TROY — The Tri-City ValleyCats entered Thursday’s New York-Penn League game at Joseph L. Bruno Stadium looking to avoid being swept by the Batavia Muckdogs in their three-game series.
That was the exact opposite of what happened after the ValleyCats suffered a 4-1 loss. It was their fifth straight setback.
ValleyCats pitcher Juan Pablo Lopez, who relieved starter Kyle Serrano in the second inning, lost control of the game in the fifth by giving up all of Batavia’s runs.
“I think he might of gotten tired a little bit. He had a lot of deep counts,” ValleyCats manager Ozney Guillen said after the game. “Credit to them, it was a base hit into the gap. So you got to give credit to them, but I think he got tired and he paid for it.”
The nightmare inning for Lopez included more than just a ball hit into the gap. It began with a leadoff double from Muckdogs second baseman Jack Strunc, who then scored on a single by right fielder Troy Johnston.
It got worse when for Lopez. After third baseman Andrew Turner doubled, first basemen Harrison Dinicola hammered a line drive just out of the reach of a diving second baseman Luis Santana for a two-run single. The Muckdogs loaded the bases on a walk to Julian Infante and a bunt single by Kobie Taylor. Lopez got Ronal Reynoso to fly out, but then he walked Dustin Skelton to force home the fourth run. That ended Lopez’s day. He was relieved by Valente Bellozo.
Bellozo was successful securing the final two outs of the inning without conceding anymore runs. He would pitch the rest of the game for the ValleyCats, striking out six batters.
“Today I had control [of my pitches] and [got] the action I wanted,” said Bellozo.
Guillen praised the young relief pitcher, who has had several strong performances on the mound this season.
“He’s been doing that all year, man,” said Guillen. “He’s 19 years old, and he’s going to battle. He’s a great talent. Doesn’t think much on the mound [and] not being very big. But he’s got the heart of a lion, and you see that every time he pitches and he goes right after guys, which is really important, especially at his age of getting better and stuff. So, he’s going to be very good.”
The ValleyCats only run came in the bottom of the sixth on designated hitter C.J. Stubbs’ RBI single. However, Stubbs would kill any impending momentum for the ValleyCats by getting caught stealing second on a questionable decision to run to close out the inning.
“Looking back, I mean right after I got tagged out, it was a poor decision all around,” said Stubbs. “[Luis] Santana at the bat. A poor count to run on. I got an OK jump, but he threw me out. That’s on me. It was a bad play.”
The ValleyCats (16-28) head out on the road in an effort to end the losing skid when they take on the Auburn Doubledays at 7 p.m. Friday at Falcon Park.
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Tyrell Feaster is an intern at The Daily Gazette. Feaster, a junior at the University at Albany, is majoring in journalism.