NLA Spiel 22, Sep. 07, 02
|W: Landis, Th. L: Müller S: Marchant, M.|
Challengers take 2-0 lead against Eagles with a hard-fought 7-3 winThe Challengers put themselves one win away from their fourth Finals appearance in the last five seasons.
|Manny Marchant drives a pitch over the center field fences in the fifth inning that gave his team the lead for good.|
Starter Thomas Landis outdueled Juan Peralta and reliever Jerome Müller over seven innings, ending up with his team-leading sixth win of the season.
He gave up only three runs on three singles and six walks while also striking out three.
His performance helped overcome a poor showing by the Challengers offense that managed only eight hits.
The Challengers struck first on Jose Valdez' team-leading eighth homer in the second inning, a shot off Peralta that barely cleared the center-field fences.
|Thomas Landis pitched seven strong innings to earn his team-leading sixth win of the season.|
The Challengers came right back in the next inning, scoring twice on Landis' RBI-double and a run-scoring ground out by Valdez to tie the score at 3-3.
Peralta was relieved by Müller in the top of the fifth inning.
He managed to retire the first two batters, but Marchant lined an 0-2 offering deep over the center-field fences for a 4-3 lead.
That one-run lead turned out to be enough over the next three innings as both teams exchanged zeros on the board.
At one point from the secnd through the sixth inning, Landis retired 12 batters in a row before pinch-hitter Roger Stalder reached on an error on a relay throw by first baseman Valdez.
Müller wasn't overpowering, but his slow junk knuckle balls were the opposite of Peralta's moving fastballs.
|Kurt Kovac managed only one hit and was thrown out at second base trying to stretch his single into a double.|
Patrick Zöllig then put down a bunt that went right back to the mound, catching Siegrist easily at third base for the first out.
Anubis Benitez then loaded the bases with his second walk of the game, and Landis followed with yet another double, plating both Bregy and Zöllig for a 5-3 lead.
Marchant got his second RBI of the game as he followed with an RBI-single.
Things then turned ugly as Landis was called out by plate umpire Thomas Beier after trying to score on a passed ball.
Landis appeared to slide into home plate before catcher Rodolfo Vargas could apply a tag.
That brought up manager Andy Fleischacker, but to no avail.
Before game could resume, Beier called a ball on pitcher Müller, bringing him into a fury.
A long discussion and the ejection of the entire Eagle bench followed before the game could continue.
But Marchant and his Challengers kept their heads in the game and went home with the second victory in the best-of-five Semifinal Series.
Marchant threw two almost-perfect innings for his record sixth save of the season.
Landis' win was his 72nd in 100 career decisions in the NLA. A distant second in career wins with the Challengers is Benny Räber with 44. ...Marchant could break Wayne Testino's record for best ERA in a season, currently riding a 2.87 mark. Testino set the record back in 1988 at 2.67.