The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees (33-28) stormed in front of the Syracuse Chiefs (26-35), the Triple-A affiliate of the Washington Nationals, in the eighth inning and held off a ninth-inning rally for a 5-4 win Sunday at Alliance Bank Stadium. The Yankees stepped in front with four runs in the eighth. Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, in Syracuse on a rehab assignment from the Nationals, finished the game 0-for-5.
Chiefs starter Erik Arnesen looked like he might struggle in the first inning as the Yankees took a 1-0 lead after just two batters. But with Ramiro Pena on first and Jordan Parraz at the plate, Chiefs centerfielder Corey Brown gave his pitcher some help. Brown came up to meet a looping line drive off Parraz' bat and laid out to make the catch. He then quickly got up to throw Pena out at first for the double play.
Yankees lefty Kei Igawa also got in some trouble in the first but managed to work out of it unscathed. He gave up a leadoff single to Matt Antonelli before Chris Marrero ripped a two-out double that pushed Antonelli to third. But Igawa forced Jesus Valdez into an inning-ending groundout to keep the score at 1-0 early.
Igawa kept the Chiefs scoreless through four with the help of rightfielder Dan Brewer. After a Marrero single, Jesus Valdez blasted a shot toward the fence behind Brewer. The Yankee chased it down and leaped to make the catch, colliding with the wall and robbing Valdez of an extra-base hit.
Syracuse did manage to tie the score at 1-1 on Jeff Frazier's home run to start the fifth. But Arnesen and Igawa continued to dominate from the mound. Arnesen allowed seven hits and the one earned run and struck out four with one walk through six-and-two-thirds innings. Igawa also went six-and-two-thirds, allowing seven hits, two runs-one earned-with two walks and three strikeouts.
The unearned run charged to Igawa came after he departed from the mound in the seventh. The Yankees lefty got the first two outs of the inning before a Chris McConnell single chased him to the dugout. Then with reliever Josh Schmidt at the mound, Matt Antonelli hit a soft tapper toward third. Schmidt scooped up the groundball but his throw to first sailed to the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre bullpen and allowed McConnel to put the Chiefs in front 2-1.
But Syracuse's lead would be short-lived as the Yankees stormed back in the eighth. After a walk and a single off Chiefs reliever Hassan Pena put runners on first and second, Jorge Vazquez knocked a RBI-single that knotted the game at 2-2.
Josh Wilkie then took the mound with runners at the corners but couldn't limit the damage. Brandon Laird hit a soft grounder toward third that Zimmerman scooped up and threw home. But Parraz beat the throw home to continue the Yankees' run. Kevin Russo's sacrifice bunt moved runners to second and third in the next at-bat before Greg Golson's 2-RBI single put Scranton/Wilkes-Barre up 5-2.
The Chiefs did manage to forge a comeback attempt in the bottom of the ninth when Yankees reliever Ryan Pope entered for the save opportunity. Michael Aubrey hit a leadoff single followed by a Frazier double that put both in scoring position. Carlos Maldonado scored Aubrey on a groundout to shortstop that put the score at 5-3. Tug Hulett then laced an RBI-single to centerfield that pulled Syracuse within one.
The Chiefs continued their run when Matt Antonelli hit a chopper toward the mound. The ball ricocheted off Pope's glove, altering its path just enough to allow both runners to reach safely. That single forced the Yankees to bring in lefty reliever Randy Flores to face Chiefs pinch hitter Jesus Flores. The Syracuse catcher flied out to center to bring Zimmerman to the plate. But Zimmerman hit a soft grounder to third for the final out of the game.
Syracuse will continue their series with the Yankees Monday at 7:00 when the Chiefs' J.D. Martin does battle with David Phelps.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.