By Dan Glickman
ROCHESTER, N.Y. – The Rochester Red Wings had a chance to reach .500 for the first time all season on Saturday, only to see the chance walk away in a disastrous five-walk, five-run eighth inning as the Wings fell to the Syracuse Mets, 10-5.
“It just was a tough night,” said Red Wings manager Matt LeCroy. “These guys have been pretty good, but [tonight] just didn’t have it.”
The loss, the Wings’ first since a 3-2 defeat at Toledo on May 26, was, for a while, a back-and-forth affair.
Syracuse shortstop Jonathan Arauz put the Mets ahead early with a one-out solo shot in the top of the second, as the Panamanian smashed a 3-1 pitch off fellow countryman Paolo Espino through the wind and well over the right field fence for the 1-0 score.
In the bottom of the fourth, it was Rochester’s turn. With runners on first and second, left fielder Travis Blankenhorn got a hold of a 1-2 pitch from Alex Valverde and knocked it through the right side, bringing home Nomar Mazara to tie the game, 1-1. Catch Drew Millas followed up with a double to bring home Franmil Reyes to give Rochester its first lead, 2-1, and chase Valverde from the game. Later in the inning, center fielder Derek Hill singled to right to bring home both Blankenhorn and Millas and extend the lead to 4-1.
That single was Hill’s second hit of the game. A double to right in the third had extended his hit streak to 16 games, two shy of Josh Palacios’ Nationals-era record.
“He and [hitting coach Bobby] Daubach have been awesome,” said LeCroy. “They’ve figured things out from what he’s done in the past, Hilly’s put in all the work and he’s reaping all the benefits from it. I’m proud of where he’s at.”
On the mound, Espino started the game for the Red Wings and went five innings, allowing three hits and only the Arauz home run while striking out five and walking three.
In the sixth, Anthony Banda replaced Espino. Syracuse pounced, using a single and two walks to load the bases with one out for Arauz, who knocked the second pitch he saw to left center, allowing him to clear the bases and come around all the way to third for the game-tying triple. The game didn’t remain 4-4 for long, as Carlos Cortes followed up with a sacrifice fly to score Arauz to pull ahead, 5-4.
“To me, that’s where it went the other direction,” said LeCroy. “We gave up four, and then we got caught up in the walks.”
The Red Wings tied it back up, 5-5, in the bottom of the inning, with Hill driving in Richie Martin on a sharp triple that barely stayed fair of the left field foul line.
Rochester threatened to take the lead in the seventh, as they had men at the corners with one out. Syracuse’s Nate Lavender struck out the last two batters to keep it tied.
And then came the eighth, a nightmare of an inning that left the Red Wings out of it for good. With one out, Tommy Romero walked two batters and was replaced by Alberto Baldonado. Baldonado also had problems finding the plate, walking the next two men, bringing in the go-ahead run with a bases-loaded walk to Carlos Cortes to make the game 6-5. After Lorenzo Cedrola flew out, Luis Guillorme drew a walk to extend the lead to 7-5. Rehabbing major league catcher Omar Navaez then singled, with an error allowing all three Mets runners to score to make the score 10-5. Jose Mujica was able to later end the inning after a walk and a fly-out, but the damage was done.
The Red Wings would ultimately go down in order in both the eighth and ninth for the defeat.
“You’ve got to tip your cap [to Syracuse]; they took advantage of our walks,” said LeCroy. “Hopefully, we can start something up again tomorrow. We can squash this, flush it, move on, and hopefully do better.”
As for Hill, who finished just a home run away from Rochester’s first cycle since Michael Restovich on May 8, 2004?
“I definitely would have rather had the win,” he said. “Got to come back tomorrow and see if we can redeem ourselves.”