Third baseman Jesus Valdez led the way for the Bristol Pirates for the second night in a row, as the Pirates defeated the Bluefield Blue Jays 14-5 in the series opener on Sunday.
Valdez put the first runs of the night on the board with one out in the first, when he hit the first pitch he saw over the right field fence for a two-run home run - his third home run of the year. Two innings later, Valdez hit an RBI double before scoring on a single by first baseman Ernny Ordonez to make it a 4-0 Pirates lead.
The Pirates scored four more runs in the fourth inning before the Blue Jays broke up the shutout in the top of the fifth on a sacrifice fly and a single. A groundout in the sixth would give Valdez his fourth RBI of the night, and a double by right fielder Jake Wright in the seventh inning would push the Pirates' lead to 10-2. The Blue Jays cut Bristol's lead to five runs in the top of the eighth, but a double by Valdez, a single by Wright and second baseman Aaron Shackelford's sixth home run of the season would cap off the scoring as the Pirates took the series opener.
Starter Dante Mendoza threw a season-high 4 2/3 innings against Bluefield, allowing two runs on five hits and three walks while striking out four. Saul De La Cruz earned his first win of the season, allowing just one hit over 2 1/3 scoreless innings with a season-high four strikeouts. Samson Abernathy struck out two over 1 2/3 perfect innings of relief as he earned his team-leading fourth save of the season. Abernathy is the first Bristol pitcher with four saves in a season since Jordan Jess in 2016, and he is now tied for second place in the Appalachian League.
Valdez finished the night 3-for-5 with two doubles, a home run, five RBI and three runs scored. Ordonez had a career-high four hits as he finished 4-for-5 with one RBI and two runs scored, while designated hitter Yoyner Fajardo went 3-for-4 with a double, two RBI and a game-high four runs scored. Shackelford finished 2-for-5 with three RBI, as he hit his second home run in his last eight games.
The Pirates (25-26) moved to two games behind Johnson City and one game behind Elizabethton in the Appalachian League West division following losses by the Cardinals and Twins on Sunday. Adrian Florencio will start for Bristol on Monday night, as he looks to rebound from his last start in Danville where he allowed two runs - one earned - on two hits and a career-high five walks over four innings.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.