NILES - The Mahoning Valley Scrappers' troubles with their bullpen continued Tuesday night against the State College Spikes, as the Mahoning Valley relievers blew a 3-1 eighth-inning lead.
Fortunately for the Scrappers, State College's bullpen had even bigger problems, as the Scrappers scored four times in the bottom of the eighth for a 7-3 victory.
Mahoning Valley's relievers allowed five runs in 2 1/3 innings in splitting a doubleheader Monday against Hudson Valley.
Scrappers manager Ted Kubiak said it has recently been a period of transition for his bullpen.
"(Jacob) Lee was throwing three or four innings, then he had three days off, now we're trying to throw him a little bit more," he said. "The 'pen has been hurting. (Cody) Penny hasn't pitched that much, (Michael) Peoples is hurt, (Rafael) Homblert is still learning stuff, (Luis) Encarnacion is trying to change a lot of mechanical things. It's tough to try and piece together at the end of the game."
On Tuesday, the ineffectiveness of the Scrappers' bullpen wasted an outstanding effort from starter Ryan Merritt, who allowed only four hits and one run in seven innings. He walked one and struck out five, but did not get a decision.
"I felt good. I came into the game throwing strikes," he said. "Hopefully I can keep up my command and be consistent throughout the rest of the year."
"Merritt pitched a great game," Kubiak said. "He stayed competitive, he stayed with his fastball I think more today. He just threw strikes."
Merritt was taken out after throwing 75 pitches (53 for strikes) and replaced by James Stokes, who proceeded to walk Tyler Gaffney and Jodaneli Carvajal. Walker Gourley attempted a sacrifice bunt and reached on a fielder's choice to load the bases.
Barrett Barnes then grounded to second baseman Robel Garcia. The umpires ruled that since Gourley slid outside the baseline at second, both he and Barnes were out and Gaffney and Carvajal were put back on third and second, respectively.
Spikes manager Dave Turgeon argued the ruling and was ejected by field umpire James Pattison.
Jacob Lee was brought in to relieve Stokes and promptly gave up a base hit to D.J. Crumlich to plate Gaffney and Carvajal to tie the game.
"I think what you saw is what happens with young guys late in the game, tight situations they get nervous, they get upset and they get confused," Kubiak said.
The Scrappers almost immediately took the lead back against State College reliever Jordan Cooper. Garcia led off the inning with a single and Jairo Kelly bunted a ball that was fielded by Cooper, who launched the ball into right field to allow Garcia to score and put Kelly on third.
Mahoning Valley added three more runs in the inning as Joseph Wendle singled home Kelly and Aaron Siliga drove in Tyler Naquin (who was hit by a pitch) and Wendle.
Kubiak said that he is pleased with the fight of his team, despite having committed 21 errors in the last 11 games.
"These guys have played hard all year," he said. "Unfortunately, we've lost a lot of leads later in the game. They haven't given up for the most part."