Although the game was delayed by rain for around 50 minutes, it would be the Rochester Red Wings bats that brought the thunder Tuesday, as a big five-run third inning that included a grand slam by Jake Alu provided them all the runs they needed in a 5-3 win over the Lehigh Valley IronPigs.
The grand slam came as part of an inning that saw all nine Red Wings come to the plate. It began with catcher Taylor Gushue hitting a solo shot- his fourth home run of the year- to right-center off IronPig starter Noah Skirrow to give the Red Wings a 1-0 lead. Singles by Jeckson Flores and Andrew Stevenson followed. After the IronPigs got the first out on an infield fly by Lucius Fox, John Nogowski walked to load the bases.
Up stepped Alu, who hit the 0-1 pitch into the old “Couch Potato Club” in right-center for the Red Wings’ first grand slam since Joey Meneses on May 24 in Syracuse.
“I was just trying to see a ball, drive the ball up the middle to a big part of the field, [but] he threw a slider and kind of left one over the plate, and I took advantage of it,” said the Boston College product, who now has nine home runs at the AAA level this season.
“It felt really good.”
Alu has been on fire at the plate over the past week, going 11-27 (.407) with five home runs, three doubles, 14 RBI, eight runs scored, and a walk.
“I kind of get in streaks where I feel good, I kind of get into streaks where I feel bad, and I guess that’s just the nature of the game,” he said. “You kind of survive until you get hot again, and I’m in that spot again where I feel good.”
His hot bat hasn’t escaped the notice of Red Wings manager Matthew LeCroy.
“He’s gotten big hits: three-run homers, a grand slam, solo shots that are impactful hits,” he said. “Him and [Red Wings hitting coach] Brian Daubach did some things a month ago to get him back to hitting towards the middle of the field. He took it, and he’s been really good [since].”
Although the IronPigs would climb back into the game with three runs- including two on a home run by Darick Hall– the Red Wings lead would hold, with Alberto Baldonado getting the win (his second) in relief and Reed Garrett earning his second save of the year. Starter Patrick Murphy pitched well in four-and-two-thirds inning, spreading out five hits and allowing one run while striking out five, but he hit his pitch count before he could finish the five innings required for a win.
The Red Wings go for a 2-0 series lead on Wednesday, when they host the IronPigs at 1:05 PM. Joan Adon is the scheduled starter. Although this Lehigh Valley series that runs through Sunday is not the final homestand of the season for the Wings, it is the last time in 2022 that Rochester will host the full six-game set that has become the standard since the coronavirus pandemic, meaning the Wednesday game will be the second-to-last Wednesday home game of the season.