"It seems like we've been playing from behind lately," said center fielder Dan Adamson, who hit a two-run homer. "When we come out and score first, we seem to do pretty well."
They certainly do play well with the lead - the 'Cats are now 12-3 when scoring first. They also have Vermont's number: they have now won three consecutive games against the division leaders. Tri-City (19-24) now sits six games back of the Lake Monsters (25-18) in the Stedler Division.
Starter Jake Buchanan entered the game off back-to-back strong outings and had his best day yet on Monday. The rookie allowed only three baserunners in six innings, giving up two hits and a walk; none advanced past second base. Buchanan fanned three and earned his third victory of the season.
"It was definitely my best start so far," Buchanan said. "From the 3rd inning on, I got into a good grove - getting ahead with the fastball and going to the breaking ball."
"[Buchanan] threw his fastball well on the inside half tonight," manager Jim Pankovits said. "Early on, he struggled throwing his curveball for a strike, but then he got command of it and had both pitches going well late."
The ValleyCats broke the game open in the third inning, batting around to take a 7-0 advantage. Mike Kvasnicka's bases-loaded single led to three Tri-City runs, as Ben Heath came home all the way from first on a bad throw from the outfield. Jacke Healey and Adamson provided the other big hits, blasting a pair of homers to bookend the scoring.
Healey's bomb carried well over the left-field fence, nearly hitting the giant inflatable Uncle Sam more than 400 feet away. Adamson took a 2-0 fastball into the home team's bullpen, bringing home Kvasnicka with the sixth and seventh runs. Healey and Adamson are now tied for second on the team with four homers.
Meanwhile, Buchanan continued to roll. The righty sent the side down in order in the fifth and sixth innings, striking out two and inducing four harmless groundouts. Buchanan got two-thirds of his outs in play on grounders entering the game and has surrendered only one home run this year.
"I try to rely on the two-seam fastball, to sink the ball a little bit," Buchanan said. "I try to keep the ball down in the zone and get ground balls."
Reliever Joan Belliard threw two more scoreless innings before Adam Champion let in a run in the ninth. Ronnie LaBrie's two-out single brought home Hendry Jimenez to narrowly avoid a shutout.
The ValleyCats added a couple of insurance runs in the middle innings. Wilton Infante led off the fourth inning with a triple to left-center, scoring two pitches later on a Ben Orloff base hit. In the seventh inning, Kiké Hernandez drilled a first-pitch triple to the center-field warning track. Tyler Burnett scored Hernandez with a single, eventually coming home himself on a wild pitch.
"It was nice to see us tack on a couple more runs," Pankovits said. "That's what winning ballclubs do - they don't let up."
The last time the ValleyCats hit two triples and two homers in the same game was July 22, 2004 against Staten Island. Brandon Barganier and Kevin Vital tripled, while Vital and Mario Garza hit longballs.
Adamson went 2-for-3 on the night, singling and drawing a walk in addition to his dinger. Tyler Burnett also picked up a pair of hits, extending his on-base streak to 28 consecutive games.
The ValleyCats look to make it another sweep tomorrow when the Lake Monsters return to Joe Bruno Stadium. Alex Sogard will pitch for the hosts, squaring off against Chris McKenzie. Gates open at 5 pm for the "Tunes for Tuesday" concert, featuring '60s and '70s rock music, and the game begins at 7.