Just when you think you have this game of baseball all figured out; just when you think you may have seen it all...well...
The Rochester Red Wings, fresh off a very mediocre finish to the regular season, capped by two uninspired blowouts at the hands of the very team they were scheduled to face in the first round of the playoffs, have roared to a most unexpected 2 games to none lead in their best-of-5 Governor’s Cup semi-final round against the 2006 International League leaders, the Scranton Red Barons.
Thursday night at Frontier Field, the resilient and now super-charged Red Wings once again erased a large early game deficit to cruise to an 11-5 victory, to put Scranton in a deep hole, as the series now shifts to Moosic. PA for the remaining games. This was supposed to be a decent pitchers duel between the crafty Dave Gassner of the Wings and the IL’s leading pitcher, Brian Mazone of the Red Barons. All Mazone did during the regular season was go 13-3 with a microscopic ERA of 2.03. In 128 innings pitched he had allowed only 6 home runs all season. Last night he allowed 3 in just 4 innings.
You could see that it was not going to be a good night for Dave Gassner when after he retired the games first batter, the Red Barons went on to score 4 times, capped by a 2 out 3 run home run by 3rd baseman King. These large deficits were nothing new for the Wings, as Scranton has jumped on Red Wing pitching early, in each of the last 4 games they have played against each other.
Down 4-0 before they even came to bat, Rochester served notice to Brian Mazone that his night wasn’t going to be a walk in the park either. Wings leadoff hitter Andres Torres hammered a homerun to cut the Barons lead to 4-1. However Scranton was still teeing off on Gassner and they added another run in 2nd inning to go up 5-1. Gassners night was over after only 1 1/3 innings, 6 hits and 5 earned runs. It was clearly not his night.
But the Wings chipped away for another run in the bottom of the 2nd on a sac fly by catcher Jose Morales. Then in the 3rd, red-hot Garrett Jones launched a shot deep into the night with Tommy Watkins aboard via a walk, to cut the Red Baron lead to 5-4.
The turning point of the game came in the bottom of the 4th. With two men on and two men out, Quinton McCracken turned on an 0-2 Mazone change-up and hammered it over the left field fence to give the Wings their first lead of the game 7-5. They never looked back. That ended Mazone’s evening. His line was 4 IP, 6 hits, 7 runs (4 earned) 3 walks and 4 strikeouts. The rust of not pitching in 8 days was clearly evident.
The Red Barons came unglued in the bottom of the 5th. Having seen their seemingly safe 5-1 disappear so quickly, the Wings added 3 more runs aided by 2 errors and 2 wild pitches. Scranton made 4 errors in game which led to 5 unearned runs. Rochester added one more run in the 8th to end the scoring. While Dave Gassner didn’t have it on this night, the bullpen was superb. Henry Bonilla came on the 2nd inning and pitched 3 1/3 innings of 1-hit ball. Kevin Cameron followed with 1 2/3 of 1-hit ball and Beau Kemp finished the game by allowing just one hit over the last 2 2/3 innings. That’s 7 2/3 innings of scoreless, 3-hit relief against a team that had hammered out 39 hits against the Wings over the past 3 games.
All the Red Wings have to do now is win one of the three games in Moosic and they advance to the Governor’s Cup Finals. But, as always, they will be facing quite a challenge tonight as Scranton will be sending righty Justin Germano to the mound. Germano has beaten the Red Wings 3 times this year, twice as member of the Louisville Bats and once, on August 20th as a member of the Red Barons. In those games he has pitched 22 innings and allowed only 2 runs. Can the Wings defeat two of their season long nemeses two nights in a row? They will send Pete Munro out to try and finish off the series. Munro had an up and down season, going 8-12 with a 4.32 ERA.
Wings Notes:The Wings hit 3 homeruns in a game for the first time all season last night. Garrett Jones now has a total of 97 RBI for 2006, regular season + playoffs.Rochester’s Tim Redding of the Charlotte Knights shutout the Toledo Mud Hens in game one of their semi-final series on Wednesday. Toledo bounced back last night to win 6-2, evening that series at 1 game apiece.Frontier Field attendance Thursday was 3,790, up almost 1,200 from the night before.From this mornings D&C: “Kevin Slowey is with the Wings. He will be activated when the Twins add a reliever from Rochester.” Huh? What’s that all about?????From Red Barons manager John Russell: “It was probably the worst game all year. We didn’t pitch very well, didn’t play very good defense, and that’s been our strength all year”.
Both teams hit 3- run homeruns last night and both came with 2 outs; Bell of Scranton in the 1st inning to give them a 4-0 lead and McCracken in the 4th to erase that lead and give the Wings a 7-5 advantage.Wings have now made up 4-1 and 5-1 deficits in back-to-back playoff games. It has been noted that the team appears genuinely excited about this series, showing lots of emotion and enthusiasm both on the field and in the dugout. The fans, although small in number have been unusually loud and supportive, giving many standing ovations for a job well done.And then, this: The 2006 season isn’t even over yet and already the Wings have postponed two of their games for the 2007 season. Seems as though the IL schedule maker had Rochester opening the season on April 5-6 up in Ottawa. Ottawa officials, with enough problems already, facing an entire lame-duck season with virtually no fan support, balked at played these games ‘in the snow’ and asked that they be postponed and made up as double-headers later in the summer. Both teams agreed. So the Wings will actually open their season 3 days late, at home, with 10 straight games; 2 against the Lynx and incredibly, 4 each against warm weather Norfolk and Charlotte. Why those games are being played in cold, gloomy Rochester and not down south in April is another reason to wonder what goes on in the fuzzy minds of the IL schedule maker.
Like I said, just when you think you have this game figured out...........