Tribune Chronicle correspondent
NILES - Sporting a 12-game losing streak, many would have given the Mahoning Valley Scrappers as much of a chance to win as the the chance of rain at the scheduled start time (zero to 20 percent, depending on the source).
However, the 2,025 fans in attendance saw the odds defeated twice Monday night as Mahoning Valley ended the longest losing streak in franchise history with a 6-2 win over the Vermont Lake Monsters after a 48-minute rain delay.
Tribune Chronicle / Michael Taylor
Mahoning Valley catcher Martin Cervenka, left, catches the ball and prepares to tag out Vermont’s Jaycob Brugman on an attempted squeeze play in the third inning. The Scrappers won, 6-2, snapping their 12-game losing streak.
Pitcher Cole Sulser made his first start since June 26, allowing no runs on four hits. Sulser worked out of multiple jams, leaving runners in scoring position in three of the four innings he pitched. The most notable of these occurrences came in the fourth inning.
The Lake Monsters led off the inning with a double by designated hitter Jaycob Brugman and a single by catcher Ryan Gorton. With no outs and runners on first and third, shortstop Wilfredo Solano attempted a sacrifice bunt. Sulser was quick off the mound and threw out Brugman trying to score from third. Sulser then struck out Luis Baez, one of his four strikeouts in the game, and retired Melvin Mercedes to end the inning.
"They got ahead in that inning," Sulser said. "They got two runners on with no outs, had a guy on third. I was just trying to bear down and minimize as much as possible. The goal is always to get out of there with no runs scored. I was just trying to make sure that didn't turn into a big inning to continue to give our guys a chance to win."
The Scrappers were able to capitalize on the Lake Monsters' struggles to get out of innings, scoring five of their six runs with two outs.
The biggest of those two-out runs came off the bat of Robel Garcia who replaced Claudio Bautista at second base in the top of the eighth inning. Garcia made his only plate appearance of he game in the bottom of the eighth. With two outs and a runner on second, Garcia did his best Yoenis Cespedes impression, blasting a two-run home run into the Scrappers bullpen. The homer marked the first time since July 4 and only the fifth time all season the Scrappers scored more than five runs.
The five-bat sacrifice the Scrappers peformed in the parking lot before Sunday's game seemingly paid off for the struggling offense. Seven different players contributed to the team's ten total hits.
"Our hitters, I think, did a great job today," Sulser said. "They were able to consistently put up runs through several innings and that's just a huge help to the pitching staff. It takes a huge weight off our shoulders when we feel like even if we make a mistake our hitters are going to go up there and score some runs for us. The hitters did a fantastic job and it felt great."
The Scrappers have an off-day tonight before starting a six-game road trip and didn't want to go on the road with the losing streak looming.
"We had to get that win out of the way (so) we could leave positive minded going away," said Scrappers first baseman Nellie Rodriguez who had two hits and an RBI.
"It feels exciting, finally getting a win and just getting that losing streak out of the way. We just kept battling and grinding the games out. We knew we were gonna get this win and hopefully get a winning streak going."