Middendorf's complete game leads Crushers to 1-0 win
Third-straight one-run win for Lake Erie
Dave Middendorf deserved a shiny trophy for his performance on the mound Thursday night, but all he got was a pie in the face.
Middendorf (8-5, 2.77) pitched a complete game, five-hit shutout as the Crushers defeated the River City Rascals 1-0 for their third-straight win. It was the Crushers' third-straight one-run win and fifth-straight one-run game overall. Seven of their last eight dating back to the last game before the All-Star break have been decided by just one run.
"If we have too many more of these one-run games, my hair is almost half grey right now, it might be all grey. It might even fall out. I'm a little worried about that," manager Jeff Isom said.
The pie in the face and the tight games are a testament to how close this team is becoming. Isom referenced the starting pitchers going to see the movie The Conjuring together after Wednesday afternoon's game and other players getting to the clubhouse early just to hangout. Middendorf said he's never seen anything like it.
"I played two years in affiliated ball, and you would really have your cliques between position players and pitchers, and then you've got your cliques between that. Everyone here seems like they get along, and we feed off that. You can put on any type of music in the locker room and everybody will jump to it."
"I haven't really had that with a club before," Isom said. "When you get that going on a clubhouse, you've got something special."
With the camaraderie of the team being so high, it's easy for guys to pick each other up when they are struggling. Today, Middendorf picked up a struggling offense that managed just three hits against Rascals starter Kyle Owings (4-3, 3.90). Owings was good, but the Crushers offense missed some opportunities.
"I thought there were some pitches that we could have hit. We let him off the hook a couple times," Isom said.
Middendorf carried the team with both his pitching arm and his glove. He recorded six putouts, more than any other Crushers position player.
"I've never seen a pitcher that gets as many ground balls as he does. I just happened to be looking through the stats on pitchers and how many assists they've got. I think he's leading the lead by almost double of the next closest guy," Isom said. "When I was pitching I was trying to dodge balls. He's out there trying to stop every one of them."
The defense behind Middendorf was just as good as his personal performance. With the defense performing so well behind him, Middendorf said a pitcher can start to feel almost invincible.
"You feel like you can let loose on some pitches because if you miss a spot you know the defense is there to back you up. They're there to make plays."
The biggest defensive play came in the top of the seventh inning. With the Crushers clinging to their one-run lead, the Miners had runners at first and second with one out. Middendorf induced a ground ball to third that led to an inning-ending double play.
"I knew it was gonna be close at first base," Isom said. "To Davis's credit, he gave a great feed chest high and Hidalgo was able to go across his body and make that throw to first. He had to get rid of it quick and he did everything he could to get it over there."
While win, outstanding defense, and celebratory pie were nice, the best thing about the start for Middendorf was that he was finally able to finish what he started. It was his first complete game of the season, even though he's come close on more than one occasion.
"If you saw in the past, I could never get out of the ninth inning. So after that first hit I was like, 'here we go again,'" he said. "I had confidence in myself. I was able to collect myself again. I was able to do it and I feel pretty good."
Whatever Middendorf did to collect himself worked because he struck out the final two hitters of the game.
The Crushers scored the only run of the game in the bottom of the third inning. Emmanuel Quiles led off the inning with a double, moved to third on a sacrifice hit by Juan Sanchez, and scored on Craig Hertler's RBI single. The only other hit for the Crushers came in the seventh inning, when Anderson Hidalgo hit a leadoff double.
The Crushers look to extend their win streak and take the series from the Rascals on Friday night. Alex Kaminsky will be on the mound looking to improve on his 4-4 record.