BOSTON -- A good deal of Boston's future already plays at Fenway Park whenever the Red Sox are at home.
But this was the official ninth annual Futures at Fenway game. The Fenway setting seemed to fill young Lowell Spinners with images of Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Mookie Betts' rapid ascents through Boston's system.
For 8.2 innings on this wonderful July afternoon, the Spinners played like they also belonged here.
Spectacular defense and solid pitching brought Lowell to the ninth inning with a 1-0 lead.
But the Mahoning Valley Scrappers on Sunday scored six runs in the top of the ninth -- all after the first two batters of the inning were retired -- to defeat the Spinners, 6-1, before a crowd of 8,104 (not counting dogs that fans were permitted to bring into the ballpark).
"I feel really bad for these guys because they played their heart and soul out today," said Spinners manager Joe Oliver. "The (great defensive) plays that were made ... and to have it slip away so fast, it's a shame. That's how crazy a baseball game can turn."
The Spinners have lost six straight games and nine of their last 10, falling to 12-18.
Lowell is 3-3 all-time in its Future at Fenway appearances.
The Spinners are back at LeLacheur Park on Monday night to play Mahoning Valley.
"Probably won't be the same buzz (as being at Fenway)," said Spinners center fielder Danny Mars (2-for-5, double). "But we look forward to going out there every day and playing.
In a top of the ninth to learn from, right-hander Chandler Shepherd retired the first two batters- and then three times he was one strike from finishing off the Scrappers.
And then came a single and three consecutive walks to tie the score 1-1.
Oliver called on Carlos Pinales, who has all seven of Lowell's saves this season. But as Pinales warmed up, home-plate umpire Mac Dietz became aware of Pinales not being listed on the Spinners' 30-man active roster for this game.
"That's my mistake," said Oliver. "I have so many guys who I put on and off my roster card each day, I didn't double-check and triple-check like I normally do. I take full blame."
Oliver went to Oscar Perez, who hit the first batter he faced with a pitch to bring in the go-ahead run, then gave up consecutive doubles to make it 6-1.
The Spinners had taken a 1-0 lead when Mauricio Dubon's two-out single to right in the fourth scored Nick Longhi.
Shane Victorino, 33-year-old veteran of more than 1,000 big league games, was Lowell's starting right fielder and leadoff hitter for Futures at Fenway.
"I never thought I'd be the feature here on Futures at Fenway," said a smiling Victorino, who has been on the disabled list since May 24 with hamstring and back issues. He was trying to get in his work and catch a 7:30 flight home to Hawaii for the All-Star break.
Before leaving, Victorino threw out a runner at the plate to end the top of the fifth inning, preserving Lowell's 1-0 lead at the time. He went 0-for-2 with a walk, leaving for a pinch-runner at third base during a Mahoning Valley pitching change in the fifth.
The Spinners' defense looked major league on Sunday. First baseman Sam Travis ranged far to his right and threw home to cut down run for second out of eighth inning. That runner might have scored earlier in the inning except he was held up at second by Spinners shortstop Dubon bluffing fielding a popup on a hit-and-run single to right.
Dubon and second baseman Raymel Flores were spectacular in the game, turning three 4-6-3 double plays. Flores also made a diving stop to prevent a run in the seventh.
But that defense never had a chance in a ninth inning that included three walks and a hit batter.
Still, it was a chance to play at Fenway.
"I wish it was a full stadium. But maybe someday," said Spinners starting pitcher Kevin McAvoy (2ip, 1h, 0r, 0bb, 2k), a former Yankees fan from Syracuse who pitched at Bryant University.
Left fielder Longhi was born in Springfield and raised in Florida as a diehard Red Sox fan. His parents, Tom and Deborah, were at the game, as were many of the players' parents.
The 18-year-old Longhi played games indoors at Tropicana Field and the old Metrodome in Minneapolis as a schoolboy. "Those didn't give me the feeling I have right now," he said after batting practice.
Longhi looked almost like a lefty Yaz playing shots smoothly off the Monster in the third and fourth innings, holding Mahoning Valley Scrappers to singles.
"I would have like to win," said Longhi (0-for-3), whose 14-game hitting streak was snapped. "But on a personal note, I was excited to be here, and I was very happy to play here."
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