Saturday, due to a high pitch count, Rein needed a little help from relievers Connor Whelan and Dale Dickerson, but they combined to hold the East Division-leading Traverse City Beach Bums to one hit en route to a 7-3 win in front of 2,103 fans at All Pro Freight Stadium.
The Crushers (36-30) cut the Beach Bums’ (40-27) lead to 3 1⁄2 games and are just one-half game behind Florence (37-30) for the fourth and final playoff spot.
They’ve won seven of their last 10 games and improved to 3-0 on the homestand.
“I thought we played one of our better games of the year, especially early on,” Crushers manager Jeff Isom said. “We got an outstanding pitching performance from Matt Rein, and we took advantage of a couple of mistakes to get on the scoreboard early and we continued to add on.
“It was a well-played game on our part. I was very happy with that. It was a great effort by (Rein). He went out and did an outstanding job, especially throwing the change-up and breaking ball for strikes.”
Rein threw 116 pitches in seven innings, but struck out nine, walked two and hit two more. The only hit he – and his team – allowed was a leadoff solo home run to Chase Burch in the top of the second that gave the Beach Bums a 1-0 lead.
“Before this year, I had never even thrown one one-hitter, so to do it twice in one season is awesome,” Rein said. “Unfortunately, this one wasn’t a complete game like the first one, but I’m obviously happy about it.
“You always want to take the first one. Your goal is to win every series, and when you take the first one, your odds of doing that go up. This is a big series. We know they’re in first place and they’re a good team, too. When you play good teams, you want to do well because that team will put a hurting on you if you don’t.”
Burch’s 11th homer of the season and 50th RBI was the only real offense Traverse City could muster against Rein. He ended the second and third with back-to-back strikeouts and came back with a clutch strikeout in the fifth after allowing back-to-back two-out walks.
Combined with Whelan and Dickerson, the total pitching line was 10 strikeouts, one hit, two earned runs, four walks and two hit batters. Two leadoff walks and a two-out error allowed the Bums to score twice off Dickerson in the ninth.
Shortstop Juan Sanchez, known more for his defense than his offense, erupted for a 4-for-4 night with two runs and an RBI to lead the Crushers’ offense. It improved his average to .221.
“Sanchez going 4-for-4 was an outstanding performance,” Isom said. “It is a bonus. We brought him on to play shortstop and save runs for us with his glove, which he does on a nightly basis. I call that a defensive RBI — saving runs. Tonight, he ends up getting the bat going, so hopefully he can continue with that.”
The Crushers tied the game in the third with a two-out RBI single by Seth Granger, who missed the previous two games with back spasms, and then took advantage of two huge errors by the Bums to erupt for three more in the fourth to take the lead.
No. 9 hitter Max Casper had two RBIs thanks to a safety squeeze bunt in the fourth and an RBI double to highlight another three-run inning in the sixth. The Crushers sent nine men to the plate in the sixth, scoring three on four hits and leaving the bases loaded.
“We’ve been having a lot of conversation with our club about two-out hitting,” Isom said. “Teams got to separate themselves, and if you can get those clutch two-out hits, that’s tough on pitchers. You’re so close to getting out of an inning, but next thing you know, you’re giving up a run here and a run there. We did a nice job of that tonight.
“In particular, it was a big night for the bottom of our order. Anytime you can get four RBIs and five hits from your bottom three guys, chances are it’s going to be a big night for your ballclub.”
Contact Dan Gilles at 329-7135 or email@example.com.