AVON — Crushers starter Paul Fagan, pitched a great game Monday night … for the most part.
He just had trouble getting the third out in his first two innings.
As a result, Washington scored two runs in the first and three in the second — all with two outs and nobody on — to give the Wild Things a 5-2 win in front of 2,511 fans at All Pro Freight Stadium.
The loss denied the Crushers (30-35) a sweep of the Wild Things (29-35) and a .500 record on their six-game homestand.
“We’ve got to take a lot of these series from here on out,” Crushers manager John Massarelli said.
“Every time you lose a series, it hurts our chances to get back into this race. So every series is big right now.
“It’s August, it’s the last third of the season. It’s time to win. It’s time to win seven series in a row. It’s up to us to do it.”
Fagan (4-9) went seven innings, retiring 11 in a row and 14 of the final 15 batters he faced. He only walked one and struck out seven.
He didn’t allow a hit from the third inning on and only allowed three runners during that span.
Those first two innings, though, did the damage.
“That’s our ace lefty going up against an All-Star (Justin Hall) on their side,” Massarelli said. “Washington’s got a great pitching staff and Hall’s a great pitcher. You knew that whoever flinches first and doesn’t settle down was going to end up on the losing side.
“Paul didn’t settle down until it was too late, and that’s the difference when you have two great pitchers going.”
Still, Massarelli was pleased with how Fagan righted himself and kept the Crushers in the game.
In the first, Scott Lawson’s two-out single was followed by Luis Rivera’s first-pitch two-run home run — his seventh of the season — to give Washington a 2-0 lead.
“It was a mistake,” Fagan said. “I was trying to go away with it and it just stayed up. I think he got it up in the jet stream a little bit, but he hit it solid. On any other day, it might not have gotten out, but he’s a strong hitter.
“He’s been hitting the ball off me a lot, and I failed to change up my routine against him. I paid the price and my team paid the price.”
Following back-to-back strikeouts, Fagan allowed four consecutive hits which led to three runs. No. 9 hitter Kevyn Feiner and Chris Sidick had back-to-back RBI doubles, followed by an RBI single by Doug Thennis to make it 5-0.
“(Starting with the third), I think I started concentrating a little bit more maybe,” Fagan said. “I felt like I was early on, but I just started relaxing with two outs in the first and second inning. A couple of things didn’t go our way there.
“Sidick placed that (double) perfectly down the left-field line. I thought it was foul, but that’s just how I am. I’ve got to attack, attack, attack and never relax. This game’s never the time to relax.”
The Crushers finally got something going against Hall — who struck out 10 and didn’t walk any in eight innings — in the bottom of the fourth.
Andrew Davis and Kellen Kulbacki led off with back-to-back doubles, and Jason Taylor followed with a single to put runners on the corners with nobody out and the Crushers trailing, 5-1.
Evan Sharpley, however, grounded the first pitch he saw to second for a double play. Kulbacki scored on the play to make it 5-2.
Jodam Rivera followed with a single, but Hall struck out Kyle Shaffer on three pitches to end the threat.
“Sharpley had a good at-bat there,” Massarelli said. “He hit it right on the nose but right at the second baseman. That ball goes in the hole, we’ve got a totally different game. That changes the whole momentum of the inning.
“It could be 5-3 with guys on first and third with still nobody out just by a few feet either side. But that’s baseball. That’s just how the game goes.”
Davis went 2-for-4 and extended his on-base streak to 36 games, which is the longest on-base streak in Frontier League play this season.