At the Margaritaville Casino in Biloxi, Miss., there are two signs at the entrance. You'd see "This way to Paradise" going in, "This way to Reality" going out.|
That's much like it was for the Quad Cities River Bandits after three innings Sunday afternoon at Modern Woodmen Park.
Paradise going into the fourth inning, reality coming out of it.
There were six straight hits leading to four runs as the Great Lakes Loons sped to a 10-6 win over the Bandits before a sun-drenched crowd of 3,972.
The Bandits seemed to be in need of a picture-perfect performance going in, with lefty starter Colton Cain taking an 0-1 record and 11.57 ERA up against the Loons' ace, Carlos Frias, 2-0 and a 1.00 ERA.
Through three innings, which went by in a snappy 39 minutes, it was nothing but pitching paradise for QC – even to the point of inducing a second-inning triple play.
"In all of my years of baseball, playing and managing, that is the first triple play I've seen live," said QC manager Omar Lopez.
That piece of QC history – the franchise's Midwest League-leading 14th in its 54 years – went around the horn from third baseman Rio Ruiz to second baseman Austin Elkins to first baseman Miles Hamblin.
Two innings later, the Loons finished off Cain. His ERA down to over two points to 9.20 with three innings of blanks, it ended with a slight dip to 11.40 after the string of hits highlighted by a two-run double by Deshenko Ricardo.
Still, Lopez saw positive signs for the 6-foot-3, 256-pounder who was ranked as the No. 12 prospect in the Astros' organization after coming over from Pittsburgh in the deal that sent Wandy Rodriguez to the Pirates.
"You could see his breaking ball coming back, and his changeup coming back," the manager said. "Those two weren't there in the previous outing," a five-run early-out after two-thirds of an inning at Wisconsin.
"Compared to his previous outing, this was much better. That's a positive note."
From there it was downhill to the point of Lopez holding a lengthy closed-door session with his players afterward.
"We battled to the end," he said, noting a three-run ninth inning after the Bandits had gone from 4-3 to 10-3 in the eighth and ninth. "But we made a lot of mental mistakes that cost us two or three runs.
In the opinion of Great Lakes manager Razor Shines, who played long ago for the Montreal Expos (1983-87), even the base umpire had his mistake moments.
In the midst of that rally in the ninth, QC's Carlos Correa overslid third base and was tagged. Called safe, Correa then stepped off the bag and was tagged again. And again called safe. That sent Shines into a lengthy discussion even after his dismissal.
"The umpire said the third baseman dropped the ball after Correa overslid the bag, and then said his foot was on the bag on the second tag," said Lopez. "That's what he told their manager."
As if there weren't enough odd moments in this reality moment.
Correa, the Astros' No. 1 draft pick, was the only player in the game not to get a hit, with the Loons putting up 18 and the Bandits 10. Yet, Correa reached base the most often among the Bandits, with a walk and getting hit twice by pitches, ones in the helmet and once in the back by Frias (3-0).
Also, QC reliever Cameron Lamb came into the ninth with a 0.00 ERA in five appearances. After a rough ninth, he's now at 3.52.