By KEVIN OKLOBZIJA
In an era of launch angles, tape-measure home runs and don’t-get-cheated swings, Brent Rooker employed a little old-school baseball to provide the Rochester Red Wings with victory on Friday night.
Rooker fought off a good, well-spotted pitch from Jimmy Cordero and grounded a seeing-eye single through the hole between first and second, driving home Willians Astudillo from second and the Wings defeated the Charlotte Knights 7-6.
“Obviously getting jammed and hitting a soft ground ball isn’t the goal, but if it drives in the winning run, I’ll take it,” said Rooker, who went 1-for-3 and has hit safely in 15 of the past 16 games.
The victory was the 10th in the past 11 games for the Wings (30-34), who overcame deficits of 1-0 and 5-4. Perhaps more impressive was their immediate response after the Knights (36-30) tied the score in the top of the eighth.
Pittsford Mendon grad Danny Mendick was a part of that Charlotte rallying, hitting a ground rule double that moved what became the tying run to third base and paved the way for Ryan Goins‘ sacrifice fly.
But the Wings came right back against Jimmy Cordero, one of the International League’s better relievers — and did so after two were out.
Astudillo singled — his fourth hit of the night in five at-bats — and Jake Cave followed with a single. Rooker then fought off the running-in-on-the-fists pitch and grounded it the opposite way.
It wasn’t hit hard, but it was placed perfectly.
“When you put the ball in play, you never know what’s going to happen,” Wings manager Joel Skinner said. “There’s something to be said for putting the ball in play.”
Cody Stashak pitched a strong ninth to close out the victory. He gave up the tying run in the top of the eighth and did allow one-out single in the ninth, but struck out Daniel Palka and retired Zack Collins on a weak grounder to first to end it.
“The only shutdown inning of the game was the ninth,” Skinner said.
Stashak was promoted from Double-A on Sunday. He has made two appearances and has two wins along with seven strikeouts in four innings.
The Wings were the beneficiaries of an overturned call by first base umpire John Bacon, the crew chief, in the sixth inning.
But Skinner ran over to argue and somehow persuaded Bacon to consult with the other base umpire, Mike Wiseman. A moment later, the umpires singled safe and the Wings had the bases loaded.
“From our side of the field he didn’t catch the ball,” Skinner said. “From where the play developed and where the call was made, I wanted to make sure they used all three umpires.”
Astudillo followed with an RBI single and Cave hit a sacrifice fly, turning a 5-4 deficit into a 6-5 lead.
That was the third time in the game the Wings retaliated in the bottom half of an inning after Charlotte had gone ahead or tied the game.
“We’ve done a really good job of that the past two weeks,” Rooker said. “After teams score, we do a pretty good job of responding quickly and not letting the momentum shift.”