What is the meaning of clutch? Why is it that some players have that clutch gene and some players simply don’t and it often has nothing to do with their overall talent level? Those are questions that we can’t answer. But one question we can answer is that Jonathan Quinonez has that clutch gene.
High-A Florida State League Championship Series: Charlotte Stone Crabs 3, Daytona Cubs 2
The Stone Crabs began this game behind 2-0 in the FSL Championship Series, just one loss from defeat. All game, it seemed like Daytona’s championship only a matter of time. The Cubs took the early lead again, scoring off Felipe Rivero on a Dan Vogelbach single in the top of the 1st, and it looked like that alone might be enough. Corey Black was dominant, going 6 innings allowing just 1 hit, striking out 2 while walking 2. Rivero was tossing shutout ball after the 1st inning, but Chadd Krist drilled a 2-out RBI double and suddenly the game seemed even more unreachable 2-0. Rivero pitched excellently, going 6.2 innings allowing just 2 runs, 1 earned, on 6 hits, striking out 4 while walking 2 and forcing a 9-2 groundout to flyout ratio, but it didn’t seem like it would be enough. In the bottom of the 8th inning, however, suddenly the Stone Crabs came alive, and it all started wtih Jonathan Quinonez.
To begin the 8th inning, manager Brady Williams elected to do something not seen often in the lower levels of the minor leagues: bring in a pinch-hitter. Usually the best players are in the game, and if they’re not, there’s a compelling reason why. But in this instance, Williams just had a special feeling about Jonathan Quinonez and brought him into the game. His feeling was right. Quinonez drilled a solo homer off Jeffrey Lorick and suddenly the Stone Crabs were within 2-1. Taylor Motter followed with a double and the Stone Crabs had the tying run on second base with no run out. But right then and there, the skies opened up, killing the Stone Crabs’ momentum and seemingly becoming yet another propenent of the Cubs’ victory march. That feeling was even more reinforced when Ryan McChesney, who had pinch-run for Motter, was thrown out trying to score on Jake Hager‘s single, putting the Stone Crabs down 2-1 entering the 9th. Thanks to Rivero’s efforts and 2.1 innings of one-hit ball from Jacob Partridge and Nate Garcia, the Stone Crabs sat just one run behind Daytona. But the bottom of the 9th inning would be their last chance with Zach Cates, a former starter who had dominated after moving to the bullpen, coming in for the Cubs.
Richie Shaffer began the inning with a walk, but Drew Vettleson bunted right back tothe mound and Cates threw to second base for the force. But Alejandro Segovia walked to give Charlotte the winning run on the base. They were determined that run would cross the plate. Jeff Malm drilled a line drive into right field for a single, tying the game at two. Then Quinonez came into the batter’s box and didn’t try to do too much, taking the ball to the opposite-field, and it dropped in front of Cubs right fielder Pin-Chien Chen for a single as the Stone Crabs won in walk-off fashion 3-2. The Stone Crabs kept their season alive with one of the most exciting games in the organization this season, and it was thanks to the pitching of Rivero and the heroics of Quinonez. Do the Stone Crabs have anything else in their bag of tricks to steal one more game and make it to a decisive Game 5 in the FSL Championship Series? We’ll find out tonight at 6:30, with Dylan Floro taking the mound for the Stone Crabs against the Cubs’ C.J. Edwards.