By: Mike Rose
ROCHESTER, N.Y.– For the third consecutive night the Lehigh Valley IronPigs flexed their first-place power as they knocked off the Rochester Red Wings 8-2. On this night, a dominant pitching effort led by IronPigs starter Nick Nelson propelled them to victory.
Nelson twirled 6.2 innings allowing one run on five hits with one walk and three strikeouts. He was able to produce four 1-2-3 innings on the night and was able to excel pitching to contact against a Red Wings offense that seemed to be lacking a punch. Red Wings Manager Matthew LeCroy had high praise for Nelson's efforts.
"I thought tonight was a really solid effort from his side. He kept us off balance, and he made pitches when he needed to, but you gotta tip your cap he had a solid mix that kept us off balance. He kept us off the barrel just enough where they could make the plat and he's a veteran guy who knows how to pitch," LeCroy said.
Meanwhile offensively for the IronPigs, they were powered by the long ball once again. A six-run explosion in the fourth inning was capped off by a Cal Stevenson grand slam, the 12th home run of the series for Lehigh Valley. It also marked the first time the IronPigs have hit two grand slams in a series since July of 2017 against Gwinnett.
Red Wings starter Wily Peralta worked three scoreless innings up until the fourth-inning collapse where he allowed six consecutive baserunners to reach safely.
"Wily just lost command and they hit the big grand slam and that was kind of the dagger. We just couldn't string anything along to get back in it," LeCroy said.
The fourth inning aside the Rochester pitching staff delivered its best performance of the series. Amos Willingham came in to record the final out of the fourth before working two perfect innings in relief. Anthony Banda followed to work two perfect innings of his own before allowing some traffic in the ninth that saw two runs (one earned) score.
Willingham said he was looking to attack when he stepped on the mound.
"Just going after guys, trying to get ahead. We had a pretty long meeting before the game about just making sure we're throwing strikes and getting ourselves in good counts. That was my main focus just trying to attack hitters and throw strikes," Willingham said.
Ultimately it was another uneven effort from the Red Wings who have struggled to find consistency all season long. LeCroy believes it all starts with his pitching staff if his club is going to have success moving forward.
"It's all based on our pitching for me. To win games you have to pitch and unfortunately for us the last four games we haven't pitched well enough to stay in it. We just have to stay in the game, make it a little bit closer so we have a chance for a big walk and a double that gets you right back in it. If we want to go to where we want to go to we have to stay in these ballgames on the pitching side because I believe we'll score runs," LeCroy said.
Rochester (18-19, 52-58) will try to halt its three-game skid with Jackson Rutledge (1-1, 5.58) on the mound in the penultimate game of the series. Shaun Anderson (1-0, 3.86) is projected to get the start for Lehigh Valley (23-13, 59-50). First pitch at Innovative Field is scheduled for 6:45 p.m. Saturday night.