If the Wild Things do not win the Frontier League’s East Division title, or if they miss the playoffs altogether, then much of the blame can be directed toward Washington’s lackluster performance against the Lake Erie Crushers.
Lake Erie continued its season-long dominance of Washington with a 5-2 victory Saturday night before 2,477 at Wild Things Park.
The loss didn’t hurt Washington in the standings. The Wild Things entered the night tied for first place with Joliet. The Slammers lost 7-0 at Windy City. Third-place Lake Erie, meanwhile, closed to within four games of Washington and Joliet. The Crushers end the regular season next weekend with three games in Avon, Ohio against the Wild Things.
Earlier this season, after getting swept at home by Lake Erie, Washington manager Gregg Langbehn said his team is “not competitive” against the Crushers.
The numbers support his analysis.
Lake Erie has won seven of the eight games against Washington, including all five played at Wild Things Park. The teams have played 49 innings in Washington and the Wild Things have held a lead at the end of only two of those innings.
Lake Erie took a 2-0 lead only four batters into the game against Washington starter Chase Cunningham (7-6).
Crushers leadoff hitter Zach Racusin, who was one of Washington’s final cuts in spring training, led off the game with a single, Aaron Hill hit the first of his two doubles and Cody Lenahan lofted a sacrifice fly that scored the game’s first run. An RBI single by Terry McClure made it 2-0.
Washington scored its first run in the third when center fielder James Harris hit a long home run to left field off Justin Sinibaldi (2-4), who was making his eighth start after beginning the season as Lake Erie’s closer. It was the 15th home run of the season for Harris, the Wild Things’ leadoff hitter who is tops in the Frontier League in extra-base hits.
The Wild Things pulled even at 2-2 in the fourth, taking advantage of a two-base throwing error that allowed Kyle Pollock to reach safely. Pollock scored on a two-out single to center field by shortstop Ryan Cox.
After the rocky first inning, Cunningham was excellent. With the help of two double plays, he retired 16 consecutive batters. A pair of two-out doubles, by Hill and Lenahan in the sixth, ended the streak and gave Lake Erie a 3-2 lead.
The Crushers scored twice in the eighth against Washington relievers Jake Eaton and Zach Strecker to make it 5-2. Two walks were pivotal and set up run-scoring hits by pinch-hitter Doug Trimble and Derek Perry.
Kent Hasler, the fourth Lake Erie pitcher, got the final three outs for his third save, though Washington made it interesting by loaded the bases with two outs in the bottom of the ninth.
The series finale is today (5:35 p.m.). It is the Wild Things’ final home game of the regular season and Fan Appreciation Day. … Chase Simmons, who has been on Washington’s active roster all season as the backup catcher, started and went 2-for-3 to raise his batting average to .409.