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Wings fail to fly, fall to Durham

By: Mike Rose

Blake Rutheford posted the sole multi-hit effort for Rochester Saturday, going 3-for-4 in the loss. (Photo: Rochester Red Wings/Joe Territo)

ROCHESTER, N.Y.– It was 'Christmas in July' night at Innovative Field and the Durham Bulls were cast as the Grinch as they defeated the Rochester Red Wings 7-3. There were almost no presents to be had for the Red Wings' offense as they were held almost completely silent, only scoring on the night via Durham errors. Meanwhile, Anthony Banda and some porous defense behind him sunk the Red Wings' efforts before they could ever get off the ground.

"It's always tough when you give up a couple in the first inning and then you give up a couple in the second. We just didn't make enough adjustments offensively to ever really get back in it. That's a good team and you can't give them extra outs or they're going to take advantage of it. You can only give them the 27 (outs) you can't give them 28 or 29," Red Wings Manager Matthew LeCroy said.

The trouble started for Rochester right out of the gate. Jonathan Aranda led off with a single before Curtis Mead dropped a double into right field in front of Blake Rutherford who lost the ball in the sun. Rutherford misplayed the ball as he tried to fire it in, allowing the first run to score.

"I didn't see it, it was just right in the sun. I tried to move out of the way and by the time it came out it was too late. I tried to run in and get it in quick and looked up before and it bounced to the left of my glove. Definitely a costly error, it could've changed the outcome of the inning for sure but it was just kind of how things were going in the first inning," Rutherford said.

Jake Alu was held hitless for the second time this series in the loss Saturday. (Photo: Rochester Red Wings/Joe Territo)

The Bulls opted for a safety squeeze to drive in a second run and take a 2-0 lead into the bottom half of the first. In the bottom half, Rochester threatened, loading the bases with two outs before Jacob Nottingham grounded out to end the threat. That would set the tone for what would be an 0-12 night with runners in scoring position for Rochester.

The Bulls kept piled on in the second with the first three batters of the frame reaching safely, including Nick Dini reaching via another error. Austin Shenton's two-run double officially closed the book on another ugly effort from Anthony Banda and put the Red Wings in a 5-0 hole they couldn't climb out of.

For the second consecutive outing, Banda failed to complete two innings. On this night he finished allowing five runs (three earned) on five hits with two walks and three strikeouts. Banda, who opened the year pitching out of the bullpen, saw his ERA tick up to 7.88 following tonight's outing. Despite his recent struggles, LeCroy says he has no plans to make changes to the rotation.

"I think he's just had a tough go here the last two outings. Hopefully, he and Chavy (Pitching coach Rafael Chaves) will look at some videos and check out some stuff that's maybe putting him in a bad spot. I think his misses are just more center-cut and they (hitters) don't really miss much here. I think he just needs to make more quality pitches, but I trust Chavy that he's gonna get him going back in the right direction," LeCroy said.

From there the Red Wings bullpen kept them within striking distance. Tommy Romero starred with 3.1 scoreless innings in relief of Banda. Hobie Harris made his first appearance since being activated from the injured list with a perfect inning and Roddery Munoz made his Red Wings debut with a perfect inning that featured two strikeouts. LeCroy had high praise for the work his bullpen trio provided.

Tommy Romero had his longest scoreless outing Saturday since September 26, 2022 against Worcester. (Photo: Rochester Red Wings/Joe Territo)

"That was a big outing for Tommy, he needed a big boost. His confidence was not where he wanted it to be and I think tonight helped that. Hobie got back into action and looked really good, he can help give us more options in the later innings. I really liked what I saw from Munoz. I was very pleased, he had a good mix, and the velocity was good so hopefully he can be a weapon for us to use down the road," LeCroy said.

Despite the best efforts from the bullpen the Rochester bats never could deliver the big hit in this one. The Red Wings were held without an extra-base hit in the loss as they scattered eight singles. Durham pulled away for good with a pair of runs in the eighth that all but sealed the victory.

Rochester (10-10/44-49) will look for a bounce-back effort to try and clinch the series against the Bulls (10-10/50-45) tomorrow before heading out on a 12-game road trip. Reinforcements may also be on the way for the Red Wings as Darren Baker is expected to return to the lineup on Tuesday against Worcester while Franmil Reyes expects to shed his walking boot sometime later next week.

Wily Peralta (3-6, 6.56) is projected to start for the Red Wings in the series finale while Jacob Lopez is slated to get the ball for Durham. First pitch at Innovative Field Sunday is scheduled for 1:05 pm.

Alu stole one of the two bases Rochester swiped on the night Saturday. (Photo: Rochester Red Wings/Joe Territo)

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