It was a long night for State College Spikes starting pitcher Ian McKinney.
The left-hander hit the leadoff batter and allowed consecutive hits as Auburn jumped out to a two-run lead in the first inning. McKinney wasn’t at his best, allowing seven runs (five earned) on 10 hits in 4 2/3 innings as the Spikes fell 8-3 Wednesday night at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.
State College committed three errors in the first four innings, but McKinney wasn’t effective in his short outing, either.
“He didn’t have his location,” Spikes manager Johnny Rodriguez said. “He was up. He was up. I mean I’ve seen McKinney for two years now and that was probably his worst start because even when somebody makes errors on McKinney, he grows even bigger. He was not sharp, not sharp at all.”
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McKinney needed 87 pitches Wednesday night — the same number of pitches he threw in seven innings in the season-opening loss to Williamsport. Rodriguez said he expected to get seven innings from the left-hander, but the manager had to turn to his bullpen early.
Nick Frey was the lone bright spot for the Spikes (1-5) after limiting Auburn to one run on two hits in 4 1/3 innings. Frey also struck out five and walked one.
“That was the best thing that happened today,” Rodriguez said of Frey’s performance. “A positive. All the negatives, non-plays, McKinney not having his stuff — is Frey gave us (4 1/3 innings) to save the ‘pen for the series coming up.”
Auburn’s Jose Morales earned the win, allowing two runs on three hits in two innings of relief.
McKinney hit Auburn’s Dalton Dulin to start the game and allowed a double down the left field line to Jakson Reetz. With runners on second and third, Auburn’s Matthew Page sent a ground ball up the middle that bounced off the sliding backhanded attempt of Spikes second baseman Cole Lankford and into center field.
Dulin and Reetz both scored on the single to give the Doubledays a 2-0 lead.
McKinney needed to work to limit the damage from there.
After a strikeout, Auburn’s Kelvin Gutierrez sent a line drive off the glove of leaping shortstop Danny Martin. Page moved to third on the single and Gutierrez reached second as the Spikes chased down the ball in left field.
McKinney kept Auburn off the board with a strikeout and a groundout.
The second inning started with the Spikes’ first error
Lankford backhanded Clay Williamson’s ground ball up the middle and made a one-hop throw that first baseman Casey Grayson couldn’t handle. Williamson advanced to second on a bunt and third on a single, but McKinney stranded him with back-to-back strikeouts.
The Doubledays’ lead remained 2-0.
But Auburn (5-1) broke it open in the third, scoring four runs on four hits and an error.
Diomedes Eusebio hammered a pitch left up in the zone for a home run to left-center field to make it 3-0, Jorge Tillero added a two-run single and Edwin Lora tripled to drive in another run.
“I think he’s just rushing out there,” Rodriguez said of McKinney. “His arm is lagging behind. It’s more of a mechanical thing. You noticed his fastball’s up and his breaking ball’s up and his changeup is up.”
The Spikes had a chance to get back into the game in the bottom of the third.
They loaded the bases with no outs after singles by Craig Aikin, Danny Martin and Mike Pritchard. Jesse Jenner followed with a hard-hit ground ball to second base to start a double play.
Aikin scored to get the Spikes on the board, but the threat was over.
“He tattooed that ball,” Rodriguez said. “It wasn’t a simple ground ball. We get two runs there at least out of that inning or three, it’s a whole different ballgame. And that’s the way it’s been. We’ve struggled.”
Aikin went 2 for 4 and scored two runs in his debut with the Spikes after getting called up from Rookie-level Johnson City on Wednesday.
Notes: Outfielders Kenny Peoples-Walls and Jhohan Acevedo were promoted to Single-A Peoria on Wednesday, while Aikin and infielder Josh Swirchak joined the Spikes. Aikin was the St. Louis Cardinals’ 13th-round pick out of Oklahoma in the 2015 MLB Draft, and Swirchak went undrafted out of Wilmington University and signed with St. Louis on June 12. … The Spikes begin a six-game road trip Thursday, opening a three-game series at Mahoning Valley. Jorge Rodriguez (0-0, 1.80 ERA) will be on the mound for State College, while Jose Zapata (1-0, 0.00) is set to start for Mahoning Valley.