Reading, PA - After starting the homestand 2-2 following Thursday night's 5-0 loss to the Sea Dogs, the Fightin Phils were looking for a rebound performance to start the weekend. What started as a strong starting pitching matchup between Brandon Leibrandt and Trey Ball eventually evolved, and the Fightin Phils took control in the fourth. They also cashed in on many of their opportunities and five of the nine in the lineup finished with two hits in a 12-4 rout before a crowd of 6,127 at FirstEnergy Stadium.
After facing the Sea Dogs less than a week ago and taking a no decision, Leibrandt was locked in from the get go. In one of his best starts of the season, he got by a one out double from red hot Josh Tobias in the first inning. He retired eight straight after the base hit before surrendering back-to-back singles to Tobias and Rafael Devers in the fourth. Using a tricky pickoff move, the runners were cancelled out when the lefthander froze both runners and picked them off to stay in the windup. He struck out Nick Longhi to end the inning, facing just one over the minimum during that time.
Ball looked automatic at first, retiring the first 11 batters he faced before a crucial showdown with Carlos Tocci with two outs in the fourth. After falling behind 0-2, Tocci fought back to draw a walk and set the rest of the inning in motion. With a hit-and-run on, Andrew Pullin played the part with the Fightin Phils first hit to send Tocci to third. Jiandido Tromp then sent a slow grounder to short, but instead of the inning coming to an end, Deiner Lopez made a fielding and throwing error allowing both runs to score. Chace Numata and Osmel Aguila followed with opposite field singles into right, with Aguila's driving in a run to make it 3-0.
With a 3-0 lead in tow, they came out for more in the fifth when Angelo Mora led off with a single. A walk to Malquin Canelo put two runners on for Tocci, who slashed a two-RBI double down the right field line for a 5-0 lead. The Sea Dogs nearly climbed back into the game in the top of the sixth, loading the bases with one out following a walk and a pair of singles. A passed ball from Leibrandt (3-1) made it 5-1, and another walk to Devers ended his night after five-and-a-third innings. As he's shown all year, no situation is too big for Yacksel Rios , who entered from the bullpen and got two easy outs to get out of the jam. He'd strike out two more in a 1-2-3 seventh, extending his scoreless streak to 9.0 innings.
In the bottom of the sixth, Numata got on for a second time with a leadoff double into left off Ball. Two batters later, Kyle Martin snuck a broken bat single into right field. On an 0-1 pitch, Mora lifted a high flyball down into the right field corner that just got over the wall for his second homer and a commanding 8-1 lead for the Fightin Phils. It also ended the night for Ball (1-2) and allowed fellow lefthander Luis Ysla to come in and pitch 1.2 scoreless innings.
Portland scored three runs in the top of the eighth on RBI singles from the dangerous Devers and Cole Sturgeon, who entered the game in the middle innings and helped make it an 8-4 ballgame. The Fightin Phils weren't finished yet, and they'd score four runs in the bottom of the eighth to go up 12-4. Scott Kingery's league-leading fourth triple was a howitzer down into the right field corner, and another two-RBI double from Tocci was sliced down the left field line. The final punch came from Pullin's RBI single, which left the Fightins one off their season high for runs scored. Alexis Rivero looked strong in relief and threw 2.0 scoreless innings to finish it out in a non-save situation.
America's Classic Ballpark is proud to be a part of Pennsylvania's Americana Region. Season tickets for the 2017 season are available online at Fightins.com, by phone at 610-370-BALL, and in-person at FirstEnergy Stadium. Follow the Fightin Phils on Twitter at @ReadingFightins and like them on Facebook via www.facebook.com/fightins.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.