TROY, NY- Back-to-back home runs by Ravel Santana and Alfredo Gonzalez in the bottom of the eighth inning turned a pitchers duel into a 6-2 victory for the Tri-City ValleyCats over the Vermont Lake Monsters on Monday night at Joseph L. Bruno Stadium.
Both Tri-City's Austin Chrismon and Vermont's Joe Michaud posted solid starting outings. Chrismon allowed only two runs off of four hits while striking out three batters in five innings. Michaud, after defeating the ValleyCats last Wednesday by throwing seven shutout frames in a 6-0 Lake Monsters victory, was arguably even stronger this time around, striking a career-high eight batters and allowing only one unearned run off of six hits.
By the time Michaud left the game, Vermont had taken a 2-1 lead after first baseman Brett Vertigan hit a solo home run over the right field wall in the fifth inning.
However, after the Lake Monsters went to the bullpen, Tri-City took advantage almost immediately, tying the score at two runs a piece when left fielder Jose Solano drove home Santana on an RBI fielder's choice in the bottom of the seventh inning.
The score remained tied at 2-2 until the bottom of the eighth, when with one out, pinch-runner Bobby Boyd on second base and Ariel Ovando on first, Santana hit a 1-0 pitch from Vermont reliever Dominique Vattuone so far over the left field wall that it cleared the Top of the Hill Bar & Grill to the right of the scoreboard. Four pitches later, Gonzalez smashed a 2-1 offering from Vattuone over the left field wall as well, falling just short of the video board.
The homers by Santana and Gonzalez, which gave the ValleyCats their first back-to-back long balls of the season, more importantly created a 6-2 lead that stood pat as reliever Vince Wheeland held the Lake Monsters scoreless in the top of the ninth. The win increases Tri-City's record to 7-4, moving them one game ahead of the Lake Monsters into first place in the Stedler Division.
Earning his first professional win for the ValleyCats was right-hander Brandon McNitt (1-0), who threw three spotless innings, striking out three batters after replacing Chrismon to start the sixth frame.
The ValleyCats and Lake Monsters return to "The Joe" on Tuesday night to conclude the two-game set. On the mound for Tri-City will be RHP Joe Musgrove (1-1, 4.15). He will face Vermont RHP A.J. Burke (1-0, 1.08). Following the game, the ValleyCats will hit the road for eight games in nine days away from Troy before returning on the Fourth of July to face the Lowell Spinners.
All game recaps are brought to you by CarmaLink. CarmaLink is a GPS tracking solution to help small businesses manage their fleet and reduce their fuel costs. For more information on the official tracking system of the Tri-City ValleyCats, visit www.carmalink.com.