Created: 05/22/2014 10:29 PM WHEC.com
Brad Nelson’s first home run of the season gave the Red Wings the lead. But it was a Houdini act by the Wings bullpen which preserved that lead and sent the Wings to a 2-1 win in the series opener of a four-game set against the Scranton/WB RailRiders at PNC Field in Moosic, PA.
The victory snaps Rochester’s season-long nine-game road losing streak and gives them their first win away from Frontier Field since an April 24 triumph at Pawtucket.
The bullpen’s magic act started in the sixth inning when Yohan Pino relieved starter Alex Meyer with the bases loaded and one out. Despite making his first appearance in eight days, Pino got Dean Anna to pop out to third and former Wing Antoan Richardson to ground out to first to end the threat.
Nelson, mired in a 1-for-37 slump, then stepped to the plate with one out in the seventh. The first-year Wing drove an 0-1 offering from Scranton starter Matt Tracy over the right field fence giving Rochester the 2-1 lead.
Nelson entered the 2014 season with 201 career minor league home runs -- including 148 at the Triple-A level (PCL) -- but had yet to hit his first in 91 at-bats as a Red Wing prior to the seventh inning Thursday.
The escape act continued in the bottom of the seventh as back-to-back singles to open the frame off Pino put runners on first and second with no outs. However, the Wings most consistent pitcher this season would bounce back to strike out the side and keep the 2-1 lead intact.
But the fun was just beginning as the eighth inning brought more base runners for the RailRiders. Pino allowed a bloop single to right and a scalding double to left that put runners on second and third with no outs. The double spelled the end of the night for Pino who turned things over to southpaw Aaron Thompson.
Thompson got Anna to hit a slow roller to Nelson at first before striking out Richardson for the second out of the inning. The RailRiders then went to pinch-hitter Russ Canzler and Gene Glynn countered with Michael Tonkin, who was making his first appearance back with the Red Wings since begin optioned from Minnesota on Monday.
Tonkin needed only two pitches to get Canzler to roll one over to Pedro Florimon at short for the final out of the frame.
Tonkin and the Wings seemed to have themselves an easy 1-2-3 ninth inning, but with two outs Ramon Flores’ liner to center went off the glove of a sliding Eric Farris for a double. However, Tonkin would bounce right back to get clean-up hitter Scott Sizemore to ground out to short to end the game, sending the Wings to their seventh straight victory over the RailRiders dating back to last year.
When it was all said and done, Wings pitchers held the RailRiders to just one hit in 11 at-bats with runners in scoring position. Against the Rochester bullpen, Scranton/WB was 0-for-9 with RISP over the final 3 2/3 innings.
After Thursday, opponents are now just 6-for-66 (.091) with RISP against the Wings over the last nine games.
The Red Wings snapped a 17-inning scoreless drought in the sixth when Oswaldo Arcia rolled a two-out base hit through the right side of the infield scoring Eric Fryer from third giving the Wings a 1-0 lead.
Meyer ran his scoreless streak to 10 innings before Kyle Roller squirted a broken-bat single past the diving glove of Deibinson Romero at third scoring Flores with the tying run in the sixth. After walking Zelous Wheeler to load the bases, Pino entered and the magic act began.
Meyer tossed 5 1/3 innings allowing one run on six hits and two walks with five strikeouts in a no-decision.
The Wings (24-21) send Major League rehabber Mike Pelfrey to the mound on Friday to make his second start at Triple-A. Scranton/WB is scheduled to throw right-hander Brian Gordon (2-4, 4.26). First pitch from PNC Field is slated for 7:05 p.m.