Rein leads Lake Erie to 7-3 win
Rein allows just one hit across seven hits as Crushers defeat first-place Traverse City
Lake Erie got a dominating performance by starter Matt Rein on Saturday and the offense followed in step for a 7-3 victory over first place Traverse City.
In a pivotal series, the Crushers got out on the right foot with the help of Rein's seven innings of one hit baseball with nine strikeouts.
"I thought we played one of our better games right there, especially early on," manager Jeff Isom said. "We got an outstanding pitching performance out of Matt Rein and we took advantage of a couple mistakes, got on the scoreboard early and we continued to add on."
Despite getting a great win, Rein fell behind early, giving up a lead off home run to Chase Burch in the second inning.
"One mistake, that happens; it's baseball," Rein said. "He did what he was supposed to do with it so move on and get a win out of it."
Lake Erie punched right back with the team's first run in the third on a single by Seth Granger in his return to the lineup. Granger scored the defensive minded Juan Sanchez who exploded on the night for four hits in four trips.
"We brought [Sanchez] on to go play short stop, save runs that way, and he does on a nightly basis, I call that a defensive RBI, saving runs and tonight, ends up getting the bat going so hopefully he can continue with that," Isom said. "We definitely had him in there for his defense and what ever we get offensively is a bonus."
An inning later, the Crusher came out swinging and made the Beach Bums pay on two key errors that allowed three runs to score to give Lake Erie a 4-1 advantage. Then again in the sixth, Lake Erie was able to bat in another three runs with the help of some clutch two out hitting by Daniel Bowman to keep Traverse City out of reach for a win.
"We've been having a lot of conversation with our club about two out hitting and that's where teams, kind of, separate themselves," Isom said. "If you can get those big two out hits, boy that's tough on those pitchers. It's like, all right, you're so close to getting out of that inning and all of the sudden, uh oh, you're giving up a run here, a run there, so nice job tonight."
After the Crusher got the runs they needed, it turned out that it would be another game that pitching would control. A combination of Rein, Connor Whalen and Dale Dickerson allowed just one hit to happen all game long.
With the Crushers' bullpen and starters in sync, the team is now a season best 36-30 and just a half game out of the final spot in the playoffs with less than a month left in the season. Isom has said all season long that the key to this team's success is the pitching.
The biggest key for Crushers' staff gearing up for a playoff run is to keep the pitch count low as games continue to become more and more important. As Isom put it, his pitchers will be keep to a fairly strict pitch count around 100.
"We're trying to keep guys around 100 pitches just because we know during the stretch run here we're going to rely on those guys and we don't want to burn a guy out and all of the sudden we don't have access to him for the last week or two weeks of the season or possibly even the playoffs," Isom said. "Here we are talking about playoffs, it's too early to talk about playoffs and that, but we've got to keep a close eye on the health of our pitching staff."
Rein finished his day on a 116 pitch count but was in control all game long as the Crusher took a big game one of the series over the Beach Bums.
"You always want to take the first one, you're goal is to win every series and when you win the first one your odds go up," Rein said. "Hopefully we can take two and get out of here, but yeah, it's a big series. We know they're in first place and they're a good team too. They've handled us well every time so playing good teams like that, you want to do well cause that team will put a hurting on you if you don't."
Lake Erie and Traverse City will meet again Sunday at All Pro Freight Stadium for a 5:05 first pitch.