The Syracuse Chiefs, the Triple-A affiliate of the Washington Nationals, split a doubleheader with the Lehigh Valley IronPigs on Saturdaynight at Coca-Cola Park. Sandy Leon's three-run home run led Syracuse to a 3-2 game-one win before the IronPigs retaliated for a 7-1 victory in game two. With Pawtucket's loss to Buffalo, Syracuse increased its North Division lead to three and one-half games and dropped its magic number to clinch the division to six.
Lehigh Valley (61-74) grabbed the twin bill's first run with its third batter in the first game. Third baseman Maikel Franco lined a Mitch Lively pitch over the left-field wall for a solo home run, giving the IronPigs an early advantage.
Syracuse (77-56) responded against Jeff Manship in the second. Tyler Moore and Destin Hood began the inning with back-to-back walks before Leon worked a 3-1 count in his at-bat. After Moore, Hood and Leon had taken 11 consecutive pitches, Leon swung at a 3-1 fastball and blasted it over the 17-foot wall in right field for a three-run home run, giving the Chiefs a lead they'd hold for good.
The IronPigs cut into the deficit with a two-out rally in the third. Franco singled, Russ Canzler walked and first baseman Jim Murphy dropped a bloop single into center field, plating Franco for a 3-2 score.
That run was all the IronPigs would gain against three Syracuse pitchers. Lively struck out six in five innings of four-hit ball, Ryan Mattheus threw a scoreless sixth and Rafael Martin struck out two in a perfect seventh.
In game two, Lehigh Valley grabbed a stranglehold with a four-run third. With one out, Cesar Hernandez singled against right-hander Sam Runion, and Franco followed with a run-scoring triple off the left-field wall. Canzler followed with an RBI double over Jeff Kobernus' head. Three batters later, catcher Sebastian Valle lined a two-run single into left field, bringing home Canzler and Leandro Castro for a 4-0 lead.
The remaining drama would be erased in the sixth, with Lehigh Valley leading 6-1. Franco, who had doubled, tripled and singled in his first three at-bats, drove a 1-1 pitch from Matt Grace over the center-field wall for a home run, completing the second cycle in the seven-year history of the IronPigs.
Syracuse and Lehigh Valley play the middle game in a five-game, four-day set on Sunday at 1:35 p.m. Chiefs right-hander Omar Poveda and IronPigs right-hander Jason Marquis are the scheduled starters.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.