Strong starting rotation helped Red Wings salvage series split with Mets

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Sterling Sharp had his best start of the season for the Red Wings Saturday night.
Sterling Sharp had his best start of the season for the Red Wings Saturday night.

At a time when the Rochester Red Wings needed their starting rotation to get things turned around, veteran Logan Verrett took the ball twice last week and gave manager Matt LeCroy two strong outings.

He didn’t get rewarded last Tuesday in the opener of a six-game set against the revitalized and re-tooled Syracuse Mets as he wound up with a no-decision after 5.2 innings of one-run ball in what became a 3-2 loss.

But Sunday afternoon at Frontier Field, Verrett was even better as he pitched a season-high seven innings allowing just one run on two hits and two walks as the Wings pulled out a 2-1 victory to split the series three games each.

“He had a little trouble there in the first inning but made a good pitch to get out of it only giving up one and then he pretty much was in total control through seven innings,” manager Matt LeCroy said. “Really big performance from him, veteran pitcher that gave us a chance to stay in it.”

“I had all four of my pitches working for me,” Verrett said. “Tfhat’s always a good day when you can command all four of those. I just tried to fill the strike zone and allow my defense to make some plays behind me as well.”

The Wings’ rotation has struggled at times this year and even with some solid work in this series against the Mets, it still ranks 17th in the 20-team International League in ERA (5.55) and 14th in walks/hits per innings pitched at 1.46.

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But against Syracuse, the rotation - featuring the two Verrett starts and one each by Sterling Sharp, Jefry Rodriguez, Cory Abbott and Joan Adon - produced much sharper results, seven earned runs in 30 combined innings for a 2.10 ERA.

Had the offense been able to come through with a key hit in several big spots, the week could have been a whole lot better than 3-3.

“Our starting pitching has picked up and it has kept us in some ballgames,” LeCroy said. “Offensively, the shutdown inning has been a killer for us for this whole little spell we’re in. Our offense just hasn’t gotten the big hits at times that we needed to blow the game open.”

Verrett pitched a great game against St. Paul a few weeks ago, but that was an outlier as the rest of the Wings’ staff got pummeled and Rochester lost all six games to fall out of first place. Since that series the Wings are 5-13, but Verrett thinks the rotation is stabilizing.

“I think we’re in a good place,” he said. “Everybody’s coming in every day with a good mentality, positive energy, getting their work in and setting themselves up to be successful out there on the mound. We had a rough series in St. Paul. It’s gonna happen right?

“I mean, it’s a long season, 150 games, you’re gonna have series like that. Pitchers especially, we’ve got to have short term memories, put that in the past and just move on. And I think the staff in general has done a very good job of bouncing back from that series and going out there and competing every day and giving the team a chance to win.”

Even in winning three games, the Mets hit only .209 as a team and scored 23 runs. The issue for Rochester was it scored only 24 runs in the series, and in the two games that could have swung the series - a 5-4 loss Saturday and a 3-2 loss Friday - the Wings went a combined 5-for-20 with runners in scoring position and left 22 men on base.

“We could have easily won the series if we get a big hit those two games, but we didn’t, they held it and secured the ballgames and they got a big hit late and we didn’t,” LeCroy said. “(Sunday) was a big way for us to salvage the series. I believe that this hopefully can help us get on a little nicer roll.”

It won’t be easy this week as Worcester comes to Frontier Field having won six of its last seven and is now just 4.5 games behind front-running Buffalo in the IL East.

The Red Sox mashed last week against Charlotte as they put up a .922 OPS as a team and hit 10 home runs. Clearly, this is a different team than the one Rochester swept six straight from at Worcester in mid-May.

“We swept them at their place which is really hard to do, but this is probably a different club,” LeCroy said of the Boston Red Sox top farm club. “We’ll do our homework tonight and tomorrow as a staff and be prepared to give them the information they need to hopefully win a series.”

Sal Maiorana can be reached at maiorana@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter @salmaiorana. 

This article originally appeared on Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: Rochester Red Wings starting rotation salvages split with Syracuse Mets