AVON — Coming home Wednesday after going 4-2 on their longest road trip of the season, the Lake Erie Crushers kept the good times rolling.
The Crushers staked Paul Fagan to an early three-run lead, and the veteran left-hander earned his 50th career victory with a complete-game eight-hitter over the defending Frontier League runner-up River City Rascals, 7-1.
A crowd of 4,041 fans — a lot of whom were still lined up outside into the second inning — were treated to the Crushers’ (17-20) third straight victory and their 10th win in the last 17 games.
“I’m glad to see fans coming out,” Fagan said. “Granted, we were struggling early on, and I wouldn’t want to come out and watch a loss. But we’re starting to put it all together and getting the right guys in the right order in the right positions, and it’s nice to see the fans taking notice.
“You always want to play well in front of a large crowd, and we did that tonight. I’m glad they got a chance to see a great game.”
The Rascals (22-15), who came in as the second-best team in the West Division, had a two-game win streak snapped.
“It was a nice job by Paul,” Crushers manager John Massarelli said. “That’s our inning-eater. With the off day (Tuesday), that gives our bullpen an extra day’s rest. Offensively, two-out hits win games, and that was the key tonight. (Adrian) Ortiz (in the third) and (J.C.) Figueroa (in the first) came up big for us and gave us a little cushion so Paul could cruise.”
Fagan (3-3) scattered eight hits in 82⁄3 shutout innings, costing himself the shutout on his own throwing error.
“It’s been a long career (10 years), so you’ve got to get that (50th win) sometime,” said Fagan, who has posted 24 of his career victories as a member of the Crushers. “I was working my fastball good on both sides of the plate. They’re an aggressive-hitting team, so I was attacking with my fastball and just hoping they hit it to somebody.”
Ortiz led off the game with a single, which extended his hitting streak to a team-record 19 games.
After a strikeout, Jason Taylor — moved up to the No. 3 hole — blasted a 3-2 pitch from starter Preston Vancil (1-3) over the left-field wall for his team-leading fifth home run to give the Crushers an early 2-0 lead.
“Mazz refers a lot to last year, how we dug ourselves in a bit of a hole the first-third of the season but then turned it around,” said Taylor, who is hitting .309 on the season. “We’ve been playing well on the road all year, so it’s nice to come off a long road trip with a win (at home) in front of a great crowd to keep that momentum going.”
Russell Moldenhauer and Andrew Davis followed with back-to-back singles, and Moldenhauer advanced to third on a fielder’s choice grounder from Kellen Kulbacki. Figueroa plated Moldenhauer with a two-out single up the middle to make it a 3-0 lead.
The Crushers had a near-disaster in the third inning when Figueroa was caught too far off second following a two-out RBI single by Wally Correa, and both Figueroa and Correa were caught in rundowns that, at one point, had both players standing on second. Amazingly, both runners wound up safely back to second and first, respectively, keeping the inning alive.
After Brian Erie walked to load the bases, Ortiz kept his hot streak going with a bases-clearing triple off the wall in left, capping a huge four-run inning which improved the Crushers’ lead to 7-0 through three.
Contact Dan Gilles at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.