PENSACOLA, Fla., - Pensacola manager Pat Kelly asserted since the beginning of the season that the Blue Wahoos would be a good hitting team.
The team entered Tuesday's game with a team batting average below the Mendoza line at .194.
However, the Blue Wahoos, who have relied on pitching and defense to this point of the season to record the best record in the Southern League at 9-3, broke out for season-highs with seven runs and 11 hits to beat the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp, 7-4, in front of 3,298 at Blue Wahoos Stadium.
Kelly said he remains confident in his lineup.
"We're not going to hit .190 for the year," Kelly said winking. "We're coming along. We have a few more guys who need to get going."
Pensacola broke a 4-4 tie with three runs in the bottom of the eighth inning. Leon Landry, who was 0-18 this season, came into pinch hit and lined a sharp single of the arm of Jacksonville pitcher Tyler Bremer, to knock him out of the game and load the bases with two outs.
That's when center fielder Brian O'Grady stepped to the plate. He had blasted his team-leading third homer off the video board in the fourth inning to give the Blue Wahoos a 4-0 lead. O'Grady was promptly walked by new pitcher Tyler Kinley that forced in Gabriel Guerrero, who had doubled earlier in the eighth, for a 5-4 lead.
With the bases loaded and two outs, Josh VanMeter stepped to the plate and slammed a single to right field to score both first baseman Angelo Gumbs, who reached base on an intentional walk, and Landry to put Pensacola ahead, 7-4.
Previously, VanMeter had struck out four times in a row. But Kelly said VanMeter has "earned his at bats," playing in 10 games this year and batting .270.
"From day one he has hit the ball," Kelly said. "I'm really impressed. This guy has hit all the way through the minor leagues."
Van Meter said it was nice for the offense to finally come through for the pitching staff, which struggled Tuesday. Previously, the most Pensacola had scored was four runs, which the club did three times. The Blue Wahoos' most hits previously were nine against the Tennessee Smokies in the opening series.
"Pitching has kind of been bailing us out during this first stretch of games," VanMeter said of the pitching staff that has a Southern League-leading 2.06 ERA. "It was time for us to pick them up. They gave up four runs and we still won the game."
Aristides Aquino, the Cincinnati Reds sixth best prospect after hitting 23 homers last year, is hitting the ball hard going 2-4 Tuesday with two RBIs. He is 3-8 with a run and three RBIs in the first two games against Jacksonville and raised his average 33 points to .194. Blue Wahoos shortstop Blake Trahan is 4-12 in his last three games and raised his average from .194 to .231.
Gabriel Guerrero remains on a terror going 3-4 with a triple and a double and two runs scored. The left fielder now has seven multi-hit games in the 12 games he has played.
Blue Wahoos right-hander Luis Castillo faced his former Jacksonville team Tuesday night. The flamethrower, who hit 101 on the stadium radar gun, threw five scoreless innings and allowed just three hits to the Jumbo Shrimp.
But then came the sixth inning and Jacksonville rallied to tie the score at 4-4 with Castillo giving up three of those runs, two of which were earned. The inning started with Pensacola Trahan making a week throw to first that was ruled an error and allowed Jacksonville's Adeiny Hechavarria to reach first.
Hechavarria, the starting shortstop for the Miami Marlins, is playing for the Jumbo Shrimp as he recovers from a strained left oblique and is expected to be back with the Big League club on Friday. He was 1-4 and robbed of another hit by Pensacola center fielder Brian O'Grady who dived head first to catch a tailing line drive.
Jumbo Shrimp third baseman Brian Anderson then doubled Hechavarria home with a line drive in the right center gap that rolled to the fence to pull within, 4-1. After a groundout, Jacksonville right fielder John Norwood smacked a two-run homer off Castillo over the right field wall into Pensacola Bay to make the score, 4-3.
Castillo was replaced by Domingo Tapia, who gave up three singles and allowed the Jumbo Shrimp to tie the game, 4-4, when second baseman David Vidal scored on pinch hitter Alex Yarbrough sharp single to center.
"The first five innings everything was working great and then all of a sudden they start hitting the ball hard," Kelly said. "Things didn't go our way."
Jimmy Herget earned his sixth save in six tries but even he gave up a walk and a single before finishing off Jacksonville.
The Pensacola Blue Wahoos and Miami Marlins Double-A affiliate Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp will play the third game of the five-game series at 6:35 Wednesday, April 19 at Blue Wahoos Stadium. The Jumbo Shrimp are starting RHP Omar Bencomo (2-0, 0.00 ERA) against the Blue Wahoos RHP Keury Mella (0-2, 10.80 ERA).
The games are broadcast live on the Blue Wahoos flagship station 97.1 The Ticket. Listen for free at bluewahoos.com and by using the TuneIn Radio app on your mobile, desktop or home devices.
Because the Blue Wahoos scored five runs or more, Papa John's offers 50 percent off regular priced items by using the promo code WAHOOS.
BIG FISH Center fielder Brian O'Grady hit his team-leading third homer in 33 at bats for the Blue Wahoos and had two RBIs…Pitcher Luis Castillo was 1-1 with a line drive single to left field that drove in a run …Right fielder Aristides Aquino was 2-4 and drove in two RBIs…Gabriel Guerrero was 3-4 with a triple and double and scored two runs to raise his average to .375. He has seven multi-hit games in the 12 games he has played.
The Pensacola Blue Wahoos are home April 17th - 21st against the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp at Blue Wahoos Stadium. The Pensacola Blue Wahoos are the Double-A Affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds and a member of the Southern League. Follow the Pensacola Blue Wahoos at BlueWahoos.com, facebook.com/PensacolaBlueWahoos and twitter.com/BlueWahoosBBall.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.