By CHUCKIE MAGGIO
ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Red Wings left fielder J.B. Shuck sprinted like the game depended on it, hustling like the costumed representations of Joe Altobelli, Luke Easter and Cal Ripken Jr. during the Frontier Field Mascot Race.
John Ryan Murphy‘s eighth-inning single easily scored Niko Goodrum from second base to tie the game, but an error by Indianapolis center fielder Danny Ortiz had opened up the possibility for Shuck to score from first. Capable runner that Shuck is, third base coach Toby Gardenhire was willing to take the risk and wave him home.
The gamble paid dividends as Shuck beat the throw and gave his team a lead it would not relinquish. The Red Wings won 5-3 in front of an exuberant Memorial Day crowd of 9,593. The victory earned Rochester a series split with the Indians and a return to .500 on the season at 22-22.
The Indians entered the eighth inning with a 3-1 lead off the strength of a two-run home run by Elias Diaz in the fourth and an RBI single by Jason Rogers in the sixth. To that point, Rochester had left five runners on base and appeared to be on the way to another disappointing defeat.
As baseball fans know, however, a 3-1 Indians lead isn’t always safe.
“That’s why you play nine (innings),” Wings manager Mike Quade said with a smile. “Crazy, the range of emotions. Just a fabulous crowd, what a great day… it was a great day to have that kind of crowd and spend a minute thinking about all the (military personnel) that died for us.”
The range of emotions Quade was referring to also included his pitching staff. Probable pitcher Jason Wheeler was called up by the Minnesota Twins late Sunday night to provide their overworked bullpen another arm. Taking his place on the hill was right-hander Aaron Slegers, who was scheduled to start the first game of Tuesday’s doubleheader in Durham. Because of his last scheduled start being postponed on Thursday, he was rested for action.
Despite the late notice, Slegers turned in six innings of work and allowed just three runs on six hits. He struck out seven and issued just one walk. Three of his last five outs were strikeouts.
Michael Tonkin was the Wings’ pitcher of record, registering his first win of the year after three innings of one-hit, shutout ball. While Slegers took his second consecutive no-decision, he and Tonkin fulfilled Quade’s goal of not burning through his bullpen after a 12-inning game on Saturday required three relievers to combine for seven innings.
“(Pitching coach Stu Cliburn) just said ‘you’re pitching tomorrow,'” Slegers said of Sunday’s conversation. “It was a pretty short phone call, I was ready when he called me and told me I was pitching, and that was that.
“I felt pretty good early on, got into a little bit of a groove. Missed a pitch there in the fourth (to Diaz), a 1-2 slider… made a couple more mistakes later in the game, but I felt good for the first three innings and happy we got off to a good start.”
Murphy’s clutch hit, just his third in his last 19 at-bats, was the culmination of Goodrum and Shuck making the action happen for the Wings all game. Goodrum went 3-for-4 with two RBI and has now doubled seven times in the last nine games. Shuck walked three times on the afternoon; the third led to the game-winning run.
Slegers watched the go-ahead play while doing his post-appearance arm care routine in the training room.
“I was pretty fired up, me and our strength coach (Tyler Burks),” he said. “That was fun to see, to watch those guys come back and (Murphy) not giving up and getting that run in the eighth.”
“That’s good energy,” Goodrum added. “(Shuck) made him pay for that error he made in center field, and that’s the kind of stuff we need to do to win games.
“Can’t just hope one run does it; everyone has to hustle and grind out everything.”