It's not that the Williamsport Crosscutters hadn't seen a pitcher with stuff as good as Tri-City's Troy Scribner. But how Scribner pitched to the Cutters was a little different.
The ValleyCats' right-handed pitcher pitched backwards for a good bit of his six-inning start Saturday night at Bowman Field. He utilized a good breaking ball and a better change-up in fastball counts, keeping the Cutters off balance.
Scribner allowed just one hit in six innings and the ValleyCats recorded 17 hits of their own in a 9-5 win over Williamsport. The Crosscutters lost their second consecutive game after having a five-game winning streak. Tri-City, the only team above .500 in the Stedler Division, improved to 8-3 in its last 11 games.
"Offensively we just couldn't get things going," Cutters center fielder Aaron Brown said. "We couldn't get the momentum on our side and that was it. We had a late go at it which was nice to see, but offensively things just didn't go our way."
Williamsport can blame Scribner for that. The New York-Penn League leader in strikeouts recorded seven more in his six innings, four of which came in his first trip through the Crosscutter lineup.
Scribner also lowered his ERA to 1.24, which is second-best on the team to Jordan Mills, who has yet to give up an earned run in eight appearances.
"He pitched. He did a good job of throwing things for strikes and pitching backwards, too," Williamsport manager Shawn Williams said. "We're not used to seeing that in this league because usually he'll get behind and you'll see a fastball. He went slider or curveball and was using it all. When you're able to do that, especially here, he'll have a lot of success."
Scribner is a 23-year old non-drafted free agent signing out of Sacred Heart in 2013. He appeared in three games for Class AA Corpus Christi, picking up two wins and posting a 2.70 ERA before being sent back to Tri-City for the second time in as many years.
He allowed just one baserunner the first time through the order as the ValleyCats offense spotted him a 5-0 lead. That baserunner came on a walk to catcher Wilson Garcia to lead off the third. Scribner allowed three walks in his six innings, but the only hit he allowed was a two-out single to Cord Sandberg in the third inning.
"Honestly, I thought we were swinging it pretty well. We hit some balls right at guys," said Brown, who hit his second home run of the year over the scoreboard in right-center field in the eighth inning. "We do a pretty good job of taking it one pitch at a time."
Tri-City's offense took advantage of some mistakes by Cutters starter Alejandro Arteaga who allowed five runs, all earned in just three innings of work. Arteaga recorded to quick outs to start the first inning, but then allowed a solo home run to J.D. Davis, a double to A.J. Reed, and an RBI single to Nick Tanielu before getting out of the inning.
He allowed another run in the second on a RBI single from nine-hole hitter Alfredo Gonzalez, and two more in the third on an RBI double from Reed and another RBI single from Tanielu. It followed a pattern this year for Arteaga which has seen the 20-year old Venezuelan post a 7.00 ERA in the first three innings, but just a 2.30 ERA in the other innings.
Four of the nine hits Arteaga allowed last night came in two-strike counts. In fact, of the 17 hits Tri-City recorded, nine came in two-strike counts and five of those hits drove in runs.
"We were just leaving some pitches up with two strikes," Williams said. "We were leaving pitches up that they didn't miss. I don't know if it's a killer, but nine of them? You don't want to see that."
Williamsport got back in the game with a four-run bottom of the seventh which included a bizarre dropped third strike play which resulted in the ejection of Tri-City manager Ed Romero. It appeared on the play that Cord Sandberg knocked the ball out of Gonzalez's catcher's mitt with his backswing after swinging through a two-strike pitch.
Sandberg broke for first on the play and Gonzalez's throw to first hit Sandberg in the back allowing two runs to score. Romero argued it shouldn't have been a dropped third strike because it was knocked out of the glove by the backswing. After plate umpire Tyler Olson conferred with base umpire Christopher Stump, they ruled the play would stand.
Romero continued to argue and was ejected as he turned to walk away from Olson. The four-run inning cut the Cutters' deficit to 6-4, but Williamsport reliever Jesen Therrien allowed three runs in the top of the eighth as Tri-City pushed the lead back to five runs.
"Bringing it back within two runs, that's big," Brown said. "We can score that many runs in any given inning and we've shown that. Tonight we showed that even if we're down six runs, we can come back from that."