The Drive’s Ben Taylor and Lexington’s Corey Ray treated a national television audience on CBS Sports Network and the Drive’s biggest home crowd this season to a five-inning scoreless pitchers’ duel Thursday night at Fluor Field.
But once Taylor came out, the duel was over. Chase Vallot’s three-run homer over the Green Monster in left field in the seventh inning sparked a four-run rally as the Legends held on for an 8-4 victory before a crowd of 7,099 in the first of a four-game series. The loss was the Drive’s ninth in their last 11 games.
The Drive pulled to 5-4 on Michael Chavis’ solo home run — his 10th of the season — in the eighth.
Despite giving up a run in the sixth, the 22-year-old Taylor left the game with a 2-1 lead and a chance for his first professional victory. But the Legends roughed up reliever Carlos Pinales with five consecutive hits while taking a 5-1 lead in the seventh. They scored three more in the ninth off Mario Alcantara.
The 6-foot-3 Taylor, the Red Sox’s recent sixth-round pick out of the University of South Alabama, allowed only four hits with five strikeouts and no walks in his third pro start. Several of his fastballs reached the low 90s on radar posted on the scoreboard.
“I had the fastball and change-up working really well,” said Taylor. “They were taking a lot of pitches early in the game and I was hitting spots.”
Taylor retired the first 11 Lexington hitters, three of the first five by strikeout as the first five innings sailed by in 1 hour, 3 minutes. A closer at South Alabama, he threw 70 pitches — 54 for strikes. His pitch limit with the Drive is 70.
“He threw great,” said Drive manager Darren Fenster. “He was very effective with his pitch count.”
Instead, it was Ray (3-5) who earned the victory, allowing three runs on six hits in 61/3 innings. Ray nearly lost the victory when the Drive’s Joseph Monge’s blast to left off reliever Nik Stephenson hit more than halfway up the wall for an RBI double rather than a tying, three-run homer.
The Legends put the game away in the ninth on Michael Hill’s three-run double, a liner misjudged by right fielder Danny Mars. Hill had five RBI on two hits.
Taylor and Ray, both right-handers, dominated from the beginning, each opening with five two-hit, no-walk innings.
The Legends finally broke through, scoring in the sixth when Hill drilled a one-out double into right-center, driving in Luis Valenzuela, who had led off with a single and stole second.
The Drive came right back in the bottom of the inning and took the lead. Chavis ripped an off-speed pitch into the left-center gap for a double, scoring Joseph Monge and Yoan Moncada.
Legends catcher Chad Johnson ended the perfect game and no-hitter hopes with a line-drive single to deep right-center with two outs in the fourth. Cleanup hitter Wander Franco almost put the shutout to bed, too. But his long drive to left drifted a few feet outside the foul pole. One pitch later, he struck out to end the inning.
Ray also cruised the first three innings facing the minimum nine hitters, thanks to Johnson throwing out Javier Guerra attempting to steal in the second.
Chavis led the Drive’s eight-hitter attack with two doubles and the homer.
Lefty Dedgar Jimenez (5-7) pitches for the Drive against Lexington’s Scott Blewett (2-3) in Friday night’s 7:05 start.