STATEN ISLAND, NY --- Three Yankee pitchers combined on a three-hit shutout and Kyle Gray capped off a five-run eighth inning with a three-run homer to lead Staten Island to a 6-0 victory over the Vermont Lake Monsters Thursday night at Richmond County Bank Ballpark.
The Vermont loss coupled with a Tri-City 3-2 win at Lowell clinched the 2018 Stedler Division title for the ValleyCats, who moved 4 1/2 games in front of the Lake Monsters with four games remaining. Vermont (36-36) remains 2 1/2 games behind Brooklyn in the Wild Card race (and 1 1/2 games behind Staten Island).
Alex Junior led off the bottom of the first with a walk, advanced to third on a Chris Gittens single and scored on a Josh Breaux sacrifice fly off Vermont starter Rafael Kelly, who allowed just the one run on two hits with three walks and six strikeouts over six innings in his final start of season (had 1.42 ERA over his final six starts).
Reliever Jeferson Mejia tossed a 1-2-3 bottom seventh, giving him a 0.96 ERA over his last 18 2/3 innings, but then struggled with control in the eighth inning as he walked three Yankees and tossed three wild pitches. He also allowed a Breaux RBI single and Kyle Gray capped off the five-run eighth with a three-run homer to right (just Staten Island's fourth hit of game).
All three of the Yankee pitchers were making their Staten Island debuts after recently being promoted. Starter Tanner Myatt (2018 11th-round) allowed one hit with two walks and two strikeouts over first two innings, while Daniel Bies (2018 7th-round out of Gonzaga) two hits with three strikeouts over four scoreless innings.
Austin Gardner (2017 9th-round out of Texas-Arlington) struckout six of the 10 batters he faced over the final three innings. The only baserunner against Gardner came on a strikeout wild pitch with two outs in the eighth inning. The shutout was the eighth of the season for Staten Island (36-33), which lowered its league-best ERA to 2.57 in handing Vermont its fifth shutout loss.
Kevin Merrell, playing in his second rehab game from single-A Stockton, led off the game with a walk, singled in the third inning and then made his first out in five plate appearances for the Lake Monsters with a strikeout in the sixth. Vermont's only other two hits came on a Nick Osborne leadoff single in the second and Alfonso Rivas two-out single in the sixth.
Vermont will plays its final regular-season road game 7:00 pm on Friday at Staten Island before the Lake Monsters return home for a three-game series against the Stedler Division champion ValleyCats starting Saturday.
Paul Stanfield is the Media Relations Director for the Vermont Lake Monsters.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.