Mitch Gueller was aggressive in the zone, spotting his fastball to the first three hitters he faced Saturday night at Bowman Field. The Williamsport right-hander seemed to be executing his plan.
Despite the good execution, he was in trouble three batters into the game. Three straight hits and Jamestown, in the thick of a playoff race, was already ahead 1-0 and still threatening.
Crosscutters manager Nelson Prada said he saw a change in the former supplemental first-round draft pick after those three batters. In his final start of the season, Gueller surrendered three runs in the first inning last night, and two more in the fourth.
It was another troublesome outing which led to the Jammers' 8-6 win over Williamsport, and one which best exemplified the struggles Gueller has faced in his first full season of professional baseball. Williamsport lost a Gueller start for the eighth time in his last nine outings.
Jamestown remained one game ahead of Lowell in the New York-Penn League Wild Card standings with the win and the Spinners' win over Tri-City. The Jammers' elimination number in the Pinckney Division race fell to one as they're four games behind State College with four to play.
The trouble from Gueller during his 14th start of the season wasn't new. He allowed at least four runs for the sixth time as he began to nibble around the plate following the three first-inning hits.
"I think sometimes he has problems where he doesn't let the ball go," Prada said. "We talked about how sometimes he's 85-88 and sometimes he's 88-92. Those two or three miles per hour make a big difference. Today I think he was aggressive for the first three hitters and they got hits and he tried to pitch away. I think he needs to pitch sometimes with a little urgency."
Much like his previous start, when three of his four innings were very good, Friday night was the same. He worked around a one-out walk in the second, retired the side in order in the third and worked around a leadoff single in the fifth. In those three innings he didn't throw more than 12 pitches.
But it was the two run-scoring innings in which Gueller's struggles were exasperated. He threw first-pitch strikes to just two of seven batters in the first inning, walking one batter and hitting another after the three hits. His saving grace was center fielder Herlis Rodriguez throwing a seed to the plate to cur down the speedy Harold Ramirez trying to score on Adam Frazier's single.
He gave up three consecutive hits to start the fourth inning as well, the last of which was a two-run double to left-center field from catcher Andrew Dennis. Gueller settled in after those hits getting a weak ground out, a line out and a can-of-corn fly ball to center to end the inning.
The five runs were enough to constantly have the Williamsport offense trying to climb its way out of a hole. The Cutters brought the tying run to the plate in both the eighth and ninth innings, but couldn't push it across.
"It's better to stay aggressive," Prada said of Gueller. "He started pitching around people. Not every hit ball is going to find a hole."
Williamsport's offense answered nearly every score from Jamestown, scoring a pair in the fourth after the Jammers put up a two-spot, and scoring three more after Jamestown did the same in the eighth.
Logan Pierce drove in three runs in a 2 for 4 night which included a sacrifice fly and his fifth home run of the season, a towering two-run shot in the eighth inning. Pierce's 29 RBIs this year are third on the team behind only Zach Green and Dylan Cozens.
The three-run rally in the eighth inning helped close the gap on an 8-3 Cutters deficit. Pierce's home run came with nobody out, and the Cutters were still able to rally for another run after a pair of walks and a two-out RBI single from Rodriguez.
Standing in the box as the tying run in the eighth, Cozens grounded out. Andrew Knapp hit into a double play as the potential tying run in the ninth. And after a Pierce single, Samuel Hiciano drove a ball to the warning track in left field as the potential tying run, which was caught to end the game.
"Unfortunately, we didn't score in that first inning. The guys bounced back and had good at-bats," Prada said. "We were just short a couple hits and a couple ground balls. If we score six runs, we should be able to win the game. But the guys battled the whole game to try and win. That's what we expect."
Williamsport closes out its home schedule for the season today at 5:05 p.m. against Jamestown.