WINNIPEG, Manitoba 8-9-2010 – Mike Valadez crushed a two-run, tiebreaking home run in the top of the eighth inning to lead the Gary SouthShore RailCats to their fourth straight victory, a 7-5 back-and-forth win over the Winnipeg Goldeyes Monday night in the opener of an important four-game series.
After the Goldeyes had already come back from 2-0 and 5-2 deficits, Valadez took a 1-0 fastball from Zach Baldwin (3-2) in the top of the eighth inning and hit a towering, no-doubt home run deep into the night beyond the left field fence to put the RailCats in front for good. The homer was Valadez’s first as a RailCat and brought home Mike Rohde from first base, after he had walked one batter earlier.
The back-end of the RailCats bullpen did the rest of the work, with Zeb Engle retiring two left-handers to start the eighth, Aaron Cook striking out Patrick Brooks to end the inning and Andy Shipman retiring three in a row after a leadoff single in the ninth to earn his league-leading 17th save.
Neither starting pitcher factored in the decision, and in fact both were working well early in the game. The RailCats did get a run on Ace Walker in the first when Cristian Guerrero drove a base hit to left, but Walker would leave the bases loaded and get out of the inning. RailCats starter Tom Thornton also stranded the bases loaded in the first and would work scoreless into the fifth, retiring eight straight at one point.
The RailCats built their lead to 2-0 in the fifth and Jay Pecci sacrifice fly, but Winnipeg got on the board with a two-run Kevin West single in the bottom of the inning to tie the game. Thornton left after the fifth inning in line for the win, allowing just two runs on six hits and striking out a pair.
Walker would also be credited with going five innings, but his night lasted into the sixth and the RailCats took advantage. Randall Simon singled to lead off the first and went to second on a Tanner Townsend walk. That brought Louis Ott to the plate, and Ott launched a three-run home run to right to burst the RailCats in front 5-2. Walker allowed five earned runs on 11 hits in 5.0 innings and issued a season-high three walks.
The RailCats 5-2 lead would be short-lived, however, as Vince Harrison hit a two-run home run off James Baker in the sixth to make it 5-4. Justin Justice would single in the game-tying run in the seventh before Jeff Williams (2-2) stranded a pair of runners on base by striking out Dee Brown to end the inning.
In the first game of a series rife with potential playoff significance, the RailCats win pulled them into a tie for fourth place in the league standings with the Goldeyes and climbed the ‘Cats within five games of first place. The win is also the RailCats fourth in a row overall, now one shy of a season-high five game winning streak (set June 5-10). The ‘Cats improved to 24-16 on the road and 3-1 in Winnipeg this year.
The RailCats (38-36) and Goldeyes (38-36) continue their four-game series Tuesday night at 7 p.m. The RailCats have yet to announce a starter to oppose Winnipeg left-hander Antony Bello (3-5, 4.91 ERA). The game will be broadcast live on 89.1 FM, The Lakeshore, and online at www.railcatsbaseball.com.
Notes: The save for Shipman was his 30th in a RailCats uniform, extending his own career franchise record … Ott has four home runs this season but just 10 in a six-year career … Valadez’s homer was his sixth as a professional … the RailCats had 13 hits in the game, with Mike Massaro leading the way by going 3-for-4 with a walk … the ‘Cats drew eight walks as a team against three Winnipeg pitchers.