AVON — The winning mojo the Lake Erie Crushers displayed over the past two weeks has seemingly disappeared.
Fresh off getting swept in three games at Normal, the Crushers continued their slide Friday at All Pro Freight Stadium with a 5-1 loss against the team with the best record in the Frontier League — the Schaumburg Boomers.
Boomers starter Seth Webster (5-1), a side-winding right-hander, held the Crushers (50-35) to just two hits and one run over nine innings.
With Traverse City’s 1-0 win over Normal, the Crushers’ lead in the East Division fell to two games. They are also two games behind Schaumburg for the top seed in the Frontier League, having lost four straight games after winning a franchise-record 11 straight.
“The good thing is that our destiny’s in our own hands,” Crushers manager Jeff Isom said. “We don’t have to worry about what else is going on — it’s right here for us. If we want this, we’ve got to take advantage of it and take it for ourselves.
We’re two games up with 11 left — if we take care of our own business, we don’t have to worry about that other stuff. What more can you ask for?”
Maybe a little offense? There was precious little to be found for the Crushers against Webster. A two-out bunt single by Juan Sanchez in the second and a solo, two-out home run by Russell Moldenhauer in the seventh proved to be the only mistakes by Webster, who threw an economical 103 pitches, 72 for strikes.
“We couldn’t figure him out,” Isom said. “We got a bunt single and a home run and we didn’t do anything else in between. We faced a pretty good one, but if we’re going to be a playoff team, we’ve got to beat good pitching. We didn’t have an answer for (Webster) today.
“He had good sink on his fastball and good deception on his delivery, and he located three pitches for strikes. He kept us off balance all night.”
Moldenhauer’s homer, a deep shot to the kids’ play area on a 2-1 pitch, continued a hot streak for the second-year Crusher. The blast was his 13th of the season, which is the second-most on the team, and was his third in his last three games.
While the Crushers couldn’t seem to get untracked offensively, starter Mickey Jannis (7-1) had his first truly poor outing since he rejoined the team.
Jannis allowed four runs on seven hits in 5⅓ innings, allowing two walks and striking out only one. His ERA went from 1.49 to 1.92.
“All four of those runs came with two outs,” Isom said. “That was the big key. When we were having success on the pitching side of it, we weren’t giving up those two-out hits. Schaumburg’s going to find a way to put the ball in play, so you’ve got to make quality pitches on strike one, strike two and strike three. If you elevate, they’ll find a way to put it in play.
“A couple of those were broken-bat singles that ended up scoring runs. We’ve got to find a way to put guys away, especially with two outs. We’ve had a lot of conversations this year about us scoring with two outs and how that’s been a backbreaker. Well, today, the backbreaker was Schaumburg’s ability to score with two outs.”
Jannis allowed a two-out RBI single in the first to Brian McConkey, a two-out RBI single in the fourth by Justin Vasquez and put two runners on with one out in the fifth. Brad Duffy then came in and promptly allowed a two-out, two-run single to Ty Lawson to put Schaumburg ahead, 4-0.
“Wins are tough to come by, especially late,” Isom said. “I wouldn’t say we took for granted that nice 11-game win streak we just had because we had to battle our butts off to get that streak. But now, all of a sudden, teams are going to sneak up on you.
“You now have a bull’s-eye on your chest and on your back and teams are going to come after you. We’ve just got to play better baseball, there’s no question. The good thing is, it’s in our hands.”
Contact Dan Gilles at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
WHO: Lake Erie vs. Schaumberg
WHERE: All Pro Freight Stadium, Avon