AVON — With veteran Andrew Davis set to be activated off the disabled list, Crushers manager Chris Mongiardo was having a tough time figuring out which player he should release to make room.
Thursday’s starting pitcher Roberto Padilla made that decision a bit easier.
Padilla, in what would turn out to be his last start as a Lake Erie Crusher, gave up four runs in the first inning — all after retiring the first two hitters — to put his team in a huge hole for the second-straight night.
The Crushers’ offense fought back to cut the deficit to three in the ninth inning, but it wasn’t enough to salvage a .500 record on their worst homestand of the short season. The Crushers ended the six-game homestand with an 8-5 loss to the Normal CornBelters in front of 2,560 fans at All Pro Freight Stadium.
Lake Erie (13-11, 10-6 at The Freight) went 2-4 on the homestand, including back-to-back losses to the seventh-place team in the West Division, the 9-14 CornBelters.
Mongiardo, who announced Padilla’s release following Thursday night’s game while officially activating Davis, tried to take the high road when discussing Padilla’s performance, but couldn’t do it.
“We got two quick outs in that first inning, and the next thing you know, we’re down 4-0,” Mongiardo said. “We’re just not setting the tone with our starters early on. He was nibbling around a little bit … I’ve got nothing for you right now.
“You want the truth? Padilla’s (bleeping) terrible. He just didn’t get anybody out. You saw the game. He was nibbling around, and when you start nibbling around, it will cost you. I’ve never seen too many rallies get started on five ringing doubles in a row. It’s usually 0-2, back to 2-2, to nibbling, with him.”
Padilla (1-4, 6.84 ERA) gave up a full-count walk to Mike Schwartz with two down, and that opened the floodgates. Sam Judah followed with a single to left, and Aaron Dudley drilled a three-run home run to right to make it 3-0.
Richard Lucas drew a four-pitch walk, and he scored on Ramon Hernandez’s double off the fence in right to increase the lead to 4-0.
In the second, Padilla’s struggles continued when he allowed a leadoff single to No. 9 hitter Ozney Guillen, wild pitched him to second, allowed a one-out single by Santiago Chirino to put runners on the corners and gave up a fielder’s choice RBI groundout by Schwartz to increase his team’s deficit to 5-0.
This was the second straight game the Crushers found themselves in an early hole. And, for the second straight game, the Crushers offense made sure the Normal starter wouldn’t factor in the decision by chasing him out before the mandatory five innings.
This time, starter Bobby Shore only lasted 31⁄3 innings, as the Crushers had five hits and three walks, scoring four runs (three earned) during that span.
“I thought we played a lot better ballgame tonight than we did (Wednesday night),” Mongiardo said. “We just set the tone by getting off to a bad start on the mound.”
Contact Dan Gilles at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.