By John Bohnenkamp
Ian Landreneau was able to relax.
His offense, and the defense behind him, got the Burlington Bees’ starting pitcher everything he needed on Saturday night.
Landreneau gave up one run in five innings, and he and relievers Steven Escarcega and Jaxon Ingram combined on a two-hitter in the 4-1 win over the Clinton LumberKings in a Prospect League game at Community Field.
The Bees (11-18) broke a four-game losing streak heading into the final game of the first half on Sunday.
Landreneau (2-3) gave up just one run in the first inning, and kept the LumberKings off-balance all night.
“Just commanding the zone with the fastball, and keeping the breaking ball in the zone,” Landreneau said. “And our defense played well. That’s big, because I don’t have to put all of the pressure on myself. I can just put the ball over the plate, because I know they’ll be there to help out.”
Landreneau, who gave up five walks and struck out four, has allowed just three earned runs in his last two starts. He had given up 15 in his first three starts.
“Lando went out there and competed,” Bees manager Owen Oreskovich said. “He minimized the walks — he had some 3-2 counts, but he made the pitches to get out of it. He let his defense work behind him. It was awesome to watch.”
Oreskovich thought back to Landreneau’s second start of the season, a 9-2 loss at O’Fallon on June 9. Landreneau opened the game with four shutout innings before giving up six runs in the fifth.
“He had a really good (start) early in the year against O’Fallon,” Oreskovich said. “It just went sideways in one inning.
“He’s just in the routine now as a starter. He knows when he’s going to throw. He’s filling (the strike zone) up more, not allowing free bases. He’s taking a little weight off his shoulders by doing that.”
The only run Landreneau gave up was in the top of the first. He thought he was out of the inning when he retired Rayth Peterson on a comebacker, but the play was ruled a foul ball. Peterson walked, and then scored when Matt Scherrman’s high popup down the first-base line fell for a base hit.
The Bees took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the inning on Kevin Santiago’s two-run home run. They added two more runs in the second on Dawson Estep’s RBI triple and Sam Monroe’s run-scoring double.
“Getting the lead like that, I don’t have to try to be perfect,” said Landreneau, a right-hander from Texas Wesleyan University. “I can sit there and trust the defense.”
“When you get up in the first few innings, it makes it easier,” Oreskovich said. “It makes it easier for the offense. And it makes it easier for the pitcher — he can go out there and breathe a little bit.”
Escarcega walked one and struck out one in two shutout innings. Ingram picked up his first save with two perfect innings.
“Steve went out and did a great job, like he’s done all summer,” Oreskovich said. “Jax did a hell of a job there at the end. He’s one of the best kids on the team. He brings everyone together, he’s outgoing, he’s fun in the clubhouse. It’s nice to see kids like that succeed and do well.”
“It was great for them to come in and shut the door,” Landreneau said. “Zeroes after the first two innings. If we keep doing that, we’ll be in good shape.”
ON DECK: The two teams play a 6:30 p.m. game on Sunday. Jared Townsend (1-2) will start for the Bees.
Photo: Ian Landreneau allowed just two hits in five innings in the Bees’ 4-1 win over Clinton. (Steve Cirinna/Burlington Bees)