CenturyLink Field, home of the 12th man, Lambeau Field, home of the Lambeau leap, and Oracle Arena, the home of the 2015 NBA Champion Golden State Warriors all share one common denominator, home field means something. The crowd, the tradition and the history all seem to give the home team that added edge.
For the Batavia Muckdogs (19-27) playing at home this season has meant absolutely nothing. They actually have a slightly better record on the road 10-14, compared to at home 9-14.
Now it would be naïve to compare Dwyer Stadium to CenturyLink or Lambeau Field, but in any sport, at any level, playing at home should mean something.
Coming into Sunday night’s game against the Vermont Lake Monsters (21-26), an affiliate of the Oakland Athletics, the Muckdogs were one of the hottest teams in the New York-Penn League. Winners of seven of the last 10 games and having won five straight series to close within five games of the last wild card spot.
Travis Neubeck started on the mound for Batavia and in only his second professional start he pitched fairly well but struggled with his command all night.
“He didn’t have his best stuff but he went out there and competed,” Manager Angel Espada said.
Neubeck was able to get through four innings of work, allowing three runs on five hits while walking four.
When Ayron Adames came in relief of Neubeck it was only a 3-2 game in favor of the Lake Monsters.
League All-Star, Stone Garrett tied the game in the bottom of the fifth when he hit his league-leading ninth home run of the year. Batavia tacked on another run later in the inning after Ryan Cranmer reached on an error by the third baseman. He moved to second on a wild pitch.
Cranmer scored to take a 4-3 lead when Alex Fernandez grounded to third, but it was misplayed by the third baseman for his second error of the inning and third in the game.
Adames shut down Vermont in the two innings he pitched. He only relinquished one hit and walked one batter, plus striking out two.
Everything seemed to be going the Muckdogs way and it looked like they were on their way to winning the first game of this three-game series, but the wheels fell of the wagon in the seventh.
LJ Brewster began the inning by striking out the first batter he saw, showing why earlier in the season he was called up to the Jupiter Hammerheads, the Marlins Advanced-A farm team. Unfortunately, the rest of the inning showed why he was back in Batavia.
Brewster walked Nick Collins and Chris Iriart on back-to-back four-pitch walks. Brett Siddall then hit a perfect double play ball to second baseman Fernandez, who in turn let the ball go off his glove, allowing Collins to score from second, tying the game at 4-4.
Now with runners at first and third, Skye Bolt singled to score Iriart easily. Left fielder Brandon Rawe inexcusably let the ball go under his glove and allowed Siddall to score all the way from first, making it 6-3.
Not expecting a bunt, third baseman Taylor Munden was playing well behind the base at third and Ryan Howell saw that and tried, and executed perfectly, a squeeze play, scoring Bolt from third and reaching first base himself, without even a throw.
Brewster’s nightmare of a game continued in the eighth when he allowed two more runs on three hits and one walk.
“Young pitchers, young players sometimes you try to do too much in certain situations and that’s part of the game,” Espada said. “It’s part of their learning experience as a professional.”
The Lake Monsters added two more runs in the ninth inning off of Aneury Osoria to bring their total to 11. Batavia was able to score one run in the bottom of the ninth but the game was well decided by then.
As announced earlier in the week, the Muckdogs have an incredible six players selected to the All-Star team even though they have the worst record in the league. Both Anfernee Seymour and Stone Garrett were chosen and they showed why on Sunday.
Seymour went 3-for-4 with three singles, a run scored and an amazing four stolen bases, bringing his season total to 22, just one behind the league leader. Garrett went just 1-for-3 but he added to his league-leading home run tally and scored two runs.
“It’s a whole team effort and you don’t want to put the pressure on these young guys at this level because they are All-Stars,” Espada said.
The Muckdogs will return to Dwyer Stadium on Monday night to try and right the ship and get back to their winning ways. Game time is set for 7:05.