TROY — The ValleyCats led most of the way, but the relief pitching faltered, and it resulted in their first loss of the season, falling 6-2 to the Vermont Lake Monsters on Saturday night at Joe Bruno Stadium.
Despite having multiple runners reach base in the first seven innings of the game, the ValleyCats only managed to have two of them score. They scored the first run in the fourth inning to take the first lead, then held it until the seventh when Vermont scored two runs as Javier Godard reached on an error.
Tri-City tied the game in the bottom of the frame as Gilberto Celestino came up big, shooting an RBI single into the outfield to tie the game at two.
The ValleyCats second pitcher of the night, Tim Hardy, came into the eighth inning on his third full inning of work and laboring. The first batter of the inning, Aaron Arruda, walked. With two outs, Hardy’s 64th pitch of the game in relief was laced by Payton Squier for a triple into right-center field, giving the Lake Monsters a 3-2 lead that they did not give up.
“I thought that (Hardy) did an alright job, we just didn’t help him defensively. I think his pitch count would have been lower, he could have even pitched the ninth if we had better defense behind him,” ValleyCats manager Jason Bell said.
The Lake Monsters tacked on three more runs in the ninth on back-to-back home runs, a two-run shot from Godard and a nearly identical solo shot off the bat of Anthony Churlin that made it 6-2, both coming on offers from Juan Pablo Lopez.
The common theme of the game for Tri-City was that they struggled mightily to get runners around to score, having 15 runners on base in the first five innings of the game and only scoring one run. Most of the baserunners came on walks as Vermont hurlers Jose Mora and Brandon Marsonek both struggled to find the zone throughout the evening. The ValleyCats walked 10 times in the first six innings of the game before adding their second run of the game in the seventh. Before the second run came in, they were 1-11 with runners in scoring position.
“We had plenty of opportunities with runners in scoring position, runners on base. Our swing decisions were pretty good, we drew a lot of walks, we just didn’t get hits when we needed them,” Bell said.
After a strong first game from Seth Beer on opening night Friday, he struggled a bit, striking out twice, one of them looking, as part of an 0-3 night. He did reach base three times as one of those at-bats resulted in a fielders’ choice in addition to a walk and being hit by a pitch.
“They were tough. They were close, but it’s part of the game,” Bell said.
The ValleyCats and Lake Monsters will be back in action on Sunday, facing each other at 5 p.m. at Joe Bruno Stadium for the third and final game of the series. The probable pitchers are Hansel Paulino for Tri-City and Abdiel Mendoza for Vermont.