Rodriguez's walk-off home run takes Scrappers to 3-2 win
Offense begins to wake up for Mahoning Valley
Niles, OH – For the third consecutive night, the Mahoning Valley Scrappers offense was unable to figure out the Jamestown Jammers pitching staff. That is, until the bottom of the ninth inning.
With only three hits through the first eight innings, the Scrappers offense exploded in the final frame, culminating with a walk-off home run by Nellie Rodriguez. The two-run missile, Rodriguez’s eighth of the year, was a majestic blast into deep left field that sent the 3,338 fans at Eastwood Field into a craze. With one swing of the bat, Rodriguez seemingly released the frustrations of every Scrappers fan in the stadium. The offensive struggles have been well-documented, but none of that seemed to matter in the moments following the home run.
As the game played out, it appeared the Scrappers were heading for another low-scoring defeat. After all, Mahoning Valley had only given up seven runs in the first two games of the series, but only scored three. Throughout their recent six-game losing streak, the Scrappers scored just nine runs. But in the bottom of the ninth, things changed quickly. Joel Mejia led the inning off with a walk, quickly followed by a Claudio Bautista strikeout. As three-hitter James Roberts was at the plate, Jamestown pitcher Justin Topa balked, advancing Mejia to second base. Roberts immediately responded with an RBI single to center field.
With Roberts on first and one out, Nellie Rodriguez sent a fastball over the left field fence to win it. The 19-year-old out of New York summed up the emotion of the night well: “I was just excited to give (the fans) something to cheer about. They haven’t had much to root for.” And Rodriguez was right.
While the offense has struggled from the onset of the 2013 season, things have only gotten worse throughout the course of the summer. The offense averaged 3.5 runs per game in June, slightly below the league average, but only scored 3.31 per game in July and is scoring just 2.82 per game in August. Nevertheless, timely hitting and hitting with runners in scoring position have been the team’s main problems, but that wasn’t the case in the ninth inning. Rodriguez finished the night 2-for-4 with a home run and two RBI. He was the only Mahoning Valley hitter with multiple hits. Roberts provided a single and an RBI, while Juan Romero hit his fourth double of the year.
The Scrappers pitching staff, which has pitched well despite the losing streak, allowed nine hitters to reach base but limited damage throughout the majority of the game. Starting pitcher Dace Kime surrendered one earned run in the top of the first inning, though not entirely his fault due to a throwing error by catcher Martin Cervenka, but settled in nicely following the run. Kime finished the night allowing just the one run on three hits and one walk. The righty out of Louisville fanned three. Lefty Matt Whitehouse, who has been nearly unhittable in 2013, allowed one run on two hits in relief. Breily Puerta earned his fourth win of the season by throwing two scoreless innings.
For Jamestown, shortstop Adam Frazier had two hits and an RBI while Harold Ramirez added a solo home run, his fourth of the year. Frazier also swiped his fifth base of the season. The pitching staff spun a gem through eight innings, before Topa allowed the three-run shot to Rodriguez. Starting pitcher Buddy Borden, a seventh round pick out of UNLV, threw three innings of one-hit ball. Isaac Sanchez surrendered just two hits in three innings, while Roberto Espinosa hurled one perfect inning.
With the victory, Mahoning Valley moves to 24-36 and avoids the three-game sweep. They now sit 13 games out of first place. Jamestown falls 37-24 and remains tied for first place in the division. The Scrappers will take on the Batavia Muckdogs in a doubleheader Friday to kick-off a four-game series. Game one is set for 6:05 p.m. at Eastwood Field.