By Steve ruman
As if the Mahoning Valley Scrappers haven’t suffered enough this summer, the baseball gods on Saturday dealt a blow which bordered on unsportsmanlike conduct.
Infielder Claudio Bautista, along with outfielders Joel Mejia and Juan Romero all suffered injuries in Saturday’s loss to Batavia.
As a result, the Scrappers entered Sunday’s game against the Muckdogs with a makeshift lineup, and with just nine healthy position players.
Well, let’s just say that it left Scrappers manager Ted Kubiak — a man who has been around the game for half a century — searching for an explanation.
Backed by a solid performance from starting pitcher Caleb Hamrick and some timely hitting, the Scrappers put together one of their best overall efforts of the season in a 5-1 win in front of 2,383 fans.
“That’s baseball; it’s a funny game, and it’s often unpredictable,” Kubiak said. “You just have to go out there and give it your all every night. You can’t worry about any circumstances surrounding the game. You just go out there and play hard, and on any given night good things can happen.”
The Scrappers’ starting lineup on Sunday included three catchers. Martin Cervenka worked behind the plate, Sicnarf Loopstok got his first-ever professional start in left field, while Manuel Boscan served at the designated hitter.
First baseman Nellie Rodriguez, who possesses plenty of power but very little speed, was in the leadoff spot, a first-ever as far as he can remember. Shortstop James Roberts manned third base.
The Scrappers’ six through nine hitters in the lineup all owned batting averages which were less than their weight.
Just to make matters a little worse, Batavia had won six straight against the Scrappers, and 15 of 17 dating back to last year.
On Sunday, Batavia was shut down by a pair of Scrappers pitchers. Hamrick (2-5) worked six innings, surrendering just one run on three hits. Breily Puerta worked the final three innings, surrendering just four singles.
Puerta allowed the first two Muckdogs to reach in the ninth, but then struck out the side to end the game.
“Our pitching has been pretty solid all year long,” Kubiak said. “They have had some tough luck because the hitting hasn’t been there. Today Caleb and Breily both had very strong outings.”
The Scrappers scored single runs in the second, fourth and fifth innings, then added a pair in the eighth. Josh McAdams and Loopstok each had an RBI, while Boscan plated a pair of runs.
“We put Nellie [Rodriguez] at the top of the lineup, hoping that maybe he would get an extra at-bat that could provide us an extra scoring opportunity,” Kubiak said. “We mixed things up with the order, and I think the guys were a bit looser and played more relaxed.”
“It’s been a long season for a lot of these players. They didn’t show that today.”
With no position players on the bench, Kubiak said he was just thankful to get out of the game without any additional injuries.
“I’m not sure what I would have done if we would have had to go to the bench,” Kubiak said. “I might have made the call to the press box.”
The Scrappers (25-39) begin a three-game series tonight at Jamestown.