NILES - The Mahoning Valley Scrappers have turned things around in a big way.
After losing a franchise-record 12-games, the Scrappers have come back to win seven of their last nine games. Winning both games of Wednesday's double header against the State College Spikes in walk-off fashion (2-1 in the first game, 1-0 in the night cap), the Scrappers are now sporting a four-game winning streak, the longest of the season.
"It's nice to beat that club," Scrappers manager Ted Kubiak said. "That's a good club. I was beginning to wonder if anyone was going to score. Our pitching was good against them - did a good job."
Tribune Chronicle / Dave Dermer
Mahoning Valley Scrappers pitcher Luis Lugo throws a pitch during Wednesday’s doubleheader at Eastwood Field. He struck out six in 5 2/3 innings in the nightcap.
Tribune Chronicle / Dave Dermer
Mahoning Valley third baseman Claudio Bautista tracks down a ground ball hit at him. He would eventually flip it to second base for an out.
For the second and third time this year, the Scrappers took a shortened, seven-inning double header game into extra innings. Unlike the first time that happened, back on July 11, which resulted in a Scrappers loss, Mahoning Valley came away with the sweep.
Mahoning Valley pitching allowed only two hits, with the first coming in the fifth when Spikes right fielder Jimmy Bosco hit an RBI single into right field, scoring catcher Luke Voit.
The Scrappers retaliated with a run of their own in the bottom of the fifth. Martin Cervenka blasted a solo home run on the first pitch of the inning. This came after the Scrappers failed to drive in runners in scoring position both in the third and fourth innings - including a bases-loaded situation in the third. The Scrappers also left a runner stranded in the fifth.
The drama in Game 1 came in the bottom of the eighth inning. A single from third baseman Claudio Bautista followed by a lead-off walk by center fielder Cody Ferrell. A wild pitch with one out advanced Ferrell and Bautista, which prompted the Spikes to intentionally walk the red-hot Nellie Rodriguez, who was named the Cleveland Indians Minor League Player of the Week.
Following Rodriguez was Paul Hendrix. After battling a few good pitches by Victor DeLeon, the second baseman drew a walk-off RBI walk to give the Scrappers the win.
The lack of early-game excitement continued in Game 2 as the first run did not come until the bottom of the eighth inning. Both team's pitchers were the reason for the scoreless game as they gave up a combined seven hits and struck out 23 batters.
The Scrappers threatened in the fifth after beginning the inning with back-to-back singles by Hendrix and left fielder Josh McAdams. Two consecutive strikeouts and a groundout to the shortstop ended the inning, keeping the score tied at zero.
Getting his fourth hit of the season, Sicnarf Loopstock led off the eighth with a single up the middle. Joel Mejia, recently called up from the Arizona League Indians, and Bautista both walked to load the bases with one out.
Then Juan Herrera, who was 0 for 3 with three strikeouts at the time of his fourth plate appearance, hit a sacrifice fly to centerfield, scoring Loopstock from third and breaking the 0-0 tie.
"He's one of our better hitters." Kubiak said of Herrera. "I was just hoping he wasn't chasing anymore of the low balls or anything in the dirt. He did a good job and delivered. It's nice to get some wins like that anytime during the season."
The Scrappers are now 7-2 in their last nine games, dating back to when they broke the 12-game losing streak on July 15.
"We're coming off a good road trip," Kubiak said. "We did well in Brooklyn and Staten Island and I think we'll see what happens. There's something brewing here. They're playing more steady and I think they're turning the corner. They're more confident and their spirit is stronger after the (losing) streak."
TURNING IT AROUND: The Scrappers had a successful six-game road trip last week going 4-2 and winning the two series against Staten Island and Brooklyn. Their wins on July 18 and July 19 were the second time all season the Scrappers won back-to-back games and the first time since the third and fourth games of the year. Since the Scrappers' franchise-record 12-game losing streak, Mahoning Valley has gone 7-2 in the last nine games.
RODRIGUEZ IMPRESSING: Nellie Rodriguez, a New York native, impressed on the six-game road trip to his home city going 11 for 23. He contributed to a .487 average with three home runs, bringing his season total to a team leading five. His efforts over the road trip did not go unnoticed by the Cleveland Indians as the organization named him minor league player of the week.
UP NEXT: The Scrappers will end their series against State College tonight at 7:05. Tonight is Buck Night and Zombie Survival Night at Eastwood Field.