ALLENTOWN – Baseball is a game of numbers and a two tell the tale of the IronPigs as the Syracuse Sky Chiefs pluck successive close losses from Lehigh Valley.
The failure to drive in runners in scoring positon and the failure to catch a ball paved the way for Syracuse to shutout the IronPigs 2-0 in front of 8,690 at Coca-Cola Park on Sunday.
Tom Milone, making his Triple-A debut, stymied the IronPigs through seven shutout innings.
A pair of relievers completed the shutout that negated a solid start by IronPigs starter Eddie Bonine.
Anytime the IronPigs placed a runner in scoring position, Sky Chief pitchers shut the door. Rich Thompson set up the best opportunity for Lehigh Valley when he led the game off with a single. A balk and a ground out later, he was on third with one out, but Milone shut the door.
"He changed speeds, he pitched inside when he had to," IronPig manager Ryne Sandberg said "We just couldn't lock in on him. It could be a little bit of early-season stuff but I like to tip my hat to a guy that performs well, and I thought (Milone) performed well."
The IronPigs wasted prime scoring opportunities in the second and ninth innings. Even a Matt Milller leadoff single led to a perfectly pitched ground-ball double play to squash the home crowd hopes.
Meanwhile, the IronPigs were playing in a field-of-errors, as their second passed ball and fifth error of the season led to both Syracuse runs. Those runs pinned the loss on Bonine who pitched six-innings, striking out eight while allowing just one earned run.
"He pitched well enough to win," Sandberg said of his starter. "A costly error that turned into a run and a passed ball. When you are held up offensively, those things add up."
The IronPigs did have a couple of bright spots defensively.
Belliard, a second baseman for most of his major league career, led the team with two hits and made an outstanding play on Syracuse's Chris Marrero to start a double play in the sixth.
The two teams meet again tonight at Coca-Cola Park. Brian Bass takes the mound for the IronPigs. He pitched last year for Indianapolis (Pittsburgh, AAA) with a 4-4 record and a 3.26 ERA. Graig Stammen takes the hill for Syracuse.