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RailCats lose third straight to Sioux Falls

Railcat's Zac Mitchell scores base hit by Adam Klebottom 2nd The Steel Yard Gary IN Sunday June 9 2013. |

Railcat's Zac Mitchell scores on a base hit by Adam Klein in the bottom of the 2nd at The Steel Yard in Gary, IN on Sunday, June 9, 2013. | Jim Karczewski~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: July 11, 2013 6:42AM



GARY — Cristian Guerrero tends to be a man of few words. But the Dominican-born veteran felt compelled to deliver a post-game address — and an impassioned one, at that — to his teammates following the RailCats’ 9-5 loss to Sioux Falls on Sunday at the Steel Yard.

And Guerrero’s message — after the Canaries (11-13) swept the RailCats (11-11), who suffered their fourth straight loss and sixth in their last seven games to fall back to .500 — came across loud and clear.

“We have to get up,” he said. “We’re a team. We have a good group of guys. But the way we’re playing right now, we’re not going to go far. Trust me. So we have to make adjustments right away. Quickly.”

Guerrero implored his teammates to focus on scoring runs early, instead of waiting until the late innings for a spirited rally. He encouraged them that “we’re better” than they’re playing, and to start showing it “tomorrow.” He explained how he returned to the team after a one-season absence because of its winning tradition, and he knows it is capable of making a deep postseason run.

But not in its current state.

“We have to put everything together. We have to,” Guerrero said.

Manager Greg Tagert’s take? “The one thing I’ve learned over the years, if you’re having post-game meetings, things are not going well,” he said.

The RailCats committed a season-worst four errors, including three in three-run third, with two by first baseman Steve Liddle on the same play. They surrendered five two-out runs — two in the second inning against starter Ari Ronick, and three in the seventh against Ian Durham, another bullpen breakdown — a recurring issue for them.

Tagert called out every phase of his team — the starting and relief pitching, which previously had been solid; the defense, especially galling given how fundamentally sound it typically has been, a source of pride; the offense, particularly the middle of the order for a lack run production. He understands getting swept, saying it happens to every team, good or bad, at every level of baseball; but the way it happened against Sioux Falls is “the concern” for him.

“The caliber of play in this league hopefully hasn’t surprised some guys,” Tagert said. “I don’t know if it showcased some of our deficiencies, or if we just didn’t play well. It’s something we have to take a long, hard look at.”

Ronick — who had gone 3-0 with a 1.83 ERA in his previous three starts — absorbed the loss, allowing six runs (four earned) on seven hits in five innings. Mitchell Clegg — who had gone 2-0 against the RailCats last season, throwing 13 scoreless innings — picked up the win, allowing five runs on nine hits in five innings.

Sioux Falls center fielder Nick Van Stratten continued to torment the RailCats, going 3-for-4 with four RBIs and a run scored, starting the game with a homer and delivering a two-out, two-run single in the seventh that gave the Canaries that 9-5 lead. He had gone 3-for-4 with a triple, double, single, walk and three runs on Saturday.

Mike Massaro went 3-for-3 with a double, RBI and two walks for the RailCats; Adam Klein, after missing Saturday’s game because of illness, went 2-for-5 with a triple, RBI and run scored; Danny Pulfer went 2-for-4 with an RBI and a run; and Liddle went 2-for-4.

The RailCats trailed 1-0 and 3-1 before tying the scoring both times, before Jared Clark’s homer to start the third — the inning in which Gary committed those three errors — snapped the tie for good. The RailCats answered again in the bottom of the inning to draw to 6-5, but they didn’t score again.

“We just have to get better,” Tagert said.

Notes: Massaro has reached base in all 22 games this season. … Morgan Coombs (1-0, 6.23 ERA), continuing to take the injured Stephen Hiscock’s spot in the rotation, is scheduled to start for the RailCats in Monday night’s series opener against Quebec, which has won four straight Can-Am League championships. It’s the only inter-league series for the RailCats this season.



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