NEW YORK-PENN LEAGUE Indians' Merloni helps guide Scrappers
The injured utility player hit a three-run homer in the first inning of the 7-5 win.
By CHUCK HOUSTEAU
NILES -- It never hurts to have a little help when you're in a playoff race.
The Mahoning Valley Scrappers (34-31) got just that when Cleveland Indians utility player Lou Merloni arrived last night on a rehab assignment for his injured elbow.
Merloni, who was batting .330 with four home runs and 28 RBIs with the Indians, blasted a three-run home run in the first inning to help propel the Scrappers to a 7-5 win over Aberdeen at Eastwood Field.
Merloni also added an RBI single in the second inning which helped the Scrappers open up an early 5-0 lead on the IronBirds.
"It didn't hurt to have Merloni in there to help us out," said Scrapper manager Mike Sarbaugh. "We've been getting 10 hits a night lately but it was good, whether it was Merloni or any one of our other guys, to help us score early and put pressure on the opposition."
Hitting streak continues
The Scrappers blasted 10 hits or more for the seventh straight game and for the eighth time in nine games.
The hot hitting and good starting pitching in August has allowed Mahoning Valley to go 12-4 in their last 16 games and move to within 11/2 games of the wild card playoff spot in the New York-Penn League standings.
Last night's starter Ryan Knippschild was coming off a bad outing against Auburn where he allowed seven runs in only three innings.
Knippschild in control
Against Aberdeen the left-hander was in complete control pitching six innings of seven-hit, one-run baseball.
"[Ryan] came out tonight and followed his game plan," Sarbaugh said. "He threw the ball well, spotted his pitches and changed speed effectively."
The Scrappers opened the game with Argenis Reyes and Brian Finegan drawing walks. Merloni then blasted a breaking ball over the left field wall to give the team an early 3-0 lead.
"It was good," said Merloni of the first-inning homer. "It doesn't matter what level you're hitting at, when you haven't hit in a game for two or three weeks you're still rusty.
"I hit a couple breaking balls the first two at-bats and then they came at me with fastballs. I didn't really like the way I went after them so I still have some work to do."
Ties for hit lead
Reyes also had a good night at the plate. The center fielder had two more hits, which tied him with Nathan Janowicz as the all-time hit leader for the Scrappers with 90 base hits.
Reyes singled to open the fourth inning, stole second and scored on Finegan's single. Finegans had two hits and drove in two runs for Mahoning Valley.
In the seventh, Chris Gimenez opened with a walk and scored on a double by Tim Montgomery.
Aberdeen rallied in the ninth with three runs to make the score 7-5 before Scrapper closer Mark Harris came in to nail down his 13th save of the season.