BOSTON — All was well and good for the Lowell Spinners on Sunday at Fenway Park, until it came to getting the final out.
A six-run ninth inning propelled the Mahoning Valley Scrappers to their second straight win over the Spinners, 6-1, in front 8,104 fans at “America’s Most Beloved Ballpark.”
The Spinners scored a run in the fourth inning on an RBI single by shortstop Mauricio Dubon, but three Scrapper hits and three walks off Chandler Shepherd turned victory into defeat in the waning moments. Still, Lowell managed seven hits, including two each by center fielder Danny Mars, third baseman Jordan Betts, and Dubon.
“I feel really bad for these guys,” Spinners manager Joe Oliver said of the team’s sixth straight loss and ninth in its last ten. “They really played their heart and soul out today. … To have it all slip away so fast, it’s a shame. That’s how crazy a baseball game can turn.”
But the results on the scoreboard did little to dampen the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
“It was unbelievable,” Mars said. “This is something you dream of, playing in Fenway Park since you knew what it was at 3-4 years old. … Words can’t explain what it’s like to come out here, playing baseball for a living.”
Mars reached base on a fielder’s choice in his second at-bat before ripping a single in the fifth and a double in the seventh, but it was just another ordinary day for the Chipola College (Calif.) product once game time rolled in on 4 Yawkey Way.
“Once you step up to the plate, the last thing on your mind is being at Fenway with (thousands) of people behind you,” Mars added. “You’re locked in on that pitcher. It’s like you’re taking BP back at LeLacheur Park.”
Spinners outfielder Nick Longhi was born in Springfield, Mass. and raised a Red Sox fan, so the opportunity was even more special. His 14-game hitting streak (the longest by a Spinner since 2008) came to an end but he still scored a run in the fourth inning before drawing a walk.
He also played the Green Monster like a seasoned Major League veteran, catching the carom off the wall with ease and holding multiple Mahoning Valley runners to singles.
“I’ve watched it my whole life,” Longhi said, “so you pick up some of the flaws after a few years. I thought there would be (some butterflies), but there weren’t. At this level, you can just go out and play the game.”
Making just his second professional start, Kevin McAvoy got the Spinners off to a strong start with two innings of one-hit ball. He allowed one hit that was quickly erased in the first inning in advance of a 1-2-3 second.
As a product of Bryant University in Smithfield, R.I., he had a large amount of family and friends in the stands despite being raised as a Yankees fan in Syracuse, N.Y.
“Being from the area, I knew a lot of people were going to come out and watch,” the former Bulldog ace said. “It was great my parents came out to watch me. I never thought it would it would be like this, but it was awesome get my feet wet (and have such an experience in a professional ballpark.”
McAvoy pitched for the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox of the Cape Cod League two summers ago and has been able to experience Fenway while attending several games, but things were drastically different between the white lines.
“It looks a lot bigger on the field,” he said. “I’ve seen five or six games here and everything looks pretty close, but everything was a lot bigger. It was awesome.”
“TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE” FOR SPEER
Mahoning Valley pitcher David Speer’s experience at Fenway was just as memorable.
He missed an appearance on the Fenway mound by a day as he is scheduled to pitch for the Scrappers back in Lowell on Monday night, but being part of a game at “America’s Most Beloved Ballpark” was a dream come true for the Westport, Conn. native.
The left-hander who has made five relief appearances in his first professional season won the Ivy League Pitcher of the Year award this past spring, as he led Columbia University to its second straight NCAA Tournament berth with a 7-2 record and 1.86 ERA in 87 innings.
“This is awesome,” Speer said. “Just getting the chance where so few people have had the chance they got to play. To get a chance to do that so soon after getting drafted is such a cool opportunity.”
Connecticut is known as the distinct border between Red Sox and Yankees fans, but Speer grew up on the Boston side of the border. He has vivid memories of Fenway, including being in attendance for the Red Sox’ World Series-clinching game back in October.
“I’ve come here about once a year with my dad,” Speer said. “I have tons of memories here, but (being here for the World Series) was such a cool experience. It’s awesome this is the next time coming back in but playing on it is a little different.”
Red Sox outfielder Shane Victorino went 0-for-2 with a walk in his fourth game with Lowell on rehab from a hamstring strain, appearing as the marquee player in the Spinners’ sixth appearance in Futures at Fenway.
The Hawaiian native hit a pair of sharp fly balls deep into the outfield in the first and third innings before drawing a walk on a 3-1 pitch in the fifth. He advanced from first to third base on a single by Spinners center fielder Danny Mars before being replaced by pinch runner Bryan Hudson.
“Physically, I feel good,” Victorino said. “I’ve played five, I’ve played seven (innings). The thing about at-bats is that’s the thing that I have to get adjusted to, but it’s all part of it. It’s just about getting more at-bats and just getting physically ready to go. Everything’s going accordingly.”
Victorino was scheduled to play for Double-A Portland last night, but traffic on his drive to Maine forced him to be scratched from the top of the Sea Dogs lineup.
In other rehab-related news, Ty Buttrey returned to the Spinners and was with the team before the game at Fenway. He will take the ball in Lowell’s homestand finale Monday night at 7:05 p.m. Buttrey, who started for Lowell in his second professional season in 2013, is recovering from a broken hand.