OGDEN -- The dog days of summer have hit the Ogden Raptors.
Coming off a 3-7 stretch over their last ten games, the Raptors were hoping to start hot as they finished the final two games of a home stand against the Billings Mustangs.
"Today, we came out flat, and we looked up and were behind," Raptors manager Damon Berryhill said. "We were out in the field pretty much all day, and it's just a tough situation. Pitching, we've got to do a much better job."
Instead, it was the Mustangs who came out hot, scoring eight runs in the first four innings to squelch the Raptors' hopes of getting hot, as Billings won 9-1 at Lindquist Field.
Billings started the game by carving up Ogden starter Luis De Paula, with right fielder Aristides Aquino and second baseman Avain Rachal reaching base on consecutive singles. Then, after a lineout, left fielder Adam Matthews hit a triple, scoring Aquino and Rachal to give the Mustangs a 2-0 lead. Mathews also scored on a Jose Ortiz single.
The Mustangs' Ronald Bueno scored in the second, and scored two more runs in both the third and fourth innings.
The Raptors' scoring started in the bottom of the seventh inning, as first baseman Jesus Valdez scored on an Alex Santana sacrifice fly, cutting the Billings lead to 8-1.
And while the Raptors threatened in the eighth, Ogden was never able to completely recover though, as the Mustangs' tacked on two more runs in the ninth.
Billings starter Ben Lively pitched three perfect innings before he pulled going into the fourth inning. Daniel Wright earned the win for the Mustangs. Raptors starter Luis De Paula took the loss.
Berryhill attributed Ogden's recent struggles to a lack of consistency in starting pitching.
"To be honest, most of our struggle has been starting pitching," Berryhill said. "We've basically just killed our bullpen the last five games, and starting pitching has been really poor.
"Offensively, it's tough to swing the bats when you're always battling."
The Raptors and Mustangs will play the final game of the home stand tonight, with Scott Barlow slated to start for Ogden. Pedro Diaz is set to start for Billings.
For the Raptors, breaking out of the losing streak is critical, in the mind of their manager.
"It's an attitude adjustment," Berryhill said. "Right now, we're walking out there- we don't have any confidence starting pitching-wise, and it shows."