TROY, NY- The way the Tri-City ValleyCats have hit for the past week, it is hard to recall a stretch in which they scored at least eight runs in five consecutive home games to start the season. On Sunday, it was more of the same in the most recent frustrating performance, a 3-1 loss to the Aberdeen Ironbirds.
For the second night in a row, the 'Cats wasted a very strong outing from its starter. A day after Andrew Thurman allowed just one hit in his four-inning performance, Kyle Westwood permitted the same amount of base hits in five innings of work, and added three strikeouts. When Westwood departed from the game, he was in line for the win as the ValleyCats led 1-0.
That one run would not be enough, and the Tri-City bullpen once again could not retain the lead. Chris Cotton (0-1) came in relief for Westwood in the 6th, and after facing only two batters, had already surrendered the lead, after Aberdeen left fielder Mike Yastrzemski (grandson of Red Sox legend Carl Yastrzemski) tripled in a run. In the eighth, with the score still tied at one, Cotton gave up another run-scoring hit to Yastrzemski, this time a double down the right field line. That hit followed a fly ball that 'Cats center fielder D'Andre Toney dropped, which proved costly. The Ironbirds scored once more in the inning to take a 3-1 lead that held up.
In the bottom of the 7th, the ValleyCats had a golden opportunity to take the lead. Two walks and a single loaded the bases, and 'Cats manager Ed Romero decided to pinch-hit for Chan Moon with Ernesto Genoves. On the second pitch of the at-bat, Aberdeen reliever Jorge Rivera (2-0) induced an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play. Then, in the ninth, Tri-City put two runners on with just one out, but Toney grounded into a double play to end the game on the first pitch. A night after going 2-for-13 with runners in scoring position, the ValleyCats followed up with a 1-for-12 performance, leaving seven men on base. Romeo held a closed-door meeting with the team after the game, to stress focus and concentration in situations with runners on base and the score close.
The loss was the fourth in five nights for the 'Cats, who dropped to 13-8 on the season. This was the ninth time in just 21 games that the 'Cats have scored three runs or fewer. Their record in those games is 1-8.
The lone Tri-City run came in the third inning with Chan Moon on third, and Ryan Dineen at the plate. Dineen hit a ground ball to second, scoring Moon, and reaching first himself after a fielding error by Aberdeen second basemen Jeff Kemp. That run represents the only tally for Tri-City in its last 13 innings, going back to Saturday's loss versus Lowell.
After the game, the ValleyCats' special Relay for Life jerseys were auctioned off, with the proceeds going to the Relay for Life and the American Cancer Society. During the game, it was announced that Mark Appel, the 2013 #1 overall draft pick of Houston, will make another start for Tri-City on Tuesday against the Ironbirds. That is an 11 AM start.
The starters for tomorrow's game are LHP Randall Fant (0-1, 4.76) for the 'Cats and LHP Steven Brault (1-0, 1.23) for Aberdeen. It is "Bark in the Park Night," as fans are allowed to bring their dogs to the stadium. First pitch is slated for 7:00.