By: Mike Rose
ROCHESTER, N.Y.– A second half of inconsistencies continued for the Rochester Red Wings Wednesday as they split a doubleheader with the Worcester Red Sox. The Red Wings took game one 10-8 before falling 4-2 in game two. The split showcased what has become a theme for Rochester in the second half of the season where they have yet to have a winning or losing streak of more than two games.
The day kicked off with the Red Wings' offense, particularly by way of the long ball, spearheading the effort. Worcester manufactured the day's first run in the second before the first big blow was posted.
Jeter Downs led off the third with a walk before Derek Hill singled to set up Travis Blakenhorn, who launched his 15th homer of the season to put the Red Wings in front. One inning later the long ball struck again. This time it was Jeter Downs delivering a three-run blast and extending the lead to 6-1 in favor of Rochester.
"I've just been working with Dobby (hitting coach Brian Daubach) and just trusting what we've been doing the last couple of weeks. I feel like things have been trending in the right direction. Just building off that and getting a pitch in the zone I can do damage with and not trying to expand and putting good contact swings on the ball," Downs said.
However, as has been the case in the second half of the season, the Red Sox would not roll over. Worcester would get two back in the bottom half of the fourth to cut the margin to three. The back-and-forth affair continued into the fifth.
Drew Millas drove in a run with a base hit followed by a two-run single by Jack Dunn gave Rochester a commanding 9-3 edge. Worcester continued to battle back. A home run from Bobby Dalbec jumpstarted a four-run bottom of the fifth which suddenly saw the Red Sox cut the margin down to just two. Gerson Moreno was called upon to stop the bleeding, stranding runners at the corners to maintain a Red Wings lead.
A bases-loaded walk provided the last run of the night for Rochester in the sixth and despite another home run from Dalbec in the bottom half of the sixth, Rochester held on to take the seven-inning matinee.
The 10-run afternoon marked the Red Wings' highest-scoring game since the series' opening win against Durham and the third time Rochester has eclipsed double digits in July.
"We made them work a little bit, we laid off some secondary pitches and we got in pretty good counts. We grinded and got a bunch of crooked numbers...we needed them too," Red Wings manager Matthew LeCroy said.
Unfortunately for Rochester, any offensive momentum that may have been garnered earlier in the day fizzled out in the second game of the day. Worcester took the lead in the bottom of the first and led the rest of the way.
Despite outhitting the Red Sox, the Red Wings couldn't string anything together in the contest to push across runs.
"We didn't have productive outs and it was a close ballgame all the way to the end there, we brought the tying run up but you have to go out and score runs here. This park plays small and they have a really good lineup that can score," LeCroy said.
Jake Noll and Derek Hill each drove in runs in the sixth and seventh innings but it was too little too late for Rochester to try and dig out of a hole. Kyle Barraclough pitched five scoreless frames for the Red Sox, earning his sixth win of the season with no losses. He allowed just four hits with one walk and four strikeouts in his effort.
LeCroy believes his team's offense will be the key to whether they can emerge with a series victory.
"Offensively we have to lock in and score. Any opportunities we get we have to take advantage of them. If we can hit with them and score runs I think we have a chance, if we don't it's going to be a lot more difficult. The guys are up to the challenge. They know this team is hot right now and hopefully, we'll be back tomorrow ready to go," LeCroy said.
A boost for the Red Wings offense should also come tomorrow in the form of Jake Alu who missed both ends of the doubleheader due to an illness. LeCroy says he hopes to have Alu rejoin the lineup for game three of the series.
The doubleheader split keeps the top of the International League (IL) standings tightly packed. Rochester (12-11/46-50) remains 2.5 games out of first place while Worcester (14-8/53-44) remains tied atop the IL standings in the second half with Buffalo (14-8/48-49) and Iowa (14-8/57-38). The Red Wings and Red Sox will resume their series tomorrow, July 27, with first pitch from Polar Park scheduled for 6:45 p.m. José Ureña (1-2, 6.09) is expected to get the start on the mound for Rochester.