GREENEVILLE — Don’t judge Graham Ashcraft by his earned run average, because he showed just how misleading stat lines can be sometimes.
He certainly didn’t look like a pitcher with a 7.11 ERA entering Thursday’s game.
Ashcraft pitched 5.0 innings and struck out six with three walks being the only blemish in his hitless stat line, as he set the tone in the Greeneville Reds’ 6-2 victory over Elizabethton at Pioneer Park.
With that, Ashcraft (2-2) instantly lowered his ERA to 5.63 for the 2019 season.
“He did a great job, pounding the strike zone, lot of fastballs, attacked every hitter,” Reds manager Gookie Dawkins said. “He’s got good stuff. The ERA doesn’t say it but he’s gotten a lot of soft hits against him which is part of baseball, and his confidence is still there. He knows he’s got good stuff, and he showed it out there today.”
Tanner Cooper took the mound in relief to start the sixth inning, allowing one earned run on four hits with a pair of strikeouts in two innings pitched.
Jake Gilbert struck out the side in the eighth inning and Alec Byrd finished the job in the ninth.
After Byrd got a strikeout to put two away, a fielding error looked as if it would allow the Twins (17-12) to pull closer. But right fielder Danny Lantigua fired home to catcher Carlos Reina to catch Ruben Santana before he could reach the dish.
Tyler Callihan led the Reds (12-17) at the plate, hitting 3-for-4 with three RBIs while Lantigua went 2-for-3.
“Good to see (Callihan) using the whole field,” Dawkins said. “The most important thing is for him and all the young kids to stay with it and trust it and don’t get caught up in the results and everything, and we’ll be there at the end.”
After Garrett Wolforth broke the scoreless tie with a bases-loaded walk, Callihan chased starting pitcher Andriu Marin (L, 1-2) by lining the very next pitch into right field for a two-run single and a 3-0 lead.
Reina gave relief pitcher Ryan Shreve a rude welcome as he smacked an RBI double on Shreve’s first offering for a quick 4-0 lead.
Two batters later, Ranser Amador ripped a two-run line drive up the middle for a single which sent Callihan and Reina both home for a 6-0 lead after five innings.
Marin fanned eight but also allowed five earned runs on five hits in 4.1 innings.
“We started laying off the changeup and the slider (Marin) was throwing and made him pitch and he fell behind that inning. And we took some good swings on it,” Dawkins said.
Ivan Johnson, Mike Spooner, Reina and Amador all had one hit to make up Greeneville’s total of nine.
Elizabethton finally broke up the no-hitter with a three-hit seventh inning. The third hit, a ground-ball single by Charles Mack, sent two runners home for what turned out to be the final score.
Matt Wallmer, Kidany Salva, Santana and Mack each had one hit for the Twins.
The teams will do battle again tonight from Pioneer Park, with first pitch slated for 6:30 p.m.