LOWELL, Mass. — The greatest rivalry in sports isn’t just for the major leagues.
Two-run frames in the third and sixth propelled the Baby Bombers to a 5-3 victory on Wednesday night in the opener of a three-game series in front of a crowd of 3,165.
Just as the result was not friendly to the Spinners, the start was similar as Staten Island tagged Spinner starter Karsten Whitson for three runs on four hits and three walks in 2.1 innings.
“There’s going to be some excitement, jitters for his first time here,” Spinner manager Joe Oliver said. “He was a little shaky, but we saw some good positive stuff. The movement was there. He’s just getting his feet wet.”
Yanks second baseman Ty McFarland, an alumnus of the Cape Cod Baseball League‘s Wareham Gatemen, was responsible for scoring two of the three markers.
McFarland reached on a fielder’s choice with one out in the first and scored as first baseman Chris Breen laced a triple to deep right field. The James Madison University product unloaded to right-center field for his first professional home run to lead the third.
The game was Whitson’s second as a professional and his Spinners home debut. The University of Florida draft pick was selected in the 11th round of this past June’s draft and pitched two innings in his first start on July 4 at Tri-City.
After Whitson exited the game, scheduled piggyback starter Willie Ethington issued a walk the lone batter he faced in relief before exiting with an injury.
Lowell got on the board in the third inning as right fielder Franklin Guzman scored on an RBI groundout to shortstop by Danny Mars, the Spinners’ center fielder who was drafted in the sixth round in June.
Mars is off to a strong start for Lowell with a .357 average and six RBI over his first ten games, including his first professional home run Monday night in Vermont.
Lowell’s third pitcher Oscar Perez allowed a second home run to the Yankees in the sixth inning as Breen led off with a shot into the trees deep over left field. Third baseman Renzo Martini scored the visitors’ fifth run on an RBI single by shortstop Jose Javier.
The blast by Breen was just a small hiccup in a strong performance from the Spinner bullpen which was key in keeping the game close.
“It was good to see the bullpen give us a chance to win tonight,” Oliver said. “You’ve got to give them credit (because) they had a couple big home runs that cracked open the game, but we’ve showed a lot of resiliency all year long so far.”
The Spinners made things interesting in the eighth inning, scoring two runs on two hits and an error off Staten Island’s Conor Mullee. Each of the first three Lowell batters reached in the frame and third baseman Jordan Betts continued his strong early season with an RBI knock on a bounce into left field.
Betts was forced out at second base for the first out of the frame, but first baseman Sam Travis (who reached on an error) scored on a deep sacrifice fly to left by Guzman.
“The left fielder (Nathan Mikolas) actually made a great play on that ball to keep the game at hand for them,” Oliver said. “If that gets over his head, it’s a whole bigger deal.”
That was it for the Spinners offense as Rony Bautista pounded the strike zone and retired the side 1-2-3 in the ninth.
Following the game, Oliver called Guzman into his office to officially promote him to Greenville. The Bayaguana, D.R. native who was signed as an international free agent in 2012 smacked 13 hits and drove in six runs in 15 games with the Spinners.
“It’s a good moment for him,” Oliver said. “He’s a guy who made the club out of spring training, and here he is getting a chance to go up to the next level. It’s a tough night to do it on, but in the bigger picture you get to see a guy move up.”
Lowell (12-14) has now lost four of its last five games. Heri Quevedo will take the ball on Thursday night at 7:05 p.m., making his sixth start of the season for the Spinners.