'I felt dominant': Grauer pitches masterpiece, RedHawks move to brink of American Association championship
The Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks are one win away from a league championship after a pitching gem from left-handed starter Tyler Grauer.
FARGO — A pitching masterpiece from Tyler Grauer and an early-inning Peter Maris home run proved for a memorable Tuesday night at Newman Outdoor Field — and has the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks on the verge of a championship.
Grauer pitched into the eighth inning to help lift the RedHawks to a 7-2 victory against the Milwaukee Milkmen in the American Association baseball championship series before 1,501 fans.
“This is probably my worst pregame bullpen I’ve thrown, but I came out here and something switched and turned," Grauer said. "I felt dominant tonight. When you have all four pitches, it makes it a lot easier.”
The RedHawks took a 2-1 lead in the best-of-5 Miles Wolff Cup finals. F-M is one game away from its first league championship since 2010, which came in the Northern League. Game 4 of the series against the Milkmen is slated for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at Newman Outdoor Field.
Left-handed rookie Peyton Wigginton is slated to start Game 4 for the RedHawks.
“We’ve got to stay focused," Grauer said. "We’ve still got one more, we’ve still got work to do.”
Grauer had a perfect game heading into the sixth inning Tuesday night. He retired the first 16 batters he faced before Milwaukee right fielder Carl Chester dumped a single into right field. Grauer limited the Milkmen to one hit and no runs through seven innings before Milwaukee cracked the scoreboard in the eighth.
“It’s a memorable one that all the fans that were in the stands should never forget," RedHawks bench coach Anthony Renz said. "That was a performance of a lifetime from TG.”
Grauer was lifted in the eighth inning with one out and the bases loaded. He pitched 7 1/3 innings and allowed one earned run on four hits, while striking out six batters and walking one. Milwaukee had three of its four hits off Grauer in the eighth inning.
“He wasn’t striking out a ton of guys, but he was getting weak contact," Renz said. “He dominated the whole night from start to finish.”
Maris sparked the RedHawks with a two-run home run that gave F-M a 2-0 lead in the third inning. First baseman Manny Boscan added an RBI single three batters later for a 3-0 lead. Both those run-scoring hits came off Milkmen right-handed starter Ryan Zimmerman.
“That was a massive swing," Renz said of Maris' home run. “It kind of lit the jolt under everybody.”
Left fielder Nick Novak added a two-run single off Milwaukee reliever Myles Smith for a 5-0 lead in the third. Novak was in the lineup for injured outfielder John Silviano, who is out the remainder of the series after suffering a lower-leg injury in Sunday's Game 2 in Milwaukee.
“That kind of changed the momentum of the game and allowed Grauer to be more aggressive in the zone," Renz said of the five-run third inning.
Zimmerman pitched 2 1/3 innings before he was lifted, allowing five earned runs on five hits. He struck out three batters and walked two.
Maris drew a bases-loaded walk to push the RedHawks lead to 6-0 in the fifth inning.
The Milkmen finally got to Grauer in the eighth inning. Chester had an RBI single that cut the F-M lead to 6-1. One batter later, Grauer was lifted from the game after Jeremiah Burks drew a walk to load the bases. RedHawks right-handed reliever Luke Lind came on in relief and got the final two outs of the eight without any further damage.
“The best part about Luke Lind is his poise," Renz said. "He can get thrown into the fire and get big outs. I trust him every time he goes out there.”
RedHawks right fielder Alec Olund added an RBI single in the home half of the eighth for a 7-1 lead. Olund's two-out, run-scoring hit scored Boscan from second base. Milwaukee designated hitter Keon Barnum belted a solo home run in the ninth inning to cut the F-M lead to 7-2, the game's final margin.
“I had everything working for me tonight," Grauer said.