By PAUL CIFONELLI
When just looking at the box score, Chris Heintz’s line read two hits in five at bats with two runs scored and three RBI. That included a three-run homer and a rally-starting double. However, it was his glove work that had his manager’s attention at the end of the game.
With the Red Wings leading 7-3 in the eighth inning with runners on first and second with two outs, Pat Neshek was summoned in the game to put out the fire. Neshek, who dominated the International League the entire 2006 season, gave up a well-hit ball down the third base line to Yurendell de Caster of the Indianapolis Indians. Heintz knocked the ball down and saved a run but didn’t record an out on the play. Despite that, Stan Cliburn, Rochester’s manager, still thought it was the most important play of the game.
“If that ball gets down the line, it’s a whole new ball game,” Cliburn told the Democrat & Chronicle after the game. “It saved the game. It took a little pressure off Neshek, who’s not used to the first guy getting on base against him.”
Neshek punched out the next batter, Chris Truby, to get out of the inning. He also notched two strikeouts in the ninth without allowing a hit to record the save. After that performance, Neshek had 79 strikeouts in 48 1/3 innings for Rochester. His penchant for striking batters out could lull his fielders to sleep, which makes Heintz’s play that much better.
“That’s why it was such a great play,” Cliburn said. “But when that guy comes in, it’s electric. Guys are ready to make plays.”
The Red Wings took a 2-0 lead after one inning in thanks to singles from Jason Tyner, Gil Velazquez, Kevin West and Garrett Jones and a sacrifice fly from Josh Rabe.
Heintz’s three-run homer in the third inning extended the Red Wings’ lead to 5-0, which was more than enough for starting pitcher Mike Smith, who went seven innings and allowed three runs on five hits and two walks while also registering three strikeouts.
“With the 5-0 lead, I didn’t have to worry too much about that guy (Truby) in the fifth scoring after the lead-off double,” Smith said. “It’s a little easier pitching with the lead.”
After Truby scored for the Indians in the top of the fifth, Heintz’s double kick-started a two-run bottom half. Indianapolis scored its final two runs in the top of the seventh inning off Smith.
|Yurendell de Caster||4||1||2||0|
E- Truby LOB- Indianapolis 6, Rochester 10 DP- Rochester 1 2B- Truby 2, Heintz 3B- Tyner HR- Heintz SF- Maldonado, Rabe
Indianapolis 0 0 0 0 1 0 2 0 0- 3
Rochester 2 0 3 0 2 0 0 0 X- 7
|Landon Jacobsen L(0-1)||5||10||7||7||3||1|
|Mike Smith W(4-3)||7||5||3||3||2||3|
|Pat Neshek S(13)||1.1||1||0||0||0||3|
Time- 2:35 Attendance- 11,959
Also on this day: A Marcus Thames home run provided the only scoring as the Toledo Mud Hens beat the Red Wings 1-0 at Frontier Field in 2005. Scott Baker struck out 11 for the Wings, who out-hit Toledo 9-6 but stranded 14 baserunners… Even though the Red Wings outhit the Skeeters 9-6, the Skeeters came out victorious at home against the Red Wings 4-3. Buster Mills and Ray Pepper each had two his for the Wings.