good job together tonight.”
Pensacola didn't have its first hit until Alex Blandino singled to center with one out in the top of the sixth.
The pitch that worked most for Lopez Thursday night was his changeup and he was able to throw it in all situations. His fastball often topped out at 96 miles per hour.
“Jorge has been lights out here for two months now,” Shuckers manager Carlos Subero said. “It's nice to see him do what he did tonight. He's just a man on the mound with the overall sequences of how he pitches. He was throwing changeups behind in the count, 3-2 and 3-1.”
Game two of the series is set for 7:10 p.m. Friday at MGM Park with right-hander Adrian Houser (4-1, 2.92) throwing for Biloxi and lefty Cody Reed (6-2, 2.17) on the mound for Pensacola.
“(Reed) is a great pitcher,” Subero said. “Not only with his stuff, but he's very competitive. It's going to be a good battle tomorrow.”
The announced attendance for Thursday's game was 2,782.
Biloxi had 10 hits compared to just two from Pensacola.
All of the Shuckers' hits came from five different players with two hits a piece – Orlando Arcia, Yadiel Rivera, Tyrone Taylor, Brett Phillips and Nick Shaw.
While Lopez looked every bit the Most Outstanding Pitcher in the Southern League, Arcia showed again why he was deserving of the MVP honor, which went to Chattanooga's Max Kepler.
Arcia tripled to deep left center in the bottom of the first to knock in Yadiel Rivera, who started the inning with a single, and give the Shuckers a 1-0 lead after one inning.
Arcia pushed the lead to 2-0 on an RBI groundout to bring home Nick Shaw, who had a leadoff double, and hand Biloxi the 2-1 advantage.
Arcia finished 2-of-4 with two RBIs and one run scored.
“There he is again,” Subero said of his star shortstop. “Guys who were strong in the year, it was good to see them do well tonight.”
Phillips finished 2-for-3 with a pair of doubles and an RBI in his first game after sitting out the last 18 days with an injury.
“I felt great being back in the lineup,” Phillips said. “I didn't know how it would go being out 18 days. I didn't try to do too much. I put together at-bats and did what I could do to help the team.”
Jacob Barnes replaced Lopez in the seventh and threw well, retiring all four batters he faced.
Yhonathan Barrios picked up the save by retiring the final two batters of the game. Damien Magnifico was the first pitcher on the mound in the ninth, but he struggled with his control, walking a pair of batters and giving up an RBI single to Ray Chang with one out in the ninth.
Barrios retired the two men he faced to finish off the first postseason victory in franchise history.