GARY | When Greg Tagert decided that it was time to take Morgan Coombs out of Sunday afternoon's game while the RailCats had the lead, the answer from the starting pitcher was resounding.
"Morgan showed quite a bit of passion in the dugout when I told him we were taking him out," Tagert said. "At first he said 'No way are you taking me out.' It was was a little Tony Cogan-esque right there."
Coombs threw to two more batters, then knew he couldn't argue any more. The right-handed rookie was five starts and three weeks removed from a bout with shingles. He threw the game of his career, a 10 strikeout performance in which he didn't allow any walks and gave up a run in the ninth inning of the 'Cats 2-1 win over Sioux Falls.
"My job is to go out there and throw up zeros, so when they gave me one run early, I thought if that's all we're going to get, that's good enough for me," Coombs said. "Those guys picked me up on defense so I should be able to pick them up on offensive struggles."
Coombs gave up a hit to the leadoff batter in the first, then forced two putouts and a strikeout. He gave up a leadoff hit in the second then retired the next nine batters he faced.
He had thrown 96 pitches by the end of the seventh, but when the Canaries hitters had scattered three ground balls to all spots on the infield, he felt his surge.
"I could see that they're starting to turn the wheels really fast trying to make something happen," Coombs said. "That was the point when I thought, 'OK, we have to make a stand right here. This is it.'"
The RailCats scored both of the runs when Adam Klein reached as far as second base and was sent home by Mike Massaro, first in the first inning, then again in the eighth.
The 'Cats scattered six hits as the Canaries answered with a hefty pitching performance from Kyle Vazquez. The righty Vazquez struck out a career-high nine batters and allowed three hits through seven innings.
"Morgan Coombs has done some special things over the last couple years," Tagert said. "He's one of those guys that the club responds to. I don't care what kind of statistical measures there are in baseball and I love looking at matchups and statistics and all those things that go along with the game, and you can not measure ... how the rest of the club responds when that guy is on the mound, and he is one of those guys who has that special quality."