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Harold Cortijo working out during the Staten Island Yankees first team practice of 2018 on June 13, 2018 at the Richmond County Bank Ballpark at St. George. (Robert M. Pimpsner)

SI Yanks Struggle, Drop Third Straight

The Staten Island Yankees began their first true road series of the year by dropping the first of a three game set against the Lowell Spinners (Red Sox) by a score of 5-3 on Monday night.

The Staten Island offense struggled a bit with only five hits on the night and a team total of fourteen strikeouts.  Third baseman Andres Chaparro was the only Staten Island player not to strike out at least once and centerfielder Junior Soto had a game-high three strikeouts to go along with a double.

Three of Staten Island’s five hits were doubles with Frederick Cuevas (RF) and Ryan Lidge (C) joining Soto in the extra base hit column.  Lidge was the only Yankee to have multiple hits and he also drove in a run.

Harold Cortijo started the game for Staten Island, going 4 2/3 innings and giving up four hits, three runs (2 earned), walking four and striking out five.  Brooks Kriske pitched two solid innings of relief and Garrett Mundell suffered the loss by giving up two runs in the bottom of the 8th to break a 3-3 tie.

Monday night marked opening night for the Lowell team, but a heavy rainstorm that delayed the start of the game by over an hour squelched the crowd’s early buzz.  The first inning was quiet for both teams, with each side managing only a walk.  Frederick Cuevas drew the one out walk for Staten Island but Canaan Smith and Eric Wagaman followed with strikeouts and no damage.

Things picked up offensively for Staten Island in the second inning when CF Junior Soto ripped a one out double down the left field line and Ryan Lidge followed with a hard single to right to drive in the first run of the game.  Two more strikeouts followed to end any further threat in what became a pattern for the Staten Island offense the entire evening.

Lowell’s offense broke out in the bottom of the second with Cortijo issuing a lead off walk to Xavier LaGrant followed by a deep home run to right center by Tyler Esplin and it was quickly 2-1 Lowell.  Another single followed, but Cortijo was able to settle down with two strikeouts and a fly out to end the inning.

Staten Island scored again in the top of the 3rd to tie the game when Frederick Cuevas doubled down the right field line and Canaan Smith followed with a nice piece of hitting by staying with an outside pitch and driving a hard ground ball through the shortstop hole for a single and runners at first and third.  Eric Wagaman drove in Cuevas with a sacrifice fly to center but after that the Staten Island bats went cold managing only one hit the rest of the game.

Lowell took the lead again in the bottom of the third in a strange sequence of plays started by another leadoff walk.  Ridge helped out Cortijo by throwing out the base runner attempting to steal 2nd base but a bloop single hit put a runner on first with one out.  Lowell playing aggressively attempted another steal and Lidge’s throw clearly beat the base runner but the tag may have been high and the runner was ruled safe. Cortijo didn’t help himself by throwing a wild pitch and his catcher Lidge didn’t help him either when Lidge threw the ball into left field attempting to nail the runner advancing to third resulting in an unearned run.

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Things went quiet offensively for both teams after that, with both sides piling up strikeouts.  Yankee pitchers generated eleven strikeouts making it a game of very little contact.  After another 30 minute rain delay, Cortijo got himself out of a jam in the fourth, working around a triple and a walk and then got two quick outs in the top of the fifth before being pulled for Kriske.

Cortijo mixed in both his curveball and a change up with his fastball sitting between 90-92MPH the entire game.  He did struggle with his control with four walks and a lot of deep counts.

Kriske pitched well in his two inning of relief, allowing only one hit, two walks and struck out 4 by locating his 90-92 MPH fastball well.

The Yankee bats went silent after the third inning with Lidge’s leadoff double in the 7th inning as the team’s only other hit.  That double led to the final Yankee run as Lidge was able to advance to third on a wild pitch and score on a throwing error by the Lowell third baseman on a ground ball by Danienger Perez.

Lowell took the lead for good in a strange bottom of the eighth inning.  Garrett Mundell entered the game for Staten Island with two outs in the bottom of the seventh and got the inning’s final out but things quickly unraveled for him in the bottom of the eighth.  Mundell allowed a leadoff single and then a walk to put runners on first and second before striking out Dearden for the first out.  A loud double to left followed and two runs scored to give Lowell a 5-3 advantage.  A bunt for a hit put runners at first and third with only one out and then things got interesting.  Lowell continued to be aggressive on the bases and attempted a delayed double steal.  The first base runner, Batesole, attempted to steal second and Colon came home from third when Lidge threw to 2nd.  The hitter Marrero, however, had swung and missed on the pitch and as Lidge began to throw to 2nd, the hitter stepped in front of him and was ruled out as Colon crossed home plate.  Colon was returned to third and Batesole to first now with two outs.  Mundell escaped by striking out Jarred Duran for the third out but Staten Island went to the top of the ninth trailing 5-3.

Three quiet outs by Soto, Lidge and Vazsquez ended the Yankees’ night as the team fell to 1-3.

The middle game of the series on Tuesday night will feature Juan de Paula making his season debut for Staten Island.  The two teams will close out the series on Wednesday night.

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