Williamsport hitters were having a difficult enough time stringing hits together Saturday night before Harold Guerrero ever stepped on the mound at Bowman Field. The Mahoning Valley left-handed made it an even more difficult night.
Guerrero diffused the Crosscutters' comeback hopes in the seventh inning and then struck out four batters in the eighth inning as the Scrappers snapped Williamsport's five-game winning streak with a 6-2 win. Guerrero struck out all five batters he faced in 1 1/3 innings harnessing the effectively wild cliche which has followed baseball for decades.
The hard-throwing southpaw with a mid-90s fastball threw at least two balls to all five batters he faced, often wild high with pitches near the head. He threw just one first-pitch strike, but painted the corners late in at-bats.
"That's what they're going to see in their careers. The higher they go, the more lefties that throw 95 they're going to see," Crosscutters manager Nelson Prada said. "(Guerrero) was a little scary to face."
He definitely made the heart of Williamsport's lineup look uncomfortable when he was brought in with runners at the corners and two outs in the seventh inning. The Crosscutters had already scored two runs in the inning to cut their deficit to 5-2.
After throwing two pitches up around left-handed hitter Justin Parr's head, Guerrero, a 23-year old Dominican, threw three consecutive strikes for his first of five consecutive strikeouts to end the seventh inning. That seventh inning was the only time last night the Cutters had multiple hits in an inning.
Guerrero got left-handed hitting Andrew Pullin and Dylan Cozens swinging to start the eighth, and also struck out Zach Green swinging, but Green reached on a wild pitch. Guerrero then struck out Andrew Knapp swinging to end the eighth. Williamsport hitters struck out seven times over the final three innings.
"It's not easy facing pitchers when they show you a couple wild pitches at 95 and 96 and then they come back and throw strikes," Prada said. "And then he never showed that slider until the last pitch. It's got a big break and sometimes you have to try and cheat to get to the fastball and he's coming slider and it's tough."
Mahoning Valley jumped out to a 5-0 lead before Williamsport's offense finally woke up in the seventh. The Scrappers scored a pair of unearned runs in the third inning thanks to a two-out error by Green at third base. A hot shot line drive went through Green's legs as it looked like he was waiting for a short hop, but the ball never hopped.
The error allowed Tyler Booth to score, and Nellie Rodriguez (2 for 5, 2 RBIs) doubled on the next pitch to score Juan Herrera. Rodriguez's double was one of nine times last night the Scrappers put the ball in play on the first pitch against Cutters starter Josh Warner. Mahoning Valley was 4 for 8 with a sacrifice bunt when putting the first pitch in play. Warner also hit a batter with a first pitch, one of the four batters he hit with a pitch last night.
"It was not the best day for him," Prada said of Warner. "He pitched behind with aggressive hitters and aggressive fastball hitters. They like to swing first pitch a lot and they got him."
The outing wasn't all that bad for Warner, who is 1-2 in three starts this year. He went five innings, allowing seven hits, just one earned run, striking out two. He struggled to locate his curveball, maybe his best pitch, hitting two batters with it.
"He's done better the last couple games, but (Saturday) he struggled," Prada said. "He's going to throw around the plate and they're going to make more contact with him than with an overpowering pitcher. But he has a good change-up and a good curveball and he has to survive with that."
Lee Ridenhour allowed two runs in the sixth inning on a pair of two-out RBI singles, one for Rodriguez and one for James Roberts, to push the Mahoning Valley lead to 5-0.
Williamsport got back into the game in the bottom of the seventh after Knapp singled with one out and Gabriel Lino reached on an error to put runners at the corners. Knapp scored on a wild pitch on ball four to Logan Pierce, and after a strikeout Samuel Hiciano floated a single to center field to score Lino. But that was when Guerrero entered and shut the door for the Scrappers.
Last night was the first time in six games the Cutters failed to score at least five runs.
"When I came in (the clubhouse), guys had their head down, and I said we're not going to win every game," Prada said. "But if we keep this pace where we win five and lose one, we're going to be pretty good."