Down to his final strike, Cesar Valera gripped the bat a little tighter and took his swing.
The ball made it to the warning track in left field, but the drama-filled comeback fell short for the second consecutive contest as the Lincoln Saltdogs fell 2-1 to the Kansas City T-Bones on Tuesday at Haymarket Park.
Lincoln has been on both sides of the dramatics recently, bringing the game-winning run to the plate the last two games, including Monday's 12-9 loss. Lincoln has four walk-off victories this season and did it nine times last season, including a stretch of five straight.
“They are all pros, and they have all been in the upper levels,” manager Bobby Brown said. “They've all been in this league and know what it is about. We will strap it on and tie our laces (Wednesday) and play as hard as we can.”
After Kansas City grabbed a 1-0 lead, helped by a Valera error, in the top of the second, Randolph Oduber answered back with an RBI single in the bottom of the inning to provide Lincoln's lone run and move his on-base streak to 20 games since rejoining the Saltdogs on June 18.
Kansas City grabbed the lead for good in the seventh inning, helped by a two-out error by Angel Reyes in right field on a routine fly ball.
Lincoln starter Eric Wooten went a solid seven innings of work, allowing just those unearned runs. Wooten fell to 1-4 despite a 3.44 ERA. He was dominant Tuesday, inducing four double plays.
Derek Gordon added two innings of relief, allowing one hit.
“(It) was a huge momentum builder for us,” Saltdogs pitching coach Dan Reichert said. “We would have crashed hard if we had a performance like we did (Monday).
“It gave our hitters chances to score some runs, unfortunately we didn't, and that's the way the game goes. Huge confidence booster going into (Wednesday) and going up into Sioux City this next weekend.”
The two teams finish the series Wednesday starting at 6:45 p.m.
The Saltdogs will have their annual pitchers' batting practice contest before Wednesday's game, with Brown, Reichert and hitting coach Tom Carcione each picking a different pitcher to take at-bats. Carcione will go with Derek Gordon, hoping he has some of the batting skills of brother Alex of the Kansas City Royals. Brown will go with Shairon Martis, who has 10 hits during his time in the majors. Reichert will go with Mike Tamburino.