Mahoning Valley now trails the Muckdogs by just 21⁄2 games.
By STEVE RUMAN
NILES — As homecomings go, the Mahoning Valley Scrappers must have felt like the red-headed stepchild who was caught sneaking in past curfew Tuesday.
One night after suffering a heartbreaking 3-2 loss at Batavia, the Scrappers returned home to a waterlogged Eastwood Field. The conditions were further dampened when a season-low 1,739 fans greeted the team, which was playing its first home game in 13 days.
Yet in the end, the Scrappers more than earned their keep by posting an impressive 7-2 win over Auburn. The victory pulled the Scrappers (31-26) to within 21⁄2 games of the division-leading Doubledays (34-24) in the Pinckney Division of the New York-Penn League standings.
“It was huge to return home and post a big win one night after suffering a devastating loss,” said Scrappers manager Tim Laker. “I wouldn’t have called this a must-win, but it sure was important. When you’re playing the team you’re chasing this late in the season, you have to do everything you can to give yourself an opportunity to make up ground.”
Lost heartbreaker Monday
Monday, the Scrappers led 2-0 going into the bottom of eighth. After the first two Batavia batters recorded outs, a third batter struck out but advanced to third on a wild pitch. Three runs eventually scored.
“To rebound from such a loss and come out and play well tonight — that can go a long way in determining how we finish the season,” Laker said.
The Scrappers wasted little time putting a pair of runs on the board against Auburn starter Chi-Hung Cheng. In the bottom of the first, the first three batters reached base when Adam White was hit by a pitch, Mark Thompson doubled to center, and Alex Castillo walked. Cheng struck out Todd Martin, but Matt Brown and Mike Valadez responded with a run-scoring sacrifice fly and an RBI single, respectively.
Meanwhile, Kelvin De La Cruz continued to provide the Scrappers with solid pitching from the starting rotation. The lefty surrendered just three hits while working 52⁄3 scoreless innings to even his record at 2-2.
Scrappers starters have pitched 17 consecutive scoreless innings. They have surrendered just five hits during the stretch.
“Since we sort of turned things around right before the all-star break, our pitching and defense has been outstanding,” Laker said. “We haven’t been hitting the cover off the ball, but when your starters give you five or six solid innings, you’re always going to be in a position to win.”
Pounded Auburn’s bullpen
Though Cheng recovered to retire nine straight batters, he was removed from the game at the end of the fourth inning. The Scrappers responded by teeing off on the Auburn bullpen. Three Doubledays relievers combined to surrender four runs in the fifth inning.
“This entire team showed great character by the way they responded tonight,” Brown said. “This is the time of the year where every game means just that much more. Coming home after being away for so long, we feel like this is a whole new beginning.”
De La Cruz surrendered just one hit through five innings. He quickly retired the first two men he faced in the sixth before the Doubledays loaded the bases on a walk and back-to-back singles from Ben Zeskind and Adam Calderone. However, Dallas Cawiezell relieved De La Cruz, and struck out Manny Rodriguez to end the threat.
Zeskind lf4010White cf4220
Calderone cf4010Thompson ss4121
Santana rf2000Castillo dh3111
Rodriguez ss4010Martin 1b3100
Emaus 3b3000Brown rf3013
Swppnhsr 3b1110Valadez c4022
Arencibia c4000Petrucci lf4000
Mastroianni 2b2010Hehr 2b4010
Stone 2b1100Arnal 3b3220
E—Emaus (5), Sanchez (10), Arnal (7), Petrucci (11), Thompson (15). DP—Auburn 1, Scrappers (2). LOB—Auburn 7, Scrappers 8. 2B—Ebarb (3), Thompson (5). SB—Mastroianni (13). CS—Mastroianni (8), Arnal (2). S—Thompson. SF—Brown.
Cheng L, 0-1422224
De La Cruz W, 2-25 2-330033
Taylor pitched to 3 batters in the 5th. Balk—Nieves. HBP—by Cheng (White). Umpires—Home, Greg Brown; Bases, Joey Amaral. T—2:36. A—1,739.
HOW THEY SCORED
Scrappers 1st — Adam White was hit by a pitch. Mark Thompson doubled to center, White advanced to third. Alex Castillo walked. Todd Martin struck out swinging. Matt Brown flew out to left field, White scored. Mike Valadez reached on a single to left, Thompson scored, Castillo advanced to second. Nick Petrucci reached on an error by the third baseman, Castillo advanced to third, Valadez advanced to second. Jeff Hehr grounded out to third. 2 runs, 2 hits, 1 error, 3 LOB
Scrappers 5th — Cristo Arnal singled to left. White singled to right, Arnal advanced to second. Thompson hit into a 5-3 out on a sacrafice bunt, Arnal advanced to third, White advaned to second. Castillo reached on an infield single, Arnal scored, White advanced to third. Martin walked, Castillo advanced to second. Brown singled to right, White and Castillo scored, Martin advanced to third. Valadez lined a single to right, Martin scored Brown advanced to second. Petrucci struck out swinging. Brown advanced to third on an error by the shortstop during a pickoff attempt. Hehr struck out looking. 4 runs, 5 hits, 0 errors, 2 LOB
Scrappers 6th — Arnal singled to right. White reached on an infield single, Arnal advanced to second. Thompson singled to right, Arnal scored, White advanced to second. White advanced to third, Thompson advanced to second on a balk. Castillo walked. Martin popped out to third. Brown popped out to third, White was thrown out at the plate trying to score, 5-2. 1 run, 3 hits, 0 errors, 2 LOB
Auburn 9th — Manny Rodriguez struck out swinging. Kelly Sweppenhiser singles to left Sweppenhiser advances to second on fielding error by left fielder. J.P. Arencibia grounded out to shortstop. Wesley Stone reaches on throwing error by shortstop the shortstop, Sweppenhiser advanced to third. C.J. Ebarb doubled to center, Sweppenhiser and Stone scored. Luis Sanchez struck out swinging. 2 runs, 2 hits, 2 errors, 1 LOB