Ninth inning meltdown costs Senators in 8-4 loss

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Holding a 4-1 lead headed into the ninth inning, the Harrisburg Senators appeared set to send the Richmond Flying Squirrels to their eighth straight defeat.

Historically, the task for the Squirrels was a daunting one. Home teams holding three run leads have had a roughly 98% chance of winning for the last 60 years in Major League baseball. The trailing visiting team has won only 201 times in 9,671 games under this scenario.

So, to say the Senators were all but a lock to win might have been an understatement.

Andrew Robinson was summoned from the bullpen to preserve the victory for Harrisburg. The 29-year-old right-hander has been the Senators most consistent and reliable reliever since joining the team last year on April 20. Last season, Robinson converted nine of 10 save opportunities he got and in his only blown save coughed up a two-run lead during his second inning of work on the road.

So, to say the Senators were all but a lock to win might have been an understatement.

The Flying Squirrels came into FNB Field on Saturday night tied for the worst record in the Eastern League and riding a seven-game losing streak. Richmond is at or near the bottom of the league in many offensive categories including runs per game, batting average, and total bases.

So, to say the Senators were all but a lock to win might have been an understatement.

But 52 pitches, 33 minutes, three pitchers, and seven runs later the Flying Squirrels had taken a shocking 8-4 lead they would hold onto in the bottom half of the inning for the victory.

Robinson allowed a leadoff single to Myles Schroder and then issued back to back walks to load the bases. With the pitcher’s spot due up for Richmond, Tyler Horan was announced as a pinch-hitter and Harrisburg manager Matt LeCroy countered with R.C. Orlan from the bullpen for the lefty/lefty matchup.

But Horan came back from an 0-2 hole in the count to work a walk and force the first Flying Squirrels run home in the frame. Dylan Davis, who came into the game batting .174, crushed an Orlan offering into the left centerfield gap that cleared the bases and gave Richmond a 5-4 lead.

After a hit by pitch, Orlan induced a 4-6 fielder’s choice for the first out of the inning but by then LeCroy had seen enough. Derek Self was called upon to get out of the mess, but the right-hander struggled to minimize the damage. A sacrifice fly, two singles, and a passed ball added up to three more runs for Richmond as they pushed their advantage to four runs over the Senators.

“We have to find some people to finish the ninth other than Suero,” LeCroy said. “Robby was good at it all last year, but he just lost it there.”

“If you carry a three-run lead into the ninth inning, you expect to win.”

*****

The last time Harrisburg surrendered seven or more runs in the final inning of a game they were leading was July 17, 2010 to Altoona at then Metro Bank Park. The Curve plated 10 runs that night to overcome a 14-8 lead in one of the most memorable games on City Island in recent memory. For many, the game will be best remembered for home plate umpire “Dancin'” Doug Vines’ controversial home run call on a ball that even Altoona’s broadcasters couldn’t believe went their way.

*****

Jaron Long worked six innings allowing only two hits, both in the first inning (including a leadoff home run), while striking out six…Neftali Soto remained red hot with his seventh homer of May and a 3-for-5 night that extended his hitting streak to 14 games…Erick Fedde tossed two scoreless innings out of the bullpen striking out four…Richmond pitchers were called for two separate automatic balls due to pitch clock infractions.

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