Streak ends at five
NILES – Today is Caleb Hamrick’s “light day.”
He woke up early this morning, after leaving Eastwood Field abruptly following the Mahoning Valley Scrappers’ 10-3 loss to the Batavia Muckdogs on Friday night, lifted weights for a few hours and ran for a few more.
Later, he’ll have a private throwing session with pitching coach Scott Erickson. It’s all an attempt to shake off the 4 1/3 innings, five-hit and three earned-runs performance as Mahoning Valley’s starting pitcher on Friday, which led to the end of the Scrappers’ five-game win streak.
“I’m in a bit of a rut right now,” Hamrick said. “I’m trying to figure it out as I go. I’m not throwing strikes like I was early in the season and that’s my main problem.”
Hamrick, an eighth-round pick of the Indians in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft, started the year giving up two runs to Jamestown in a loss on June 18, but rebounded with five shutout innings on June 23 against Auburn. Since then, he’s given up 20 earned runs and walked 12 in six starts.
“His mechanics, I think, have been pretty consistent,” Erickson said. “He’s varied his arm slot a little bit trying to get his pitches to do more than they are capable of doing. He can’t defy the laws of physics trying to make a ball break that much more. We’ll be trying to fine-tune that a little bit.
“We’ll play catch (today), we’ll try to slow down, be consistent and hit the catcher in the chest. Then, we’ll fine-tune breaking stuff and get back into a zone.”
Hamrick (1-5, 4.97 ERA) threw 81 pitches with only 45 strikes. His goal is to get six innings each start and throw 70 pitches, Erickson said. Only once this year, a no-decision against State College on July 8, has he thrown a full six innings. Hamrick reached five innings three times.
On Friday, he gave up an RBI single to Felix Munoz in the first inning. Hamrick also walked the No. 9 hitter, CoCo Johnson twice, in the third and fifth, and he came around to score both times. In four of his five innings, he walked the leadoff batter.
“Once you get out of whack a little bit and you have a man on base, attention is not 100 percent on the batter then,” Erickson said. “You’re worried about the runner and trying to keep the game close. When you become a one-pitch pitcher, like he was, it’s tough to fool hitters.”
In the Scrappers’ four games against the Muckdogs (18-19), nine of the 13 runs Batavia has scored came by way of a walk.
Mahoning Valley (15-24) took a lead in the bottom of the first when first baseman Nellie Rodriguez hit his sixth home run of the year – a two-run shot to left field that brought in Juan Herrera.
“It’s the farthest I hit one and it felt the best coming off the bat,” said Rodriguez, the team’s leading hitter with a .331 batting average. “I knew it was gone.”
The Scrappers added on in the second after Robel Garcia led off the inning with a triple and scored on Martin Cervenka’s sacrifice fly.
Rodriguez tried for a triple, himself, in the sixth inning. Batavia left fielder Austin Dean slipped trying to catch his sharp line drive.
“I thought it was a line-drive out, but I saw him stumble,” Rodriguez said. “I just thought the ball went a little bit further to the wall, that’s why I rounded second and went to third.
“I did see the ball get there first and I said, ‘Ah crap.'”
The Muckdogs scored in the fifth, sixth, eighth and ninth innings. Trevor Frank took the loss, his third of the year, though he threw 2 2/3 innings of two-hit, one-run ball. Jarlin Garcia earned the win striking out seven over 5 2/3 innings.
HO-HUM HAROLD: Harold Guerrero, in his third stint with the Mahoning Valley Scrappers, pitched in the eighth inning and walked all four batters he faced. That brought his total up to 16 on the year, which is also the number of balls he threw on Friday, with only seven strikes. “He threw some great strikes, but it was inconsistent,” said pitching coach Scott Erickson. “A lot of that has to do with release points. It’s impossible to command your pitches like that.”
DEAN OF WINGS: Batavia Muckdogs’ left fielder Austin Dean was named the Strikeout Man of the Game. He had two fly outs, a walk and a solo homerun coming in the sixth inning to give Batavia a 4-3 lead. “I saw that up on the scoreboard and heard the chicken noises,” Dean said. “I don’t let that stuff get to my head. I ignored it like I try to zone everything out and just focus on my game. You can’t let that goofy stuff get to you.”
WEATHER BRINGS CROWD: The announced crowd of 5,104 was the third largest at Eastwood Field this season, behind Opening Day and the Fourth of July. After a rainout on Tuesday, temperatures were ideally set for summer on Friday. “This is perfect baseball weather,” Dean said. “In the Florida Golf Coast Rookie League (where he played in 2012), everyday was a 12 p.m. game in steaming hot, sunny and sometime stormy weather. New York and Ohio weather is more my style.”
STAT PACK: Batavia scored 10 runs on 12 hits, while the Scrappers had three runs on seven hits. The loss snapped a five-game winning streak, which was the longest active streak in the New York-Penn League. In 2012, the Scrappers won six in a row, sweeping State College and Williamsport. Mahoning Valley’s longest winning streak was 10, set in 2000.