AVON — Get ready for yet another pennant race, Crushers fans.
While Monday’s game wasn’t without its drama after starter Alex Kaminsky struggled and then had to leave the game in the fifth inning after taking a line drive off his leg, the Crushers still managed to pull out a 4-3 win and complete a three-game sweep of the Frontier League East Division-leading Traverse City Beach Bums at All Pro Freight Stadium.
Crushers closer Dale Dickerson retired the side in order in the ninth inning to seal the win and earn his 11th save.
Sunday’s hero Seth Granger did it again, driving in the winning run on a ground-rule double in the bottom of the seventh as the Crushers finished off a 5-0 homestand, while improving to 38-30.
They also moved to within 1½ games of the Beach Bums in the division race. The Crushers still trail Southern Illinois by a half-game for the final wild-card spot.
Despite all those positive, Crushers manager Jeff Isom isn’t ready to start scoreboard watching just yet.
“If we take care of our business, we shouldn’t have to worry about who’s ahead of us or who’s behind us,” he said. “It’s under 30 games now in the regular season, but if we take care of our business, at the end, it will work out for us. We’re just trying to win ballgames. We’re playing some pretty good baseball, and our goal is to win each series we play.”
Dickerson has had a rough go of it the last few outings, giving up at least one earned run in each of his last four appearances before Monday, raising his ERA from 3.51 to 4.15. Two nights ago, against the same Beach Bums, Dickerson was touched up for two runs — one earned — in the ninth.
However, vindication was sweet for both Dickerson and the Crushers on Monday night.
Facing the top of the order, Dickerson retired Ryan Still on a flyout to left, Scott Woodward on a foul pop by the home dugout and Zach Kometani on a groundout to first. He used an economical 15 pitches, nine for strikes.
“It’s big in everybody’s confidence, not just Dale’s,” Isom said. “I didn’t give up on him. I continued to tell you guys that we’ll send him right back out there. He made a few mechanical changes, working with (pitching coach) Chris Mongiardo on a couple of things. To Dickerson’s credit, he went out and worked his tail off to correct what needed to be fixed, and it showed.”
The ex-Indians farmhand said he hasn’t let emotions get the better of him this season.
“It was good to bounce back tonight,” he said. “I struggled a bit in my last two save opportunities, but sometimes, that happens. Things can go up and down but I stayed even keeled throughout. Getting this sweep gives us some big momentum that we’ll take into the next series. We’re ready to go into Florence and take it to them, one pitch at a time.”
The save made a winner out of rookie reliever Brandon Smith (1-0), who has not allowed a run in four appearances, totaling eight innings.
“My last appearance was after Kaminsky started and I got my first professional save, and today, Kaminsky started again and I got my first professional win,” Smith said. “I just try to go out there and go right after guys, throw a lot of strikes and put up zeros.”
Kaminsky was carted off the field after his injury but appeared to be fine. Isom did not have a definite update, but believes he’ll be able to take his next turn.
Kaminsky scattered six hits and three runs in 4⅓ innings, walking four and striking out four. He balked in his first run and was charged with the tie-breaking run after taking the liner to the leg.
But the Crushers answered, first with a bases-loaded, one-out RBI groundout by Andrew Davis in the fifth to tie the game at 3.
Then, in the seventh, following a one-out walk to Craig Hertler, Granger capped off a 3-for-3 night with his ground-rule double down the left-field line. Hertler swcored three of the Crushers’ four runs.
“Granger continues to swing a hot bat for us,” Isom said. “Our guys have been coming out of the chutes ready to play. The top of our lineup really set the tone for us. … We’ve got a good lineup and we’re starting to get key guys coming through in clutch situations.”
Left-fielder Kevin Berard made a big play in the second, making a leaping catch at the wall to take away a home run from Andrew Heck.
Contact Dan Gilles at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
WHO: Lake Erie vs. Florence
WHEN: Wednesday, 5 p.m.
WHERE: UCMC Stadium, Florence, Ky.