Fans rewarded despite Scrappers losing streak reaching 11

NILES – On a double promotional night at Eastwood Field, the Mahoning Valley Scrappers were a letdown in multiple ways.

Yet, still, the fans were rewarded.

The game was tabbed as a “guaranteed win” and the Scrappers fell to the Vermont Lake Monsters, 6-3, giving all 3,162 in attendance a free general admission ticket to tonight’s 5:05 p.m. game.

Former Mahoning Valley and Cleveland Indians catcher Victor Martinez could only shake his head in disapproval as his bobblehead was distributed to the first 1,000 through the gates.

The Scrappers (7-20) made history, too, losing their 11th straight game -the longest stretch of defeats in franchise history.

“What can I tell you?” manager Ted Kubiak said. “It’s not fun.”

The 71-year old with over five decades of professional baseball experience isn’t so much disappointed in the increasing L column, though, he’s frustrated with the laziness. There were two incidents in Saturday’s contest that put Kubiak over the edge.

First, trailing 1-0, Claudio Bautista poked a fly ball to the right side of the infield. Michael Soto easily retired the Scrappers second baseman, but Bautista failed to hustle down the line and walked straight to the dugout, where he would remain the rest of the game. Bautista was benched in favor of Paul Hendrix who was 0 for 4.

Then, in the eighth inning, pitcher Rafael Holmbert didn’t cover first base after Vermont’s Chris Wolfe drilled a grounder in the hole between first and second, allowing him to reach base safely on what could have been an easy out.

“I’m more (ticked) off about Bautista not running out a ground ball and Holmbert not covering first,” Kubiak said. “That’s why they’re here. It got Bautista out of the game. It made it a certainty that Holmbert would be out.”

Both players, Dominican Republic natives, have been in the Indians organization since 2011. Bautista is third on the team with a .280 batting average and leads with two home runs. Holmbert appeared in his seventh game and has a 5.40. In 0.2 innings on Saturday, he allowed one hit, walked one and gave up two runs.

“Other than Bautista and Holmbert, everybody gave a good effort as far as I was concerned,” Kubiak said. “Their at-bats are as good as they can be right now. They’re in a learning process. Going through this is a big learning process, besides the other stuff they’re going through and trying to figure out.”

Robel Garcia gave Mahoning Valley a 2-1 lead with a home run to left field that scored James Roberts. Brian Ruiz had a run-scoring single in the sixth inning and the Scrappers had a chance to add another in the bottom of the ninth on Juan Herrera’s single to right field. Cody Ferrell was thrown out at home to end the game. Herrera, Garcia, Ryan Battaglia and Nellie Rodriguez all had a double. They out-hit the Lake Monsters (11-15), 10-9, the first time that’s happened against an opponent since July 3 when they beat the Jamestown Jammers, 5-3.

“We just need to get our confidence back,” Rodriguez said.

The Mahoning Valley clubhouse sat in a stunned silence long after the game’s conclusion.

“There’s probably not enough (frustration). I’m not sure how much they take it to heart like we do in here,” Kubiak said, pointing to the coaches’ office.

Scrappers starter Caleb Hamrick took the loss after allowing three unearned runs of seven hits in five innings. Vermont’s B.J. Boyd and Ryan Huck had homers in the inning. Hamrick is now 1-4 with a 5.16 ERA.

The Lake Monsters added two more runs in the eighth. Battaglia had a throwing error in that inning when trying to catch a runner trying to steal second base. Garcia had a fielding error, his sixth of the season, in the first inning.

When asked if the mistakes, and a history-making loss, could be a turning point, Kubiak said it’s long overdue.

“It should have been a week ago,” he said. “Not now.”

Kubiak, more than anyone, realizes that the losing can be wearing, but at this level development is the most important stage.

“I’ve played on teams in the big leagues that have lost 99 games,” he said. “That’s not fun. It’s worse going to the ballpark in the big leagues losing like that. This is development here.”