Senators’ Notebook: Bullpen dominance, one pitch from Joel Peguero, Jackson Cluff’s triple, warm weather attendance, and a wild 13-10 win for Erie

Behind Omar Meregildo’s two home runs on Sunday afternoon, the Harrisburg Senators topped the Richmond Flying Squirrels 6-3. The victory secured the series win and marked the first for the Senators at home since last June when they took five of seven from Bowie.

The big takeaway from the series had to be the bullpen’s dominance. In the six games against Richmond, Harrisburg relievers tossed 31 innings, allowing only two runs on 13 hits for a 0.58 ERA over that stretch.

Ahead in the game or behind, it didn’t matter as each pitcher in the bullpen stepped up to put zero after zero on the board. Every series won’t be like this, but they picked a perfect time as the young starters struggled on the bump. This feat is even more impressive when you consider the increased workload of relievers, in terms of innings and frequency, early in the season.

Plate Appearance of the Week (Pitching)

Easily the worst outing by a reliever was by Evan Lee on Thursday afternoon. The southpaw was on to secure the victory in the ninth inning, up two runs with two outs and a baserunner on first. To say Lee struggled with his control is an understatement. He walked a batter, balked the tying runs into scoring position, and walked the next batter to load the bases. Richmond plated a run when Lee plunked Ismael Munguia with a pitch, his last of the day.

Joel Peguero was summoned from the bullpen to get out of the jam. Any hit out of the infield scores two more runs and gives the Flying Squirrels a lead; one into the gap would clear the bases. Instead, the 25-year-old right-hander delivered just one pitch to Patrick Bailey, a fastball down and in. Bailey squared the ball but lined it directly to right fielder Justin Connell to preserve the victory.

Plate Appearance of the Week (Batting)

Down 5-0 on Friday evening, the Senators scored a pair of runs in both the 5th and 7th innings to pull within one. Down to their final outs in the bottom half of the 9th, things weren’t looking good for the home team. Leading off the frame was Jackson Cluff, who, to that point in the season, was 0-for-14 with nine strikeouts. A rally didn’t seem imminent.

When Richmond pitcher Evan Gates fired a called strike to move the count to 1-2, it looked like strikeout number ten on the season was looming on the horizon. But a breaking ball called inside evened the count in the matchup. That’s when Gates delivered the fateful pitch, a belt-high 92 mph fastball on the inner half of the plate, that Cluff ripped into the right field corner and used his speed to race into third base. It set the table for a Leonel Valera RBI to tie the game and send it to extras, where the Senators prevailed on a José Sánchez walk-off single.

Unseasonably warm and pleasant days for mid-April were a boon for the Senators as 21,517 fans flocked to FNB Field over the six home dates, including a high of 5,546 on Friday night for Flatscreens & Fireworks.

They weren’t the only ones in the Eastern League drawing well either, as the six host teams (Harrisburg, Binghamton, Bowie, Erie, New Hampshire, and Reading) combined to average 3,071 a game as they drew a total of 110,565 fans in a spectacular week for baseball.

EL Game of the Week

When you rally for a four-run inning in the top of the 10th inning, you have to feel better than good about your chances of walking away with a victory. The Altoona Curve were already riding high after blowing out the Erie SeaWolves in the first two games of their series, 9-1 and 17-6, before scoring four times in the extra frame on four singles and an error.

Even with the zombie runner placed at second, that was a big hole to climb out of for the SeaWolves. But Altoona walked the bases loaded before Josh Crouch doubled home two runs. A throwing error on a routine grounder to Curve second baseman Liover Peguero plated another score and left the tying run 90 feet from home. A timely stolen base from Daniel Cabrera, when Altoona failed to cover, took away the possibility of a routine double-play ball which proved to be huge. So when Mario Feliciano fisted a ground ball to third base, the only play was to come home and cut the runner down instead of going around the horn to end the game.

That left Erie down to its final out, which appeared to come on the next pitch when Trei Cruz hit a chopper to Mason Martin. But the first baseman muffed it and then had no one to throw to at first base when he recovered. The SeaWolves had to feel like they were playing with house money at this point.

“How do you make sense of this,” Sam Lebowitz asked on the Erie broadcast.

“You don’t,” Greg Gania replied. “You just hope it ends here.”

Sure enough, Colt Keith sent the fans home happy on the second pitch of the at-bat with a massive three-run blast to right-center field to walk off with a wild and wacky 13-10 victory.

EL Players of the Week

SS Gage Workman (Erie) – .333/.484/.833, 2 2B, 2 3B, 2 HR, 7 RBI, 7 R
LHP Shane Drohan (Portland) – 2-0, 11 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 11 K, 1 BB, .158 BAA

This Week

Harrisburg travels to Ohio to face the Akron RubberDucks for a six-game series starting Tuesday evening at 6:35 PM when Michael Cuevas gets his second start for the Senators against Tanner Burns.

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