By CHUCKIE MAGGIO
Scott Baker had a 2006 to forget in Minnesota. After beating out Francisco Liriano for the Twins’ fifth starting pitching spot, he owned a 6.06 ERA and five losses in seven decisions. He was demoted to Rochester on June 1.
With Rochester, Baker pitched consistently for a playoff team. His best outing may have been on June 20, when he earned the two-hit win over Toledo as the rest of the game devolved into chaos.
Home plate umpire Rob Healey didn’t have time for dissenters that Tuesday evening, ejecting three game participants. Chris Heintz was the first to go when he disputed a called ball from third base just one pitch into the second inning.
Healey gave two more Wings the heave-ho in the eighth, dismissing relief pitcher Beau Kemp and Rochester manager Stan Cliburn when Kemp hit Jack Hannahan in the eighth after the two sides had been warned after a hit batter in the fifth.
“Why would we hit a guy to put the tying run at the plate (Mike Hessman) and he’s one of the league’s top home run hitters?” the competitive Cliburn remarked to the Democrat and Chronicle. “Makes no sense. It’s over-umpiring.”
Baker was nearly unhittable before giving way to Kemp, allowing just two hits and three walks in six innings. Baker struck out eight Mud Hens as he improved to 2-0 with Rochester.
Rochester supplied enough offense, led by Tommy Watkins’ first Triple-A hit and home run. The eventual Red Wings’ fan favorite, who smacked just four homers that season and peaked at eight in 2007, belted a three-run homer six innings after substituting for Heintz at third.
“When he got ready to bat (in the eighth), I said, ‘This would be a good time for Tommy Watkins’ first Triple-A hit’,” Cliburn recalled of watching the scene on the clubhouse television. “And there it goes.”
The win broke a three-game losing streak entering an eight-game road trip and served as an important moment in a 79-64 regular season. Rochester made it to the Governor’s Cup Finals, bowing to Toledo in five.
Baker won five of his nine decisions with the Red Wings, compiling a 2.67 ERA and 68 strikeouts to just 25 walks. He started in Rochester after a difficult 2007 spring training, pitching seven games in Triple-A, but established himself in Minnesota after that.
|Max St. Pierre||4||0||0||0|
E- Hooper, Phelps, Williams LOB- Toledo 10, Rochester 10 3B- Maza HR- Watkins (1) SB- Logan, Torres CS- Logan
|Jordan Tata (L, 3-3)||6||7||4||4||3||5|
|Scott Baker (W, 2-0)||6||2||0||0||3||8|
|Bobby Korecky (S,1)||1.2||1||0||0||1||1|
Time- 3:00 Attendance- 5,763
Also on this day: Tommy Poholsky threw a two-hitter as Rochester defeated Jersey City 1-0 in 1950… Joe Altobelli’s two-run homer lifted Rochester to a 6-5 win in Toronto, the Red Wings’ 11th win in a row, in 1963… Jim Fuller broke an 0-for-23 slump with a two-run double in Rochester’s 7-5 comeback win at Toledo in 1973… Mark Wiley went 4-for-5 in the Red Wings’ 7-1 victory over Maine in 1985… Benny Distefano’s three-run home run extended the advantage as Rochester topped Pawtucket 6-1 in 1991… A nine-run first inning was the difference as the Red Wings won 9-5 in Toledo on manager Andy Etchebarren’s birthday in 2001.