By PAUL GOTHAM
ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Temperatures stayed in the 30s throughout Thursday night’s Rochester Red Wing home opener at Frontier Field.
The chilly air didn’t bother Luke Raley.
“I went to a DII school in Cleveland where we played in snow all the time, so I’m kinda used to it,” the Lake Erie College alum said. “It feels like I’m back home.”
It showed at the plate where the designated hitter drove in half of the Wings’ runs in a 13-6 loss to Lehigh Valley.
“It’s not different from Cleveland, so I’m used to it,” he added. “You never know what to expect.”
Raley finished 3-for-4 on the night and connected on his first Triple-A home run in the fourth inning – a 390 foot shot that landed in the Wings’ bullpen.
— Rochester Red Wings (@RocRedWings) April 12, 2019
“I hit a change-up,” Raley said of the three-run blast that pulled the Wings within a run at 4-3. “I was just looking for something over the plate to drive. He gave it to me.”
Two at-bats later he reached on a hit that traveled less than 90 feet. With Lehigh Valley’s infield in a shift, Raley dropped a bunt down the third baseline. The IronPigs Mitch Walding never had a chance.
“That’s something I’ve been working on,” Raley explained. “A lot of people like to put the shift on when I’m up. If they move the third baseman away before the two strikes, I’m really going to stress it this year, to get bunts down and keep that third baseman over by third base and it opens up that hole up the middle.”
The hit brought the tying run to the plate in the eighth inning with the Wings trailing, 8-5.
A seventh-round pick of the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 2016 draft, Minnesota acquired Raley in last July’s trade that sent Brian Dozier to the NL West club.
“He put a nice swing on the home run then he put himself on base and got the tying run to the plate late in the ball game,” second-year Wings manager Joel Skinner said. “With the type of pitcher and where we were in the score, he felt comfortable doing that.”
Rochester failed to capitalize on the opportunity and finished the night 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position. The Wings opened the season 4-for-32 in trying to get a hit in those situations.
Lewis Thorpe started and couldn’t get out of the fifth inning. The left-hander faced eight batters in the first inning and gave up three runs. He allowed six runs on seven hits and dropped to 0-2 on the season. Ryan Eades allowed a run on four hits over two and a third innings of relief. Lehigh Valley touched DJ Baxendale for six runs (four earned) in an inning of work.
“It’s just a matter of settling in,” Skinner said. “These guys are getting out here for the first time on our mound. Even though you practice on it, it’s not the same. It’s good for the guys to get out there and compete.”
Rochester fell to 2-6 on the season.
The same two teams go at it again on Friday. A 6:30 PM first pitch is scheduled.