By CHUCKIE MAGGIO
The first inning of the Rochester Red Wings’ series-opening win over the Syracuse Chiefs at Frontier Field on Tuesday provided a basic blueprint for how the rest of the contest was going to unfold.
Red Wings starting pitcher Aaron Slegers continued his strong form by breezing through a nine-pitch frame that yielded two flyouts and a popup. About as quickly as Rochester hit the field, the team was returning to the dugout to bat.
Chiefs pitcher Cesar Vargas was hardly as fortunate; when he threw his ninth pitch, he was already down 2-0 with no one out. Ryan LaMarre and Jake Cave each plated a quick run on a triple and double, respectively. Brock Stassi earned an RBI single of his own to complete a three-run bottom half that featured four hits.
Besides a Matt Hague solo home run in the top of the fourth, the remaining eight innings were a near-replica of the start: Slegers and Rochester rolled through with minimum damage while Vargas and Syracuse labored. The result was a 9-1 Red Wings win to start the week’s homestand.
The Wings recorded a season-high 19 hits, smashing the previous high of 14. It was the team’s first 19-hit day since an Aug. 15, 2016 win over Buffalo. Willians Astudillo‘s single in the bottom of the eighth ensured that each of the nine batters would hit safely.
LaMarre launched the hitting spree in his first home game at Frontier. The 29-year-old was 3-for-5 with four RBI and three runs scored in his 700th career minor league game. The triple was the game’s second hit and generated the first run, aiding the early momentum.
“It was nice, any time you can get on the board early,” LaMarre said. “The hit’s great but getting the RBI, putting us up 1-0, and then Cave came through and got that double right after me. I felt like we were in attack mode right from there and I feel like it really helped us set the tone for the rest of the night.”
Zack Granite and Taylor Featherston also had three-hit nights, giving the squad baserunners at the top and tail end of the order. Not to be outdone, the meat of the order-Cave, Kennys Vargas, Jermaine Curtis and Stassi-did its job and combined for eight hits.
The lineup had good timing; Twins general manager Thad Levine was in town to watch the franchise’s Triple-A affiliate.
“If we keep getting 19 hits we might have to keep him here for a little longer than he probably planned on,” LaMarre joked. “We’ll have to check his schedule.”
Slegers accepted the run support and shut down the Syracuse lineup, allowing a mere three hits and just the one earned run off Hague’s blast in six strong innings. He only struck out one batter, which was fine for an efficient 74-pitch outing.
“It’s always nice when they put the ball in play early in counts,” Slegers remarked, “and with the defense we had out there, it makes it really easy on me. Everything that was put on the ground was an out, which was really fun; some double plays. Those guys are really hitting their stride (defensively).
“It does a lot for the confidence- it does a lot for the ballclub too. Putting up runs in the first inning and then getting the guys back in the dugout and they put up that three-spot like they do in the first, that game was off to a pretty positive start.”
The team win earned a stamp of approval from manager Joel Skinner, whose club has won seven of its last nine games.
“It was just one of those nights where everybody contributed,” Skinner said. “I think the big part of tonight’s game was our defense was really solid. Our outfield defense took away some extra-base hits from them early and late, and then we were able to turn a couple double plays so it all worked together tonight.”