Despite Silva’s pitching, Cutters can’t score any runs in loss

DAVE KENNEDY/Sun-Gazette Correspondent The Crosscutters’ Manuel Silva delivers a pitch in the first inning against Mahoning Valley at Bowman Field on Wednesday.

Manuel Silva had spent the previous four innings working out of jams Wednesday night. But at the end of each of those four innings, the Williamsport Crosscutters’ left-handed pitcher walked off the field with a zero on the scoreboard.

In the fifth inning, he finally struggled to find his balance on the tight-rope he was walking. The 19-year-old allowed two runs, one of which scored after he left the game, as Williamsport dropped the opener of a three-game series to Mahoning Valley, 2-0, at Bowman Field.

Three Scrappers pitchers combined on a four-hit shutout. It was Mahoning Valley’s third shutout this season.

Although the numbers of Silva’s start may not be pretty, it was one of his better outings of the season in the eyes of Cutters manager Pat Borders. He showed a level of maturity to battle with runners on base in each of the five innings he pitched.

“He ended up giving up two runs, but it was boom, boom and one was a little flare,” Borders said. “He’s matured a lot. He’s growing up.”

Silva stranded three runners on base in the first inning after a pair of walks loaded the bases. After a visit from pitching coach Hector Berrios, he struck out Henry Pujols to end the inning. He struck out two more in the second stranding a one-out baserunner. He left a runner on third in the third inning with the fifth of his six strikeouts. And a routine ground ball left runners at the corners in the fourth inning.

“I’ve seen him the last couple years and his velocity the first time I saw him was not good. This spring when I saw him again I thought this was a big improvement,” Borders said. “Over the course of the next two or three years, his velocity is going to keep going up because he’s thin and he’s not going to do anything but mature.”

On other nights, Silva’s effort probably would have been good enough to give Williamsport a win as it continues its march back toward the .500 mark (22-29). But the Cutters offense ran into three unique Scrappers arms who each pitched three innings and provided a different look with each change.

Starting pitcher Shane McCarthy, an 18th-round pick out of Seton Hall, has yet to allow a run in either of his two appearances for the Scrappers. Last night he allowed just one hit — a Jesus Henriquez bloop single — and struck out a pair in his three innings.

From there Mahoning Valley turned to side-arming left-hander Randy Valladares and his sub-2.00 ERA. He struck out four in three innings, allowing just a Rafael Marchan single up the middle before he picked Marchan off first base.

Hard-throwing right-hander Luis Santos then closed out the game for Mahoning Valley. He allowed a trio of baserunners but stranded Ben Pelletier at third base in the seventh inning, and left two more on base in the eighth inning before pitching a clean ninth-inning for the save.

“That lefty who threw sidearm, if you haven’t seen that before, it’s difficult,” Borders said. “The last guy changed speed well. He looks like he belongs at a higher level because he had three effective pitches. The first guy only went three innings, but it looked like he had a little jump on his fastball and he controlled his breaking ball.”

The Scrappers faced just four batters over the minimum, and what made facing the three pitchers so difficult for the Cutters were that so few of them faced either pitcher multiple times. McCarthy faced a batter multiple times just once. Valladares faced only nine hitters. And even though Santos faced three batters two times, all three made outs in the ninth inning.

Williamsport finished the night just 0 for 3 with runners in scoring position. It’s best chance to break through came with Pelletier’s one-out double in the bottom of the seventh, but he was stranded at third base.

“The guys fought hard,” Borders said. “It’s like facing a big league bullpen. You have to get used to it. They don’t have anything to draw from, so they’re still filling their database. So there’s not a whole lot you can say to them until they go up there and see it. They didn’t give away at-bats. I was content with the effort.”

Robinson Martinez and Jose Jimenez held the Scrappers at bay over the final 4 2/3 innings to give the Cutters offense an opportunity to get back into the game. Martinez utilized a firm, well-placed fastball to carve up Mahoning Valley with four strikeouts over 2 1/3 innings.

Jimenez allowed just one hit and struck out a pair in his 2 1/3 innings. His strikeout of Angel Perez in the top of the seventh inning stranded a pair of runners on base.