Defense dooms Revs in Game 1 loss

In a season in which the York Revolution scored nearly 800 runs, its biggest weakness went unnoticed week after week.

The Revs have not been a good defensive team all year — and it finally caught up to them when it mattered most.

Three errors, including an eighth-inning miscue through the legs of Jose Enrique Cruz that allowed the eventual winning run, plagued York in a 3-2 loss to Somerset in Game 1 of the Atlantic League Freedom Division Series Tuesday at Sovereign Bank Stadium. A crowd of 4,038 watched the Revolution drop its first playoff game ever in the best-of-three series.

And York, which had a league-worst .969 fielding percentage and committed 156 errors (second-to-last) in the regular season, wasted a brilliant outing from Aaron Rakers. The right-hander, making his first postseason start since his college days at Southern Illinois Edwardsville, went 7 1/3 innings and gave everything he had for 123 pitches. Rakers, a career reliever before this year, could even be seen biting his glove in the late innings in between his rare mistakes.

But the gutsy outing wasn’t enough to thwart Somerset starter Joel Kirsten (seven innings, two earned runs) or keep York (0-1) from creating a monumental task. The Revs must sweep two games in Somerset’s history-laden Commerce Bank Ballpark to advance to the Atlantic League Championship Series.

“I don’t think it’s been a problem all year, but obviously tonight it was,” Revolution manager Chris Hoiles said in reference to York’s defense. “That’s how they got their first run and that’s how they got their last run. Without two errors, would they only have one (run) and we win the game? I don’t know. But it happened and I’m not going to say that our defense is faulty at all.”

Somerset (1-0), a team that has lived off the long ball all year, manufactured all three of its scores with a tooth-and-nail effort. Teuris Olivares singled over the head of third baseman Kenny Perez on a chopper in the top of the first, moved to second on an error from left-fielder Matt Esquivel on the hit and then moved to third on a wild pitch from Rakers.

That allowed Josh Pressley to plate Olivares on a groundout to short. Olivares then doubled with one out in the sixth, moved to third again on a wild pitch and scored on Pressley’s RBI single up the middle.

York answered back on Jason Aspito’s bloop RBI single in the sixth and the Revs tied the game on Edgard Clemente’s RBI double down the right-field line in the seventh. Esquivel, who scored on the hit, was at third base when the cut-off man (Olivares) threw the relay home, but catcher Jason Belcher bobbled the throw.

Olivares then struck again in the eighth, drawing a one-out walk from Rakers and shielding Cruz from the ball while executing a hit-and-run with Pressley.

“When I crossed by him, that’s when the ball crossed,” Olivares said. “That’s why he missed the ball. And when the ball hits the edge of the grass, it speeds up.”

Kirsten (pictured right), who was only acquired a week ago by the Patriots, was the surprise Game 1 starter. But his dominance in the postseason for Forth Worth of the independent American Association carried over nicely to the Atlantic League.

“I wouldn’t say I was surprised (to get the start),” Kirsten said. “I felt welcomed. I’ve worked hard all year long and I had to go out and prove they made the right decision.”

Despite the loss, York does have some momentum working in its favor. The Revs won two of three twice at Somerset in the second half.

“I’m sure it’s on our minds that we’ve done it and I’m sure it’s on their minds that we’ve done it,” Hoiles said. “We have to have that mindset that we have to take the next game tomorrow and then we’ll deal with Thursday if it comes.”

*John Pavoncello photos.

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