AVON — Matt Rein went out a winner, and had fun doing it.
With the bullpen taxed and a few pitchers unavailable, Lake Erie needed a vintage start from Rein on Sunday.
And, with the help of a first-inning grand slam from Vincent Mejia, that’s just what he gave them.
In what most likely was his final start, Rein pitched six solid innings for his first win of the season, 7-3, over the Frontier Greys in front of 2,282 fans at All Pro Freight Stadium.
It was the fourth straight win for the Crushers (42-32) and gave them their seventh series victory out of eight since the All-Star break. The Greys fell to 25-49.
Crushers manager Chris Mongiardo was not available for comment following the game.
Rein, who has also been the Crushers pitching coach this season, is going back to Longwood University to coach the Farmville, Va. School’s pitchers. He came in off the seven-day DL to start his final game with an 0-5 record and 5.69 ERA.
“The key was just having fun,” Rein said. “I really wasn’t too concerned about the outcome. I told Monge I wanted to give him a win before I got out of here. I kind of had fun with it. I even threw an eephus pitch in the sixth inning that went 52 miles-per-hour.
“It might sound stupid, but just having fun out there was the biggest thing. When that happens, things tend to go your way a little more. Just being able to go out there, knowing it’s your last time, and just letting it go and accepting whatever happens after you throw the ball is out of your control.”
Rein scattered nine hits in six innings, giving up one run and two walks and had three strikeouts. He’ll leave the Crushers with a 5.29 ERA.
But his exit wasn’t without excitement. In his final inning, he loaded the bases on three straight two-out hits. But, he got out of the jam by coaxing a flyout to right by Stephen Rogers to end his day, and his season.
“For now, yeah,” said Rein, when asked if this was it for his season. “If we make the playoffs, I might be coaxed to come back and help out. Call me in September.
“I was at Longwood University as the pitching coach last year, and I’m going to go back there and help out with their pitching again.”
As the Crushers’ coach, Rein knew that going deep in the game would be helpful for his own pitching staff. Mongiardo only had to use three relievers over the final three innings. Brandon Smith, Brad Zambron and Trevor Longfellow combed to allow two runs on three hits with three strikeouts and one walk.
“That was big,” Rein said. “The staff had to work hard (in a 6-5 win Saturday). (Brad) Duffy went down with an injury, and we don’t know how long he’ll be out. It’s days like this where you know you’ll have to throw a few more pitches.”
ejia, who delivered a key two-out single in the ninth inning Saturday which scored Juan Sanchez with the winning run, picked up right where he left off. With one out and the bases loaded after an error, a single and a hit batter, Mejia drilled a 2-0 pitch over the 400-foot sign in dead center for his first grand slam of the season and his team-leading 10th home run.
Mejia wound up going 2-for-3 to raise his average to .308 and reached base in four straight plate appearances.
“It’s the first inning and first at-bat, so I went up there with a clear mind and as patient as can be,” Mejia said. “I put the bat on the ball and the rest took off itself.’
Sanchez, the Crushers’ leadoff hitter Sunday, went 4-for-5 with four runs scored. He actually got on base in all five at-bats, as he reached in the first on a fielding error by third baseman Rogers.
Mejia and Sanchez were two of four Crushers with multiple hits. Trevor Stevens, who followed Sanchez with a single in the first inning, went 2-for-3 with an RBI to raise his average to .306, while Anderson Hidalgo went 2-for-4 with two of his team-best 47 RBIs.
Hidalgo drove in runs in the sixth and eighth on singles, while Stevens drove in Sanchez, who led off the fourth with a double, on a sacrifice fly to right that same inning.
“With Matt coming out and pitching his last game, we wanted to come out with a ‘W’ for him,” Mejia said.
The Crushers made a flurry of roster moves the last few days.
First, they signed rookie left-hander Andy Roberts on Wednesday, and he started that night’s game. On Friday, they activated pitcher Connor Whelan off the disabled list and placed reliever Brant Masters on the DL. On Saturday, they released Masters off the DL and he was then promptly signed by the Rockford Aviators. Prior to Sunday’s game, Rein was activated off the DL and Todd Kibby — who started Saturday night’s game — was placed on the seven-day DL
Left-hander Jason Salers, a former Phillies farmhand, is expected to sign with the team today to take Rein’s spot on the roster
Contact Dan Gilles at 329-7135 or email@example.com.