BOWIE, Maryland — Garabez Rosa has never been known as a power hitter. He totaled four homers in 107 games for Bowie during the regular season before everything changed in the playoffs.
Rosa homered twice and drove in three runs on Saturday night as Bowie defeated Reading, 7-2, in Game 5 of the Finals to win the first Eastern League championship in the franchise’s 23-year history.
A starter who can play as many as six positions, Rosa was at second base in the clincher. He connected for a two-run homer off Reading’s Reinier Roibal in the fourth inning that put the Baysox ahead for good, 2-1.
Rosa went yard again in his next at-bat, sending a fly ball that just cleared the wall in left against reliever Edubray Ramos to make it 3-1. The 25-year-old from the Dominican Republic hit .385 with three homers in the playoffs and was named MVP of the Finals.
“I was happy to help the team to win,” Rosa said through an interpreter. “I was doing the same approach in [the playoffs], relaxing more and having fun and playing the game hard. [Tonight], I was looking for a pitch to drive, and I got it.”
Quincy Latimore added a two-run double in the seventh and Orioles No. 13 prospect Mike Yastrzemski lifted a sacrifice fly in the eighth, with Bowie getting another run on an error.
Bowie manager Gary Kendall started Joe Gunkel on three days’ rest after the O’s No. 24 prospect lost the series opener. Gunkel held Reading to one run on five hits over four innings but appeared to be running out of gas when Kendall went to Nick Additon in the fifth.
Despite pitching on only two days of rest, the 27-year-old left-hander lasted four innings and allowed one run on one hit — Rene Garcia’s homer in the seventh that got the Fightin Phils within 3-2. Additon relied on a heavy dose of off-speed stuff, especially a sharp changeup, to keep Reading off-balance. He struck out four without issuing a walk.
“I threw seven innings the other day against those guys and I attacked with a lot of heaters,” Additon said. “But tonight, I had my breaking ball working and I had my changeup going, and that’s an aggressive team. I went right after them throwing strikes with my off-speed stuff.”
That four-inning effort enabled Kendall to hand the ball to closer Andrew Triggs with a 7-2 lead in the ninth, and he had little trouble closing out the franchise’s first championship.
“Our pitching and our hitting were [great],” Kendall said. “The guys just went out and executed.”
The Baysox had lost all five playoff series in which they participated since joining the league in 1993, twice squandering 2-0 leads in best-of-five sets. This year was a different story.
Bowie lost Game 1 against Altoona after wasting a seven-run lead. But it won three in a row to reach the Finals for the first time, then erased deficits of 1-0 and 2-1 against a Reading team that features three of MLB.com’s top 100 prospects in J.P. Crawford, Jake Thompson and Nick Williams.
“It does a lot for the franchise,” Kendall said. “It does a lot for our kids in our development system. They believed in themselves. They believed in one another. We’re just so happy for our guys.”
Orioles general manager Dan Duquette was one of the many people associated with the organization who came down to watch the Baysox secure their first championship.
“You have to learn how to win,” he said. “I think it’s important for the culture of winning. Winning begets winning.”