The State College Spikes knew what to expect going into their matchup against Mahoning Valley starting pitcher Leandro Linares.
Linares had allowed 33 walks — the most in the New York-Penn League — in 34 2/3 innings going into Monday. State College team members talked about their plan of attack before the game and tried to be patient and to see more pitches against the wild right-hander.
The Spikes executed that plan against Linares, drawing four walks and scoring four runs en route to building their lead in a 5-3 win over the Scrappers at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park. State College walked five times in a four-run fourth inning and drew 10 walks in the game.
“That’s an outrageous amount of walks,” Spikes outfielder Mike Pritchard said.
The Spikes (25-24) loaded the bases six times and scored all five runs in bases-loaded situations. Pritchard went 2 for 3 with a walk and a two-run double to lead State College, which finished with five hits. Elier Rodriguez drew three walks and Craig Aikin walked twice in State College’s third straight win and fourth in five games.
Linares went 3 1/3 innings and fell to 0-5 this season. His 37 walks are 10 more than any other pitcher in the league and seven more than his strikeout total this season. Mahoning Valley relievers Cortland Cox and Jose Zapata each gave up three walks.
Spikes starting pitcher Dailyn Martinez earned the win, allowing three runs on nine hits in six innings. Tyler Bray pitched two perfect innings of relief, and Pedro Echemendia picked up the save.
Spikes manager Johnny Rodriguez said his team went into the game looking to be “patiently aggressive” against Linares.
“We said just look at him, if he’s throwing strikes get after it,” Rodriguez said. “If he starts to get wild, don’t help him out and we did a great job with that.”
Linares lost control in the third, starting the inning with a four-pitch walk to Jose Godoy. Elier Rodriguez then worked a full count and drew a walk, and Aikin singled to load the bases with no outs.
Pritchard grounded into a double play, and Godoy scored to give the Spikes a 1-0 lead.
After Mahoning Valley evened the score on a groundout in the top of the fourth, State College loaded the bases with no outs to start a four-run inning in the bottom half.
Linares walked Casey Grayson on five pitches and allowed a single to Jhohan Acevedo before giving up a five-pitch walk to Cole Lankford to load the bases. Ronnierd Garcia then lined a single into center field to push the Spikes ahead 2-1 and keep the bases loaded.
After a sacrifice fly by Godoy, Cox replaced Linares on the mound, but Cox couldn’t find his command, and the Spikes continued to carry out the game plan.
He walked Elier Rodriguez to load the bases for the third time. His first pitch to Craig Aikin went to the backstop, ricocheted off the wall and resulted in a rundown after Rodriguez was caught to far off first base. Lankford tried to score, but he was thrown out at home.
A two-out walk to Aikin loaded the bases again.
“He was just a little wild, just a touch wild, so we made him pitch,” Johnny Rodriguez said. “The kid had real good stuff. We made him pitch.”
Pritchard came to the plate with the bases loaded again after hitting into a double play in the third.
“I was just trying to not repeat that,” Pritchard said.
He lined a double into right field to drive in two runs and push the Spikes’ lead to 5-1.
“He kind of hung me a changeup and I was out in front and just got enough of it to poke into right field,” Pritchard said. “So it was a little bit of luck and you take every double and every RBI you can get.”
It proved to be enough for State College to hold off Mahoning Valley.
The Scrappers scored their second run on a sacrifice fly by Mark Mathias in the fifth, but Acevedo saved a run and ended the inning by gunning down Willi Castro on Connor Marabell’s single to right field.
Mahoning Valley cut the deficit to 5-3 in the sixth, but never got any closer as the bullpen sealed the win.
Said Rodriguez: “The defense helped Martinez out today.”
Notes: The Spikes and Scrappers finish their series at 7:05 p.m. Tuesday. Juan Perez (4-2, 2.43) is set to start for State College, while Shao-Ching Chiang (3-2, 3.03) will be on the mound for Mahoning Valley. … State College remains a half game back in the wild-card standings. Connecticut and Lowell lead the wild-card race. Brooklyn is tied with the Spikes.