By: Mike Rose
ROCHESTER, N.Y.– It was the Travis Blakenhorn show at Innovative Field Thursday as he led the Rochester Red Wings to a 7-4 victory over the Buffalo Bisons. Blakenhorn went 2-for-4 in the game including a grand slam and an RBI double finishing with a five RBI evening.
Blakenhorn's grand slam came after the Red Wings began the day with just one hit through the first five innings. Red Wings Manager Matthew LeCroy thought the Blakenhorn's big hit was the turning point in the game.
"We needed it. Our offense was really poor up to that point. That to me really turned the whole night around for us after a tough loss last night and to come out pretty slow offensively, to get that blow there that picked everybody up and we knew we were back in it and had a chance to win," LeCroy said.
Early on Buffalo jumped out to the advantage. After back-to-back singles from Davis Schnieder and Jordan Luplow, Addison Barger doubled into left-center field to plate both men and make it a 2-0 game. Rafael Lantigua would follow with an RBI single to score Barger and give Buffalo a three-run edge in the third.
From there both team's offenses struggled. Buffalo failed to convert with a runner in scoring position in the fifth and the sixth while Rochester managed only three total base runners until the sixth.
Richie Martin jump-started the Red Wings' offense to lead off the sixth after getting hit by a pitch. Jake Alu and Jeter Downs each worked walks to follow before Blakenhorn drilled the big blow off Canisius alum Ryan Boyer who was called up earlier in the day from the Blue Jays High-A affiliate Vancouver Canadians.
"He (Boyer) wasn't really locating early on so I was taking until I got a strike. After that, I was trying to get a good pitch to drive, do my job and get a run in," Blakenhorn said
However, the positive energy gained from the Blakenhorn bomb was short-lived as the Bisons answered right back in the top of the seventh. Much like for Rochester, a hit-by-pitch got the Bisons' rally started. Jordan Luplow was the recipient of the pitch and was followed by a Barger walk. It was then Lantigua who came through with his second RBI of the game to tie it up four.
In the bottom half of the inning, Blakenhorn had the answer once again. Alu beat out an infield single to keep the inning alive and Downs worked a walk to set up the lefty slugger with another opportunity.
"Just trying to battle with a good lefty out there with fastballs up and sliders down. I just had to get into a two-strike approach and put the ball in play," Blakenhorn said.
Erick Meija would tack on two insurance runs in the eighth with a two-run homer to right to make it a 7-4 game. It was just Meija's second home run of the season and the switch hitter's first left-handed.
"(Brian) Daubach our hitting coach came to me before the game and said 'I really like where he's at left-handed.' He's been struggling left-handed. He's been a tick off with a lot of swings and misses and Dabby felt really good about his work in the cage before the game and he thought he was gonna have a big night," LeCroy said.
Meija recorded two of the six hits from Rochester in the evening with both coming left-handed.
From there the Red Wings bullpen was able to put the game away despite some late drama. Gerson Moreno loaded the bases in the top of the ninth but got Cameron Eden to fly it to end the threat.
With the win the Red Wings (39-43) move to 5-4 in the second half while the Bisons (38-45) drop back down to .500 at 4-4. The two teams will square off once again in game four of the series tomorrow, July 7, with reigning International League Pitcher of the Week Wes Parsons (1-2, 4.42) set to start for Buffalo and Luis Cessa set to make his Red Wings debut after signing a minor league deal early Thursday. First pitch at Innovative Field is scheduled for 6:45 pm.