First Inning Outburst Guides Rochester Red Wings to Victory
For teams looking to gain a strategy on how to respond to being swept, look no further than Rochester, NY. On April 19, the Rochester Red Wings had lost four straight to International League foe Pawtucket, dropping the club to 5-5. The team had lost its early season swagger, and seemed to be treading water.
When the club dropped the first game of a double-header to Syracuse two nights later, they were a game under .500, and it was not a stretch to believe that the AAA-club was spiraling downward. Time for a gut check, and the Red Wings showed how truly resilient they are.
It has been two weeks since the sweep. In that time the Rochester Red Wings have gone 9-4, to move to 14-9. That includes the fact that that just eight days ago they were 7-7. For those keeping score that means the club has gone 7-2 since a week ago Saturday, moving them just a half-game behind the Buffalo Bisons in the North Division.
It has been a stretch where the club has found a new way to win each and every night. Pitching gems, slugfests, and walk-off errors have been just a few ways the club has found a way to win. Sunday, the Red Wings tried a different strategy that provided the same winning result – the big first inning.
Zach Davies started for the Norfolk Tides, but he would not make it out of the first inning. The Tides starter retired the first batter he faced, then walked Eddie Rosario. Reynaldo Rodriguez grounded a ball to Michael Almanzar, who made a bad throw allowing Rodriguez to reach. That brought Josmil Pinto to the plate, who grounded a ball into leftfield for a base hit. Rosario rounded third heading home, but Henry Urrutia made a great throw to the plate to nail Rosario and keep the game scoreless.
That made it runners at second and third with two outs, and Davies looked like he was going to get out of the inning unscathed. Eric Fryer had other plans. He singled to leftfield, scoring Rodriguez and it was 1-0 with runners at the corners. Danny Ortiz then drilled a pitch over the head of the centerfielder that hit off the wall. Both runners scored and Ortiz raced into the third for his first triple of the year. Jose Martinez walked, and James Beresford ripped a shot that 2B Jayson Nix knocked down, but could not make a play on, allowing Ortiz to score. That would be it for Davies.
Chris Jones relieved and got the final out, but the damage was done. Davies (1-1), who had entered the game as one of the most dominant pitchers in the International League, lasted just two-thirds of an inning, allowing four hits, two walks and four earned runs.
With the early lead, Rochester starter Alex Meyer took command of the game. He allowed a single run in the third, on a one-out triple by Paul Janish and an RBI single by Julio Borbon, but otherwise kept the Tides off the scoreboard for seven innings. He allowed six hits and two walks through the first seven frames, while striking out six.
Jones had been keeping Norfolk in the game, but in the fifth inning he wore down. He retired the first two batters of the inning, but then gave up four straight singles to Fryer, Ortiz, Martinez and Beresford to plate two more runs. That would be it for Jones, who allowed two runs in four innings of work.
In the bottom of the sixth Aaron Hicks lead off with a towering drive over the centerfield wall to make it 7-1. It was Hicks second home run of the season.
That was the way the game would remain until the top of the eighth. Meyer had kept the Tides offense at bay for much of the contest, but after walking the first two batters in the inning, his day was over. Caleb Thielbar took over. He got the first out on the inning on a force-play at second, then walked Urrutia, before giving up a two-run single to Nix to make it 7-3. A single by Rossmel Perez loaded the bases and it looked like Meyer’s outing may be wasted.
A.J. Achter took over the mound and big right-hander delivered. Achter got Almanzar to pop out to the shortstop, then struck out Janish to end the threat. In the ninth he returned to the mound and retired the side in order. Achter’s 1.2 innings earned him his first save of the season. Meyer (2-1) was the winner.
C Eric Fryer remains ridiculously hot for the Rochester Red Wings. In nine games this season he is 15-27, a .556 batting average, with five runs and six RBI. He is quickly surpassing Pinto as the Minnesota Twins top catching prospect.
Tomorrow the Norfolk Tides head to Syracuse to take on the Chiefs. The Rochester Red Wings have the day off before heading to Indianapolis for a three-game series.
By Robert Pannier