Neither team will be particularly proud of this outing. Each side committed a pair of errors, and of the ten total runs, only three were earned - two on solo homers. Four runners were called out trying to advance on the basepaths.
But it goes down in the books as a victory for the Tigers, who outplayed the ValleyCats on Saturday night. Connecticut smacked 12 hits, none farther than P.J. Polk's home run to left field in the fifth inning, which gave the visitors a 4-1 lead.
Just as they did in the opener, the ValleyCats worked with a committee of pitchers. Six Tri-City hurlers appeared in the game, none of whom retired more than eight batters. Starter Bobby Doran was pulled after two and two-thirds innings with a pair of runners on base, which scored when James Robbins singled to right field off reliever Brendan Stines. None of the three runs charged to Doran were earned, as a potential double-play ball went through the legs of second baseman Ben Orloff earlier in the inning.
The Tigers used four pitchers themselves - a total of ten for the game. Luis Sanz was most effective on the hill, throwing five innings and allowing only one unearned run to get the win.
After the first inning, it seemed destined to be a rough night for Sanz. The righty began the inning with seven consecutive strikes - needing six of them to send leadoff hitter Ben Orloff down swinging - but could not find the zone after that. Sanz threw 19 more pitches in the first - 14 of which were balls - and surrendered free passes to Oscar Figueroa, Mike Kvasnicka and Ben Heath. With runners on first and second, Tyler Burnett hit a potential double-play ball to first baseman James Robbins, but neither Robbins nor Sanz could get to the bag in time to catch shortstop Brett Anderson's return throw. The ball bounced into the stands, and Figueroa was awarded home on the play.
But Sanz settled down after that. Although three runners reached base in the second through fifth innings, he still managed to face the minimum twelve batters, thanks to Renzo Tello's unsuccessful stolen base attempt in the second inning, Ben Heath's double play in the fourth and Tello's batter interference in the sixth, which nullified a stolen base attempt by center fielder Dan Adamson.
Tri-City was finally able to tack on a run in the seventh and another in the eighth, both off lefty Matt Little. Ben Heath singled to right field and came around to score when Anderson booted a two-out grounder off the bat of Frank Almonte. One inning later, last night's hero Figueroa blasted a fly ball onto the hill behind the left-field fence.
But the ValleyCats could not close the gap, as miscues in the field continued to lead to Tiger runs. Designated hitter Ryan Enos struck out swinging to open the sixth, but reached first base safely as the wild pitch got away from Heath. Enos came around to score. Two innings later, Alex Nunez stroked a leadoff double down the right-field line and scored on a sacrifice fly, only after advancing to third on a Heath passed ball.
With 4,419 spectators passing through the gates today at "The Joe," Tri-City passed a new attendance milestone, with a cumulative attendance of over 1,000,000 fans in its nine-year history. The ValleyCats have declared 2010 the "Year of the 1,000,000th fan" to commemorate the achievement.
Connecticut returns to Joseph Bruno Stadium tomorrow for the rubber match. The early Sunday evening start time is 5 pm. Southpaw Rayni Guichardo will start for the visitors against Murilo Gouvea.