NILES - For the second night in a row, the Mahoning Valley bullpen blew a solid lead against the Connecticut Tigers. This time, Tyler Naquin couldn't bail them out.
Naquin stepped up to bat in the bottom of the ninth with two outs and the tying runner in scoring position, but the center fielder went down swinging to end the game.
Relief pitchers allowed five runs in the final three innings in the Scrappers' 5-4 loss to Connecticut Monday night.
"Look at the seventh, eighth and ninth inning, which I preach to these guys," manager Ted Kubiak said. "Five runs ... just a tough loss, that's all."
Things started to go downhill for the Scrappers (12-10) in the seventh after starter Jake Sisco was pulled.
First, Jordan Dean hit an RBI single in the top of the seventh, followed by a controversial call that gave him a stolen base. Then, home plate umpire Ben Levine threw out pitching coach Greg Hibbard after the call, and the pitching seemed to leave with him.
The bullpen entered the eighth with a three-run lead, but the Tigers blasted three doubles off of Robbie Aviles. Just like that, the comfortable lead had disappeared.
Tyler Hanover batted in the game-winning run with a RBI single to center in the top of the ninth, finishing the collapse by the relief pitchers.
"There's not much you can say," Kubiak said. "We didn't stop them, that's it."
Sisco started the Scrappers off on the right foot. He struck out the side in the top of the first, with the first two going down looking.
He pitched six scoreless innings and allowed only four hits on 80 pitches.
"I felt pretty good," Sisco said. "I moved over to the opposite side of the rubber today. That's something I worked on my last bullpen. I felt like I had a better angle from the other side of the rubber. I felt like my pitches were working pretty good today."
Mahoning Valley's offense surged in the bottom of the second. After back-to-back RBI singles by Robel Garcia and Jario Kelly, Naquin's bases-clearing triple with two outs capped a four-run inning for the Scrappers off Connecticut starting pitcher Charlie Gillies.
The Scrappers offense died after that inning, which hurt the team late in the game.
"Any pitcher, when he's on the mound, they want to have a lead," Sisco said. "Pitching with a lead is probably the best thing you can feel up there because you feel confident."
Although the recent problems of the bullpen, Sisco said the team will start to pull late it together late in games.
"We went out there, we fought, we did what we had to do and sometimes you win some, you lose some," he said. "We're going to keep fighting till the end, and we're going to start pulling them out at the end."
The Scrappers return to action Wednesday at Lowell. The game starts at 7:05 p.m.