Mickey Morandini clearly didn't put his 'A' lineup on the field against Mahoning Valley on Sunday at Bowman Field. The first-year Williamsport manager certainly got an 'A' lineup performance, though.
With four regular bench players in the starting lineup, the Crosscutters pounded out 12 hits, scored six runs and executed some small ball to beat the Scrappers, 6-2, in front of more than 2,700 fans. Combined with Colin Kleven's second consecutive strong start, the Cutters snapped a three-game losing streak.
"Yeah, this wasn't the 'A' lineup, but it just shows how deep we are as a team," first baseman Brock Stassi said after going 1 for 3 with an RBI. "Some of these guys might be able to start in different organizations, but we're all here and we're trying to come together as a team. I think (Sunday) was a really good team win."
What Morandini got from this lineup - which also featured Witer Jimenez in right field, Luis Unda in left field and Kenny Miramontes at shortstop - was an energetic performance. The four bench players combined for five hits and two runs scored.
Although Miramontes didn't get credit for any runs batted in, he helped set up two runs with two perfectly executed hit-and-run plays with catcher Francisco Diaz. For a team that has struggled to string hits together, it was the perfect way to interject some life into the offense.
With a 3-2 lead in the fourth inning, Miramontes slapped the ball through the right side with Diaz running. Four pitches later, Kyrell Hudson singled to right field to score Diaz.
Leading 5-2 in the eighth, the two executed another hit-and-run and Aaron Altherr, pinch hitting for Hudson, lifted a sacrifice fly to left field to extend the Cutters' lead.
"That was a real good job by K.J. to put the bat on the ball and strike it the other way," Morandini said. "When you're struggling to score runs, you have to find a way to make it happen. Luckily for us we were able to do that."
"We're not a team that's going to hit the ball out of the yard every night," Stassi said. "In order to win games, we're going to have to do the little things - bunt guys over, hit-and-run, those types of things. Kenny executed the hit-and-run perfectly and I'm sure you're going to see more of that out of us as the year goes on."
Those runs were tacked on to the lead the Cutters gained after a three-run first inning. And after Kleven gave up a pair of runs in the top of the first inning, it was three huge runs Williamsport scored in the first. It was the fourth time in five games against Mahoning Valley that the Scrappers took a first-inning lead.
So when Stassi hit a Baltimore chop RBI single to right to score a run, it was the start of a big first inning. Harold Martinez followed, two batters later, with an RBI single to left on a 3-0 pitch, and Cody Asche hammered a first-pitch RBI single to right field to give Williamsport a 3-2 lead.
"I think that got the momentum back on our side," Morandini said. "We had good at-bats that inning. I thought we were aggressive with fastballs early in the count."
From that point on, Kleven was dialed in. He retired the side in order in the second inning and got a big double play ball in the sixth for a three-up, three-down inning. In between, he allowed a baserunner to reach second base in the third, two runners to reach in the fourth and two more in the fifth. But never once did he seem to lose control of the game.
Kleven threw 53 of his 92 pitches (58 percent) for strikes. He struck out five and allowed five hits. It was the second consecutive start in which Kleven pitched six innings and allowed two runs or less.
"I think he was a little amped up to start the game. But once he started to hit his spots and find his release point, he settled down and threw a gem," Stassi said. "That first inning was just a hiccup."
"He did a nice job of holding runners on. He held on to the ball and mixed it up," Morandini said. "He didn't give up multiple hits. He gave up a hit here and there, but after that first inning I thought he was in control."