JOLIET, IL. 9-3-2010 – Bear Bay was nearly untouchable for the second start in a row and Richard Mercado hit a first inning grand slam to lead the Joliet JackHammers to a 7-3 win over the Gary SouthShore RailCats Friday night at Silver Cross Field, snapping the RailCats three-game winning streak.
Bay (10-2) struck out nine and allowed only five hits in seven overwhelming innings, and the RailCats never recovered from Mercado’s early blast. The Joliet win pulled the JackHammers even with the RailCats for third place in the Northern League, with the final three games of the season between the two teams the following three days set up to determine seeding between the two playoff-bound clubs.
Andy Weeks (1-2) started for the RailCats and got immediately into trouble, walking three of the first four hitters of the game before Freddie Thon fouled out with the bases loaded for the second out. Mercado followed Thon, however, and on the 1-0 pitch he drove a deep fly ball to right-center that carried out on a windy night for his second grand slam of the season and ninth home run.
Joliet would add a couple more two-out runs against Weeks in the fifth and their lead would grow to 7-0 before the RailCats found the scoreboard in the eighth. With Bay finally out of the game, Louis Ott walked to lead off against Griffin Bailey before Mike Reese lofted a fly ball the other way that carried over a short fence in right for his fourth home run of the year. Tanner Townsend would single in Adam Klein from third later in the inning but that was all the scoring the RailCats would do in the game.
Bay beat the RailCats for the third time in four starts this year and will finish the season allowing only two earned runs on 21 hits in 30.0 innings against the RailCats, good for a 0.60 ERA. The third-year Northern Leaguer struck out nine RailCats Friday to take over the league lead in that category (116) and had 33 strikeouts against three walks vs. the ‘Cats this summer.
Weeks went the first five innings and allowed six earned runs on six hits, four walks and three strikeouts. The rookie left-hander has gone no more than 5.0 innings in each of his last five starts and the six runs allowed mark a career worst. Jeremy Hauer made his RailCats debut in the sixth inning and allowed only one run despite putting the first three runners on to load the bases. James Baker and Chris Chavez threw a scoreless inning each to close out the game for the ‘Cats.
The RailCats actually out-hit Joliet 9-8 with Reese going 3-for-4 to lead the way, one day after his first four-hit game of the season. Townsend was the only other RailCat with more than one hit and Mike Massaro singled in the first to break Jay Pecci’s single-season hits record from 2008 with his 116th base hit of the year. Mercado was the only JackHammer with two hits and drove in a season-high five runs.
The RailCats (51-46) and JackHammers (51-46) continue their series Saturday night at 7 p.m. at Silver Cross Field. Right-hander Nolan Nicholson (5-5, 4.44 ERA) will start for the RailCats while Joliet will counter with Paul Fagan (0-0, 4.95 ERA). The game will be broadcast live on 89.1 FM, The Lakeshore, and online at www.railcatsbaseball.com.
Notes: Before the game, Hauer was activated from the disabled list and Randall Simon was placed on the disabled list with a hamstring injury. Simon would be eligible to be activated in time for the start of the postseason Wednesday … Cristian Guerrero was ejected in the seventh inning for arguing balls and strikes.