PORT CHARLOTTE - Charlotte scored four runs against Cole Nelson in the third inning and its bullpen held on as the Stone Crabs beat the Fort Myers Miracle 7-5 Thursday night at Charlotte Sports Park.
The Miracle raced to a 3-0 lead in the first. Daniel Ortiz and Kyle Knudson worked two-out walks and Josmil Pinto made Stone Crabs starter Victor Mateo pay with an RBI single. Lance Ray did further damage by blasting a two-run double to dead center field.
Nelson was unable to hold the lead. Cody Rogers belted an RBI triple in the second to get the Stone Crabs on the board and a bunt single by Chris Murrill plated Rogers later in the inning.
The Stone Crabs knocked Nelson out of the game with a four-run third inning. With the bases loaded, Steve Tinoco launched two-run ground rule double that hopped off the warning track against the batter's eye. Two batters later, Luke Bailey drilled another two-run double down the left field line to make it 6-3 Charlotte and chase Nelson.
Nelson lasted 2 1/3 innings and gave up six runs on eight hits.
Knudson got a run back for the Miracle with a two-out single in the fifth off of Mateo that scored Levi Michael, but the Miracle could not catch up.
Reliever Theron Geith struck out five over the course of the sixth and seventh innings. The Miracle had runners on first and second with one out in the eighth, but Jimmy Patterson got Michael Gonzales to pop out and Andy Leer to strike out to end the threat.
Thanks to three consecutive infield hits down the third base line, the Stone Crabs added an insurance run against Nelvin Fuentes in their half of the eighth to go up 7-4.
Patterson walked Daniel Santana to start the ninth, but induced a double play ball off the bat of Michael. Ortiz then followed with a solo home run that would have been a game-tying three-run homer had Michael's hard hit ground ball found its way past Riccio Torrez at third base.
The Miracle kept it interesting when Knudson reached first on a wild pitch that was strike three, but Chris Rearick came on and got Pinto to fly out to left to end the game.
Miguel Munoz pitched 2 2/3 innings of scoreless relief for Fort Myers, allowing just one base runner. He struck out two.
The Miracle and Stone Crabs head to Hammond Stadium for Friday's rematch at 7:05 p.m.