Julio Reyes was the latest Williamsport pitcher to set the bar high for the Crosscutters on Tuesday night. It's become a nightly occurrence over the last two weeks that the starting pitcher is going to set a tone for the pitching staff.
The bar Reyes set was matched for the four innings he watched. He combined with Josh Warner, Mark Meadors and Lino Martinez on a five-hitter at Bowman Field in a 3-1 win over Auburn.
Reyes became the 11th consecutive Cutters starting pitcher to allow three runs or fewer in his start, tossing five innings of one-run baseball, allowing just two hits and striking out three. Williamsport is 7-4 in those 11 games.
Julio Reyes pitches for the Crosscutters Tuesday evening at Bowman Field.
"The starter sets the tone," Warner said after throwing two shutout innings of relief. "If he goes out there and he's strong for five innings like Reyes was and you go in there, you say the hitters are down, so let's just attack."
Reyes has been stellar since his move to the starting rotation. He actually took Warner's spot last week when the Australian was moved to the bullpen after struggling at both Lakewood and Williamsport in a starting role. In two starts since the move, Reyes has allowed just four hits and two runs in nine innings. He's also struck out nine.
Reyes' win last night was his first since Aug. 16, 2011. He missed the entire 2012 season.
Mixing a low 90s fastball with a good slider and flashing a change-up at times, Reyes retired the final 11 batters he faced from the second to the fifth innings. The only run he allowed was scored by Cody Gunter, who led off the second inning with a four-pitch walk. It was the only walk Reyes issued.
His biggest adjustment came after issuing that walk to Gunter. He started throwing over to first base multiple times per batter trying to pick off Gunter, a player who has attempted just one stolen base this season.
Losing focus on the hitter, he ended up leaving a 2-2 pitch over the middle of the plate to Brenton Allen who drove it into the right-field corner for a double. Cody Dent hit a sacrifice fly on the next pitch to give Auburn a 1-0 lead.
"I didn't really see why he was getting in that mode (of throwing to first base)," Cutters manager Nelson Prada said. "He's got a really good move to first base, so he was trying to get that guy out. But he worried too much about him and he gave up the double.
"He was mixing his pitches well after that. He's a guy that can get people out mixing fastballs and sliders."
Samuel Hiciano got the one run back leading off the third inning, crushing a home run over the left-field fence on a 2-2 pitch. It was Hiciano's first home run of the year, and the league-leading 16th for Williamsport. The Crosscutters hit just 21 home runs the entire 2012 season.
Hiciano has shown the ability to drive the ball in batting practice, but hadn't yet put it together in game action. He had just two extra-base hits in 35 at-bats this season prior to that third-inning blast. The power is a part of his game.
As an 18-year old last year in the Dominican Summer League, 22 of Hiciano's hits were for extra bases and he had a .444 slugging percentage. He also drove a ball to the center-field wall in the sixth inning which should have been a two-out RBI double. But Doubledays center fielder Greg Zebrack made a running catch before crashing full-speed into the wooden fence at Bowman Field.
Hiciano got the silent treatment in the dugout after hitting his home run.
"Hiciano's a good hitter. He's a guy who started slow, but had a good extended spring with us," Prada said. "I think he's capable and he's a guy that can play every day."
"It's good to see that it's not just one hitter is hitting home runs, we've got the whole lineup hitting home runs," Warner said. "We've four or five guys in the lineup so far that have hit home runs. But seeing his bat come alive is definitely a good sign."
Pullin kept his hot streak from Monday rolling when he drove in the go-ahead run in the third inning, three batters after Hiciano's home run. The second baseman who was 6 for 7 in Monday's doubleheader split, drove a 1-0 fastball to right field to score Malquin Canelo to give Williamsport a 2-1 lead in the third inning.
The offense then turned over the lead to a pitching staff which allowed just three walks and stranded seven runners on base. They also held Auburn to an 0 for 5 night with runners in scoring position.
Meadors, making his second appearance since being drafted in the 13th round last month, threw a scoreless eighth inning, and Lino Martinez followed with a scoreless ninth, stranding runners at the corners when he froze Dent with a breaking ball for the final out.
It was Martinez's second save.
"The pitchers are doing a good job throwing strikes and they're aggressive," Prada said. "That's what we expect them to be."