NORMAL — Normal starter Matt Portland did not help himself Wednesday at the Corn Crib with four walks in six innings.
Yet his CornBelters' teammates did little to assist Portland's cause, either.
Normal committed three errors and lost two runners on the bases to aid in Lake Erie's 8-4 Frontier League victory before a crowd of 1,147.
"We didn't make some plays behind him," Belters manager Billy Horn said. "We didn't get the big hits we needed, especially with two outs and runners in scoring position."
Portland, who had issued just eight walks over his first 26 innings, allowed five runs, three of which were earned. The left-hander struck out four and gave up eight hits.
"He didn't have his best stuff, but he battled," said Horn. "He wasn't very efficient with two strikes. There were six or seven batters we had two strikes on that ended on getting on base."
Joel Davis and Justin Fletcher singled and scored for the Belters in the third inning.
In the sixth, Andrew Godbold tripled and came home on Chris Iriart's single. Tanner Lubach walked and scored as Sammy Vega bounced out.
Belters shortstop Santiago Chirino had a single and a double in four plate appearances to move within eight hits of tying the Frontier League career hits record.
Along with the errors, a sixth-inning Lake Erie fly ball was lost in the lights, dropped for a double and led to the Crushers' fifth run.
Lake Erie doubled its lead from 6-4 to 8-4 on a two-run, ninth-innng home run from Bryan DeLaRosa.
With its fourth straight loss, Normal's record slipped to 11-16.
Lawlor to make start: Having allowed just one hit in his first four innings as a CornBelters pitcher, Ryan Lawlor will join the team's starting rotaton on Saturday at Windy City.
Lawlor will take the spot of Scott Sebald, who was signed by the Miami Marlins organization earlier this week.
The left-handed Lawlor has six strikeouts and one walk in two relief appearances thus far. Horn has planned to make Lawlor a starter as soon as he appeared ready.
"He'll go three, maybe four innings," Horn said. "We've got enough arms in the bullpen."
Lawlor pitched at the high Class A level in the Atlanta Braves farm system in 2017.
Kevin Matthews will start Thursday's 7:05 p.m. series finale against Lake Erie at the Corn Crib. Illinois State product Jack Landwehr takes the hill for Friday's series opener at Windy City.
Center field black hole: Center field has not been a position of prosperity for the Belters over the season's first month.
Nick Cain began the season as the starting center fielder and is currently on the injured list with an oblique strain.
Derek Bauer took over in center and struggled so badly at the plate he was released. Tony Holton was signed and inserted into center field and promptly strained his groin.
"We might have to go to softball with left-center and right-center (to avoid the center field hex)," Horn joked.
Garcia struggles: Normal starter Jacinto Garcia held a 1.96 ERA through his first 23 innings this season before getting blasted for seven earned runs in 1⅔ innings on Tuesday.
"It was kind of odd. He generally has very good command," Horn said after Garcia gave up four hits and walked five. "Watching film and talking with him (Wednesday), there were some mechanical things off. Five walks is very uncharacteristic."
Washington going wild: Washington is the hottest team in the Frontier League. The Wild Things won their ninth straight game Wednesday and sport the league's best record at 20-9.
Washington is averaging an eye-popping 11.2 runs over its current winning streak. The Wild Things have the league's top three in RBIs, led by James Harris with 32.
New all-star format: The Frontier League is switching its all-star game from the traditional East vs. West setup to a Rookies vs. Experienced format.
“I am very excited about the new format for the All-Star Game,” Commissioner Bill Lee said. “In the past, our games have been dominated by our older players. Now, the younger players will have an excellent chance to showcase their talents. I am looking forward to the game.”
The Rookie team will be made up of players in their first of second full professional seasons with the Experienced squad sporting players with more than two full seasons of pro experience.
The league's mid-season classic will take place July 11 at CarShield Field in O’Fallon, Mo., the home of the River City Rascals.