Clay Caulfield pitched eight strong innings and shortstop Branfy Arias again came into the game as a reliever to get the last three outs in the ninth inning, giving the Toronto Maple Leafs a hard-fought 5-4 win over the Burlington Twins in Intercounty Baseball League play Sunday at Christie Pits.
Toronto (17-16) has had pitching concerns all season, but not from Caulfield, who improved to 5-0 with another stellar effort. However, once again the Leaf bullpen almost squandered a 5-2 lead, as Drew Taylor immediately gave up two runs to start the ninth.
Toronto manager Tim Harkness called on Arias for the third time this season to pitch an inning of relief, and for the third time this year the infielder got three outs without allowing a run.
Thanks to a Damon Topolie solo home run in the bottom of the eighth, the Leafs gave Caulfield a 5-2 lead as he exited after eight innings, allowing just two runs on six hits with seven strikeouts and three walks.
Taylor came on and walked pinch-hitter Adam Cholewka and gave up a long home run to Jamie Lekas to make it 5-4. Arias was then summoned to the mound from his shortstop position and got the last three outs for the save, despite allowing a hit and walk, while striking out two to close the game out.
Caulfield and Marek Deska (8-1) are a combined 13-1 this season, but the rest of the Leaf staff is 4-15 heading into the playoffs which will open next weekend.
Glenn Jackson raised his batting average to .392 with a perfect 4-for-4 day with a run scored and two stolen bases, giving him 16 on the season. Dan Marra had three of his team’s 11 hits and scored a run for Toronto, while Topolie added a run-scoring groundout to his homer, his first of the season.
Lekas had two of the Twins eight hits, while Branson Joseph had a hit and scored twice. Starter Brandon Farquharson pitched a complete game, allowing five runs – four earned – on 11 hits with five strikeouts and one walk as the Twins dropped to 11-23 with their fifth straight loss.