SIOUX CITY | For the second game in a row, Sioux City Explorers pitchers paid the price for not keeping the ball down in the strike zone.
So, after kicking off the club’s 21st season with a 3-0 record, the X’s are back to the break-even mark, suffering their third loss in a row in a 9-6 loss to the New Jersey Jackals in a rare matinee contest Tuesday at Lewis and Clark.
In a “Kids Day’’ promotion, Sioux City school children made up most of the crowd of 1,768 that watched the Jackals strike early and often, making it two decisive wins in as many tries in an interleague series that marks the first meetings ever between the two franchises.
New Jersey, a perennial Can-Am League power from Little Falls, N.J., just 30 minutes west of Manhattan, added 14 hits in this one to their 17 safeties in a 13-5 blowout Monday night.
“Our pitching has got to get a little bit better,’’ said Sioux City Manager Stan Cliburn. “We’re elevating the ball a little bit too much in the zone. They’ve got some good hitters and they’re strong.’’
Jeremy Barnes, a four-year starter at Notre Dame who spent four seasons in the Phillies’ farm system, launched a two-run homer in the first inning and a deep run-scoring triple in the third frame. Barnes, who hit .353 while leading the Fighting Irish with 15 homers and 70 RBIs as a senior in 2009, also singled to lead off a two-run fifth inning that staked the guests to an 8-0 cushion.
As they did Monday night, the Explorers perked up with some late-inning offense to make things a little bit interesting.
“I was proud of the way we came back today, down 8-0 and we put the tying run at the plate in the eighth inning,’’ said Cliburn.
After scoring once in the sixth inning and twice in the seventh, the X’s tallied three more in the eighth, pulling within 8-6 on a two-run double by Leugim Barroso. With runners at second and third, Alberto Espinosa represented the tying run, but he was retired on a ground ball.
Blanking the X’s for the first five innings and exiting with a 9-3 lead after seven innings was New Jersey veteran Isaac Pavlik, an iconic 33-year-old lefthander for the Jackals, picking up his 68th win against only 36 defeats in nine seasons with the team. Pavlik, a Seton Hall product, has gone 25-5 the last two seasons -- finishing 12-2 last year and 13-3 the year before.
“He spotted the ball down really well with a hard slider,’’ said Cliburn. “He’s the kind of guy who gets his team off the field.’’
Veteran righthander Josh Rainwater, the American Association win leader with 14 victories for Grand Prairie two seasons ago, failed to follow up on a win in his Sioux City debut -- the X’s season opener last Thursday. Far from it, Rainwater was gone after retiring just one of the first five batters he faced in the fifth inning, surrendering 11 hits and eight runs.
Things turned sour very early for Rainwater, who yielded a one-out triple to Chris Curran in the first inning and then the home run by Barnes. Then, with Chris Duffy at the plate, the Louisiana native got overheated with home plate umpire Brian Kreps, offended when Kreps flipped a baseball past him after an exchange of words.
Rainwater regained his composure to strike out Duffy and Nick Giarraputo, the Can-Am League MVP last season. And, not long after it looked as though the Sioux City pitcher might get bounced by Kreps, the crew chief instead ejected Giarraputo for disputing a called third strike.
Rookie infielder Gaetano Giunta filled in nicely for the Jackals’ star, collecting three hits.
X’s newcomer Jimmer Kennedy, a former Rider University hurler who has pitched primarily in the Can-Am League the last three seasons, cooled off the Jackals in a long relief stint, retiring 11 of the 13 batters he faced. A solo homer by Yasanberty Arbelo was the only run off Kennedy.
Leadoff batter Eliezer Mesa, the X’s fleet centerfielder, was a home run shy of the cycle, accounting for three of his team’s 11 hits in defeat. Barroso, the Cuban shortstop, drove in three runs with a pair of hits and Peter Barrows, inching his batting average back to .400, also had two hits for the hosts.
American Association pitcher of the week Jason Jarvis tries to help the Explorers salvage the final game of the series tonight at 7:05. He’ll face Kyle Greenwalt, who went 8-3 with a 4.21 ERA for New Jersey last season. Jarvis pitched seven shutout innings against Sioux Falls last Friday while Greenwalt failed to complete the fifth inning, surrendering four runs in a 5-1 loss at St. Paul.
Article provided by Terry Hersom, Sioux City Journal