Frustrations mount as Crushers fall 3-2
Offense falters as Smith pitches well in loss
It seems to be getting a bit repetitive.
The Crushers continue to get men on base, still second in the league in hitting with a .280 batting average coming into Thursday night’s game against Evansville. The problem has been getting runs across the plate.
Manager Jeff Isom’s quotes following Tuesday night’s loss at the hands of the Otters could be used in this story and the difference would be miniscule. Just as in that game, the Crushers outhit their opponent, accumulating 11 base hits verses the Otters' eight, but ultimately lost 3-2 after wasting away late scoring opportunities.
“This is a game that we felt like we should have won. We had opportunities. We pitched well, played defense. Unfortunately, we had opportunities late and didn’t take advantage,” Isom said.
“We’ve got experienced guys here that shouldn’t be pressing,” he said. “If they’re pressing, being an experienced guy, then maybe this isn’t for them.
“They just need to get the job done. Bottom line.”
The one difference from Tuesday night’s game to Thursday night’s game was the pitching. Tuesday’s starter Alex Kaminsky and the bullpen combined to give up nine runs before their offense could scratch out a run of their own, but tonight’s starter Matt Smith buckled down after giving up three runs in the first five innings. He pitched eight strong innings, giving up just the three runs on eight hits, striking out four.
“There were a couple innings early on where he had high pitch counts, but he got better as he went on,” Isom said. “He’s thrown the ball very well for us. He’s one of those guys when he’s on the mound you feel like you have a very good chance to win. He kept us right in the game.”
Smith allowed a hit and a walk in each of the first two innings, but was able to Houdini his way out of trouble. Finally, in the third, the Otters got to him for the first run of the game. Andrew Clark, the Otters’ first baseman and the Frontier League’s leading hitter stroked a single to center to drive home CJ Henry, who doubled earlier in the inning.
After a one-two-three fourth, Smith allowed two more runs on a home run from Nick Schwaner, his second of the series.
“Giving up a couple runs like that, it tends to calm me down a little bit,” Smith said. “I know with the offense, we can make a little bit of run there at the end of the game.”
Unfortunately, they could not make enough of a run tonight, and Smith knows that it’s aggravating for his teammates.
“It’s frustrating. Those guys are out there doing what they can, but in a game like that, sometimes runs aren’t gonna come.”
While the offensive inconsistencies have been discouraging, the pitching staff has started to settle down. Count Smith as one of the guys who are encouraged.
“It’s all about feeding off the previous starter,” he said. “That’s something, I was here a couple of years ago, and we did that quite a bit. One guy would throw a really good game. The next guy would want to throw even better the next time.
“I think our staff is starting to get that mentality.”
Isom and Smith also both mentioned the defense as a positive, specifically a play from Juan Sanchez, who has been questioned for his large number of errors at shortstop, in the seventh inning.
“If he could hit a little bit, he’d be in the major leagues as a backup somewhere,” Isom said. “That’s why we brought him on, because he’s solid defensively. That was a heck of a play. That’s something you see in a big league game.”
“Juan made a big play,” Smith said. “Something like that happens; it definitely relaxes me that much more. It lets me know that I have a good defense behind me, and I’m not afraid to come at hitters.”
The Crushers earned their two runs with one in the fifth and one in the sixth. Ricardo Lizcano drove in the first with a sac fly to right and Andrew Davis got the second home on an RBI single to center.
Dale Dickerson came on to pitch a scoreless ninth despite the Crushers trailing in the game. The newly-named closer has yet to receive consistent work on the season, but hopefully that will change as the offense starts to drive in runs more consistently.
The Crushers have an opportunity to change that this weekend against Rockford, whose 4-18 record is the worst in the Frontier League.
“That’s the beautiful thing about baseball. There will be another game tomorrow,” Isom said. “The bus leaves at six o’clock in the morning and we’ll be on it.
“I’ve always said some of the better baseball players aren’t so smart. They can’t remember from yesterday.”