Bullpen blows late lead, Scrappers fall 5-4
NILES - The score was the same, but the results reversed, as the Scappers and Connecticut Tigers, for the second night in a row, played a game that ended 5-4. Again, the Scrappers led late, and blew a lead in the eighth inning. This time, though, the Tigers made the Scrappers pay for poor bullpen pitching, pushing across the go-ahead run in the ninth and winning the series finale 5-4 to avoid being swept.
The loss spoiled what was a dominant outing from starter Jake Sisco. Lately, Sisco has really found a rhythm. In his three prior starts, he had allowed only five earned runs in 15.1 innings of work. Monday he did one better, pitching six strong innings without allowing a run. He established his dominance right from the outset, striking out the side in the top of the first. Sisco ran into a little trouble in the second, putting runners at first and second on a walk and two-out base hit, but escaped with no damage.
Continuing their running theme, the Scrapper offense again got to work in the second, putting up four runs against Tiger starter Charlie Gillies. Richard Stock, who made his first professional start behind the plate, dribbled a soft single that the shortstop couldn’t make a play on to start the frame. Then, following two straight outs and an Evan Frazar walk, Robel Garcia singled up the middle to bring Stock home and give the Scrappers runners at the corners. Jairo Kelly followed suit, dropping a ball into centerfield that plated Frazar. Then, Tyler Naqiun really made Gillies pay, shooting a ball the other way to score two and earn a hustle triple.
That ran their season run total in the second inning to 24, ten more than they have scored in their next best inning. Scrapper starters have certainly appreciated the early offense.
“Any pitcher when they go on the mound wants to have a lead,” Said Sisco, who earned the no-decision despite his solid outing. “Pitching with a lead is probably the best thing you can feel, because you feel confident, like you have your whole team behind you out there.”
With the four runs in his back pocket, Sisco breezed through the third and fourth without allowing a base runner before inducing a 5-4-3double play with runners at the corners to end a Tiger scoring threat in the fifth. He found himself with a runner at first in the sixth when Jairo Kelly’s throw was a little tall for first baseman Richard Stock. Kelly made an absolutely stellar play on a ball in the hole that he barehanded and fired to first toredeem himself and help Sisco finish his night without an earned run. Sisco surrendering four hits in his outing, while walking one and striking out four.
“I felt pretty good,” said Sisco. “I moved over to the opposite side of the rubber today, something I worked on in my last bullpen. I felt really good with that, like I had a better angle. That really helped me, and I felt like my pitches were really working good today.”
The score remained 4-0 through the sixth, when Robbie Aviles was summoned from the bullpen to make his first relief appearance of the year. He found himself in immediate trouble, as he walked Devon Travis to lead off the seventh inning. Travis stole second base to put himself in scoring position, and scored when Tiger Jordan Dean singled to drive in therun.
After the single, Dean was then called safe on a stealing attempt on what looked to be a questionable call at second by umpire Ryan Simmons. It was only the most recent of what was a rough series of calls for the umpiring crew, and it was enough to illicit a an earful from pitching coach Greg Hibbard that eventually led to his ejection. Despite the unfavorable call, Aviles was able to escape without further damage.
In the eighth, Aviles got into more hot water, allowing a single and a double to lead off the frame and put Tigers on second and third with no outs. That ended the night for Aviles, as Jared Head entered to try and mop up the mess. Unfortunately, the Tiger offense wasn’t done, as Head immediately surrendered a single to plate a run. Thanks to a strong throw from centerfielder Tyler Naquin, the run from second was gunned at the plate to keep it a 4-2 ballgame. With two outs, however, the Tigers got a single and a double to plate two more and knot the game. Just like had happened the previous night, the Scrappers blew a late lead to tie the game at four.
Unfortunately, the results of the prior night didn’t carry over. Jared Head remained in the ballgame in the ninth looking to give his team a chance to win the game in the bottom half. A leadoff walk jeopardized that chance. The Tigers were able to do the classic get ‘em on, get ‘em over get ‘em in, as a sacrifice bunt, groundout, and RBI single allowed the go-ahead run to score, and sent the Scrappers to the bottom of the ninth trailing 5-4.
The Scrappers got a leadoff base runner of their own when Evan Frazer singled, and got a sacrifice from Robel Garcia, but Jario Kelly and Tyler Naquin were both sat down on strikes to end the game.
It was certainly a frustrating loss on a night when the Scrappers played six sound innings of baseball.
“Look at the seventh, eigthth and ninth inning,” said manager Ted Kubiak. “We couldn’t pitch, couldn’t catch, it was just a tough loss. Not much you can say, we didn’t stop them.”
Picking up the win in the contest was reliever WilliamClinard. Jared Head took the loss, and also was charged with a blown save. With that, the Scrappers now embark on one of the toughest tests of the season, playing 10 of 14 on the road beginning with a six game trip. After an off day on Tuesday, they will travel to Lowell to open a three game set Wednesday night with the Spinners.