NILES - Friday night's game at Eastwood field was primed to be a low-scoring game deficient of hits.
Sean Brady, starting for Mahoning Valley, and Corey Oswalt, starting for the Brooklyn Cyclones, entered the game with the fourth and fifth lowest ERA in the New York-Penn League, respectively.
That was not the case, though, as the two pitchers gave up a combined five runs on eight hits.
The runs started early, as the Cyclones jumped on Brady in the first inning, plating one run off the bat of third baseman Jhoan Urena.
The Scrappers responded with two runs of their own in the third, but the fast-working Brady struggled to get and stay ahead of hitters, which led to him giving up two more runs in the fourth. He pitched five innings, giving up three runs on four hits. Scrappers' pitching coach Greg Hibbard said Brady's game plan was to get ahead of the hitters with the fastball down in the zone, but the aggressiveness of the Cyclones swinging, and connecting, on the first pitch fastball forced him to throw more curveballs and off-speed pitches, which he wasn't throwing for strikes.
"I felt really good out there but the biggest key in the game was the two walks," Brady said. "I put two guys on base and they scored two runs, that's the difference in the game."
The Cyclones tacked on one more run in the seventh to ultimately win, 4-2.
Although Brady struggled, his ERA is still top five in the league, increasing from 2.34 to 2.62. The 20-year-old left hander is showing everyone why he was taken in the fifth round of the 2013 draft out of Ida Baker High School in Cape Coral, Fla.
Before being drafted, he was committed to play at the University of Florida. He pitched in 10 games last season for the Arizona League Indians, posting a 1.97 ERA. Even though his stats have been solid throughout the season, it was clear in Brady's tone of voice and demeanor after Friday's game that his success in previous starts was far from his mind. Instead, he was focused on areas he needs to improve on going forward.
"(I) just try to give my team the chance to win, and if I do that then in turn my ERA is going to be good," Brady said. "But you don't really focus on ERA, you just try to give your team a chance to win. (I need to work on) getting ahead of guys and not walking as many people as I have. I know that that is a plus in my game, not walking guys, and when I've walked as many as I have this year so far it hasn't been easy to work off of. So I need to improve that."
It's clear that Brady has massive amounts of potential, and Hibbard has taken notice. He believes he will be even more successful once he further develops his change-up, giving him a dominant three pitch repertoire.
"He's always composed and he doesn't get frustrated with anything he's not doing or not able to do. Which is good," Hibbard said. "So for a guy that's (20 years old), that's pretty impressive. He's got an above average curveball, and when he locates his fastball he can do some things because he pitches well to both sides of the plate, he keeps guys off balance. Once his change-up develops a little bit, we're going to see a different guy. The main thing (in developing the change-up) is to get a solid grip in his hand that feels comfortable and to get some extension to get some fade. Being able to maintain arm speed is sometimes the hardest thing to get because you want to throw it hard and be able to take velocity off. It's kind of the catch-all because it's a hard pitch that's 10 miles an hour slower than the fastball. He'll show you an average change-up, but it's just not repeating yet. It's a feel pitch. You may see it come and go. You'll see one game where his timing is right and it's coming out good, and then, like tonight, it's kind of hit or miss."
The Scrappers play 22 more games, so Brady will have a handful of starts to improve his game going into the offseason.
In the meantime, Juan Santana will be on the bump tonight as the Scrappers play host to the Staten Island Yankees at 7:05 p.m.