AUBURN — Facing a starting pitcher that hasn’t given up an earned run since June, it was crucial that the Doubledays made their hay against the Muckdogs’ bullpen.
In the end, it was their own bullpen that couldn’t hold down the fort.
A costly error in the seventh inning was the difference as Auburn fell to Batavia 4-2 in the finale of a four-game series Sunday at Falcon Park. The loss drops the Doubledays’ record to 9-3 against the Muckdogs this season.
Auburn had fought back down two runs to tie the score in the sixth, but Nector Ramirez’s errant throw into the outfield on an attempted steal put Batavia’s Davis Bradshaw at third with two out. Bradshaw scored on a single from Brayan Hernandez the next at-bat to put the Muckdogs ahead 3-2.
Batavia later scored its fourth run in the eighth inning.
“We had a play on the guy,” Auburn manager Jerad Head said about Ramirez’s error. “We actually had a good hold there. I thought we controlled the run game very well, but we just got a little sped up there and it got away from us. Things like that happen.”
In the loss, the Doubledays were also the latest victim in an extended scoreless streak by Batavia starting pitcher Manny Rodriguez, Rodriguez, who began the year with Greensboro of the South Atlantic League, has not allowed an earned run since June 19.
He went five scoreless against the Doubledays in this latest outing, extending his streak without an earned run to 39 2/3 innings.
“I don’t think there’s a perfect recipe,” Head said. “I thought we expanded the zone at times early on, were taking quite a bit of good pitches to hit. He did a great job all night and we couldn’t get much going against him.”
Auburn was able to do some damage in the sixth against Batavia reliever Eli Villalobos, as Kyle Marinconz’s RBI groundout and Justin Connell’s successful bunt both brought in runs to tie the score 2-2.
Ramirez’s gaffe in the seventh, along with a RBI double from Batavia’s Demetrius Sims in the eighth, put the game out of reach for Auburn and secured a series split for the Muckdogs.
Making his first appearance for the Doubledays was pitcher Jake Irvin, who was nearly spotless in two innings out work out of the gate. The 6-foot-6-inch product of Oklahoma was drafted in the fourth round by the Washington Nationals in June’s amateur draft, and he showed every bit why on Sunday.
“Obviously he has a plus fastball and he commanded that well tonight,” Head said. “I thought he did very well in a short stint. There’s a reason why he was taken that high in the draft. We’re excited to see him going forward.”
Auburn (35-26) maintains its hold on first place in the Pinckney Division despite the loss, but second-place Mahoning Valley comes to town for a three-game series beginning Monday.
The teams met just last week in Mahoning Valley, with the Doubledays earning a three-game sweep of the Scrappers.
“I think everybody understands what’s at hand, but we can get too caught up in that,” Head said. “Anytime you (sweep) a team you have that momentum, but you can’t rely on that. We’re going to wash today away and continue moving forward.”