Sunday, March 9, 2014
By TOM ROBINSON Special to the Press Herald
BINGHAMTON, N.Y. - When Michael Almanzar's first-inning, inside-the-park grand slam was not enough, he put the Portland Sea Dogs back in front by nearly duplicating the feat.
WHO: Sea Dogs (Drake Britton 3-4) at Binghamton Mets (Logan Verrett 6-1)
WHEN: 7:05 p.m.
Almanzar led off the ninth inning with a triple and scored the go-ahead run on a wild pitch Friday night to lift the Sea Dogs to a 10-9 Eastern League victory over the Binghamton Mets.
The designated hitter gave the Sea Dogs a big lead, but after trailing by five runs three times, the Mets rallied to force a tie.
Almanzar put the Sea Dogs back ahead 9-8 and this time it was too late for the Mets to fully recover.
Nick Natoli finished off a 5-for-5 night in which he doubled, scored twice and drove in two runs by adding an RBI double for what proved to be the winning run.
This time, Brock Huntzinger made the lead stand up by getting through the bottom of the ninth inning with just one run allowed when the Mets produced two doubles for their 13th and 14th hits of the game.
Almanzar's first-inning shot did not have quite enough to get over the NYSEG Stadium center-field fence.
He did send the ball high enough up the wall 400 feet from home plate, however, and the resulting carom led to a home run and a 4-0 lead.
Binghamton center fielder Darrell Ceciliani banged into the fence just as the ball hit above his head. As the ball bounced away, Almanzar circled the bases behind three Sea Dogs teammates.
The one-out grand slam put the Eastern Division-leading Sea Dogs ahead early in the first game of a four-game series with the second-place Mets.
His stand-up triple and Natoli's fifth hit helped the Sea Dogs to their fourth straight win and a three-game lead in the standings.
Xander Bogaerts singled to left field with one out in the first. Tony Thomas and Travis Shaw followed by drawing walks to load the bases.
Almanzar came into the night just 4 for 28 (.143) in the last seven games. He took over sole possession of the team RBI lead with four on one swing.
After Binghamton tied the game with two homers in a four-run seventh and another run in the eighth, Almanzar led off the ninth.
Almanzar lofted a fly ball down the right-field line in the rain that fell steadily for most of the four-hour game.
Binghamton right fielder Cesar Puello got a glove on the ball at the line while running at top speed. The ball bounced out of his glove and Puello's momentum led to him flipping over the low fence in foul territory as Almanzar was off to the races again.
Heiker Meneses walked with one out and Natoli doubled into the right-field corner for the 10th Sea Dogs run.
Anthony Ranaudo, the EL earned-run average leader, left the game with a 5-0 lead and two outs in the fifth inning.
Binghamton started its comeback against Miguel Celestino, the first of three Portland relievers.
Allan Dykstra and Cory Vaughn met Celestino with back-to-back doubles to cut the deficit to 5-2.