The Syracuse Chiefs (0-1), the Triple-A affiliate of the Washington Nationals, started the season with a 7-4 loss to their Thruway rival Rochester Red Wings (0-1) in front of 6,178 fans on a breezy, 39-degree Thursday afternoon at Alliance Bank Stadium.
Rochester threatened in the top of the first inning, putting runners on first and second with just one out. The Chiefs staved off the Red Wings though, as starting pitcher Mitch Atkins struck out Aaron Bates and catcher Jhonatan Solano caught Brian Dozier stealing third to end the frame.
In his Chiefs debut, top prospect Bryce Harper picked up the first Chiefs hit of the year, with a double down the right field line to lead off the bottom of the second inning. Rochester starter P. J. Walters stranded Harper by striking out two of the next three Chiefs.
The Red Wings scored the game's first run in the top of the third inning. After a Brian Dozier single and a walk to Joe Benson put runners on first and third, Solano's throw towards second went into center field as Benson swiped second base. The first Chiefs error of the season allowed Dozier to score from third, giving Rochester a 1-0 lead.
Both teams swapped scoreless frames over the next two innings, as both starters wrapped up solid Opening Day starts. Atkins allowed just one unearned run while surrendering four hits and striking out six over five innings for Syracuse. Meanwhile, Rochester starter P. J. Walters allowed just two hits and two walks in four scoreless innings.
Rochester struck again in the top of the sixth inning. Reliever Rafael Martin was greeted with a double by Matt Carson and followed that with a walk to Brian Dinkelman. From there, a fielder's choice and an error moved Dinkelman to third and Mike Hollimon to second. Drew Butera followed with a sacrifice fly to bring home Dinkelman for the game's second run.
The Red Wings were at it again in the top of the seventh against Chiefs reliever Cory VanAllen. After a leadoff groundout, Rochester loaded the bases with two singles sandwiched around a walk. Dinkelman then brought all three runners home with a triple that hugged the right field line. Two batters later, Butera broke the game wide open with a two-run homer that rattled off the left field foul pole to put the Red Wings up 7-0.
The Chiefs answered with their first runs of the season in the bottom of the seventh. Mark Teahen doubled to left and Solano reached on an error to start the inning. Two batters later, Corey Brown walked to load the bases, before Seth Bynum brought Teahen and Solano home with a sharp single to left.
Syracuse wasn't done in the seventh. Xavier Paul scored Brown and Bynum with a double to the right-center field gap to pull the Chiefs within three. But a Tyler Moore fly out and a Harper groundout ended the frame.
The Chiefs would get no closer. After a scoreless eighth, Casey Fien slammed the door shut with a scoreless ninth to earn the save.
The Chiefs and Red Wings go at it again Friday afternoon at 4:00. Tanner Roark will make his Triple-A debut for Syracuse, while Scott Diamond takes the hill for Rochester.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.