AVON — The Joliet Slammers came into their weekend series last in the Frontier League in offense.
That didn’t seem to matter against the Lake Erie Crushers, especially Sunday night.
On the five-year anniversary of the first Crushers’ home game at All Pro Freight Stadium, the Slammers jumped on Crushers starter Matt Rein for five runs in the first two innings, setting the tone for a 9-5 victory in front of 2,119 fans.
The Crushers (6-9) went 3-3 on their six-game homestand, they are 0-3 on Sundays and are 7-17 all-time against the Slammers — 2-11 at The Freight.
Crushers manager Jeff Isom is starting to get frustrated with his pitching staff.
“We’ve got some decisions to make on some guys,” Isom said. “We’ve given these guys the opportunity, and if they’re not going to get the job done during the games, we’re going to have to move on. I’ve told the guys, ‘It’s time to step up, or you’re going to step out.’ The bottom line is you’ve got to get the job done.”
Rein (1-2) came in with a 2.25 ERA and has been one of the Crushers’ most reliable starters this season, but didn’t seem to have it Sunday.
The Slammers put together a two-out rally in the top of the first to score three runs — including a two-run home run to the grassy knoll in left field by David Christensen — and a one-out, two-run double by Grant DeBruin in the second to give Joliet a 5-2 lead.
“As well as Matt Rein’s pitched this season, today just wasn’t his day,” Isom said.
“He’d get ahead of hitters and leave that breaking ball right over the middle of the plate. The majority of his hits allowed were off his breaking ball, which is uncommon for him.
“Unfortunately we turned to our bullpen (and they) just couldn’t stop the bleeding. They keep leaking run after run after run. We’d make a bit of a comeback, but we couldn’t put up enough zeroes to give us a chance.”
The Crushers answered with two runs in the bottom of the first and chipped away with a run in the fourth and two more in the fifth to cut the deficit to 7-5. A two-run single by Anderson Hidalgo was the big hit in the fifth.
In the sixth, the Crushers loaded the bases with one out and the meat of the order coming to bat. A single by Max Casper, two walks and a fielder’s choice chased reliever Jonathan Gonzalez, bringing on Lucas Goodgion to face Russell Moldenhauer and Andrew Davis.
However, Goodgion struck out Moldenhauer looking on a 2-2 pitch and coaxed Davis to pop out to the first baseman in foul territory to snuff out the threat — the last the Crushers mounted.
“Moldenhauer ends up striking out and Davis ends up popping up, and that’s frustrating,” Isom said. “We had battled back in that situation and we felt like we had them on the ropes. We felt like if we can get at least one of those runners across, it’s a brand-new ballgame and who knows what can happen.”
Devyn Rivera, who was activated off the disabled list Saturday, gave the Crushers four quality innings of relief — including 1-2-3 innings in the fifth and sixth — to keep the team in the game. But relievers Doug Shields and Brad Duffy allowed two more runs in the seventh and eighth.
“That was the shining part of today,” Isom said of Rivera. “Once he got through that first inning, I thought he settled down very well. He threw up a couple of 1-2-3 innings and, even though this season is still young, we haven’t had that many 1-2-3 innings. I did like the way he threw. I thought he did a very good job and it was encouraging to see that.”
Moldenhauer and Davis drew back-to-back walks to lead off the bottom of the ninth. But Slammers closer Justin Erasmus came on and slammed the door on the Crushers by coaxing a fly out to center and a double-play grounder to second for his fifth save — his second in the three-game series.
“We swung at some pitches out of the zone today and we’ve got to do a better job of getting pitches in the zone, and when you do get in the zone you stay on them,” Isom said. “We still feel like we’ve got the offensive guys that we need to have success.
It’s just a matter of getting the pieces together to where we’re pitching and hitting
at the same time.”
Michael Wing went 4-for-5 and scored two runs to pace the Slammers’ 16-hit attack.
Wing went 7-for-12 in the three-game series to raise his average to .276.
Davis went 3-for-4, while Hidalgo had three RBIs to pace the Crushers, who are off today before embarking on another six-game road trip. Their next home game will be June 11.
- Pitcher Michael Jahns was placed on the seven-day disabled list to make room for Rivera on the roster.
- The Crushers came into Sunday’s game with the third-highest batting average (.271) in the 14-team Frontier League, but were seventh in the league with a 3.89 ERA.
- The Crushers will go with a five-man rotation the rest of the week, with Trevor Longfellow, Alex Kaminsky, Dave Middendorf, Matt Smith and Rein handling the duties. With the extra day of rest, Smith could be available out of the bullpen during the first two games of the series.
- Former Indians prospect Chuck Lofgren — a fourth-round draft choice in 2004 — is a member of Joliet’s pitching staff. He did not appear in any of the three games.
Contact Dan Gilles at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.