The Syracuse Chiefs, the Triple-A affiliate of the Washington Nationals, lost 5-4 to the Lehigh Valley IronPigs on Tuesday night from Coca-Cola Park. IronPigs third baseman Maikel Franco hit a decisive grand slam in the fifth inning, and a pair of later Chiefs rallies fell just short in the series finale.
With the loss, Syracuse sits two and one-half games ahead of Pawtucket in the International League North Division with six games remaining. Buffalo's loss also knocked the Chiefs' magic number to clinch a playoff spot down to three.
Lehigh Valley (63-75) grabbed the game's first run against Blake Treinen in the second inning. Russ Canzler walked with one out, advanced to second base on a wild pitch and moved to third on a Cam Perkins single. Sebastian Valle's fielder's choice to third base scored Canzler for a 1-0 lead, with Valle beating out the return throw to a first for a potential double play.
Syracuse (78-59) tied the game in its next turn at bat. With two outs and Emmanuel Burriss on first base, third baseman Brandon Laird cracked an RBI double to the left-center field fence off of starter Sean O'Sullivan. The RBI was Laird's 82nd, extending his second-best mark in the league.
In the fifth, the IronPigs broke the tie. Valle singled to start the inning, and two outs later, Tony Gwynn, Jr. and Cesar Hernandez worked two straight walks to load the bases. That brought up Franco, who unloaded on a 2-1 pitch for a grand slam into the Chiefs' bullpen in left. Franco's seventh extra-base hit of the five-game series gave Lehigh Valley a 5-1 lead and ended the night for Treinen.
The Chiefs started chipping away at the lead immediately. With one out in the sixth, Laird walked and Tyler Moore singled. After an Eury Perez strikeout, left fielder Destin Hood lined a double into the right-field corner, scoring Laird to cut the lead to 5-2. Sandy Leon followed with a walk to load the bases and bring up Jeff Kobernus, who grounded a ball up the middle off second baseman Tyler Henson's glove for an infield single to score Moore. However, Hood ventured too far off third base and was caught in a rundown to end the inning.
With two outs in the eighth inning, the Chiefs launched another rally against right-hander Ethan Martin. Perez, Hood and Leon laced three consecutive singles, with Leon's base hit scoring Perez to make the score 5-4. Kobernus followed with a single to left field, but IronPigs left fielder Cam Perkins threw out Hood with an on-the-fly strike to home plate, cutting down the potential tying run.
Syracuse returns home to begin a two-game series with Rochester on Wednesday at 7:05 p.m. Chiefs left-hander Aaron Laffey is scheduled to throw against Red Wings left-hander Kris Johnson.