Pitch well, play defense, hit the ball out of the park.
That's a good formula for a baseball team. The Rochester Honkers have followed it for the past two nights, and each time it resulted in a win over the Waterloo Bucks.
In Monday's 4-1 win at Mayo Field, Dwayne Marshall made his second start of the season for the Honkers, and he dominated the Bucks for six innings. The 6-2 right-hander from Maryland Eastern Shore yielded just three hits and one run.
Manager Thomas Walker said Marshall was aggressive from the first pitch. "He really attacked their hitters," Walker said. "They've got some good hitters over there, but he was mixing in his breaking ball and had made an adjustment with that pitch since his last start. But the big thing was the command of his fastball on both sides of the plate, up and down."
Marshall said that by being aggressive, he was able to control most of the Bucks' at-bats. "I was getting ahead with my fastball, trying to get them into tough counts where they couldn't get the barrel on the ball," he said. "Then I could make them hit my pitch, not theirs. I was trying to keep the ball away from their lefties, as there is a really short porch in right. So if I went inside to them, I went inside hard, trying to break their bats."
Things got no easier for the Bucks when Marshall left the game. As has been a pattern all season, the Honkers' bullpen came in and slammed the door. Anthony Rodriguez, a freshman from Monroe College, made his debut for the Honkers and tossed a scoreless inning. Marty Tolson Jr. did the same thing in the eighth, and Keon Taylor earned his third save with a scoreless ninth. The three relievers gave up just one hit and one walk.
Taylor and Tolson are now a combined 2-0 in relief with five saves.
Walker said good starting pitching can lead to good bullpen work, and vice versa. "They're feeding off of each other right now," Walker said. "Early on we were really hyping the bullpen, and the starters apparently wanted a little more love out of me in the postgame talks, so they started throwing the ball better, too. Everybody wants to be better than the guy who went before, and in summer ball it's good to have a little friendly competition."
It also helps to be pitching with the lead, and shortstop Evan Berkey took care of that. The sophomore from Cal State Bakersfield, batting second in the Honkers lineup, smacked his first homer of the season in the bottom of the first.
"Evan's really been swinging the bat well," Walker said of his shortstop, who is hitting .283 with 13 hits in 11 games. "He's such a catalyst for us near the top of the order, and he's playing spectacular defense."
Then, with the Honkers 3-1 in the bottom of the sixth, Tristan Peterson connected for his first homer of the season, an opposite-field line drive that cleared the wall in right-center.
"It was nice to see Tristan finally get one!" Walker said of the slugger from New Mexico State. "He's been grinding, working hard and taking his walks. He hasn't really been seeing a lot of pitches to hit, but he's doing a good job for us and will be a mainstay in our lineup."
The Honkers (8-6) now go to Bismarck, where they will play four games in three days before returning to Mayo Field on Friday against St. Cloud.
Honkers 4, Waterloo 1
Waterloo: Nyisztor 1-for-4; Phillips 1-for-4, HR; Gitter 1-for-4; Anderberg 1-for-2. Pitchers: Irvine (LP) 6 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 BB; Holcomb 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 1 K.
Rochester: Shepherd 2-for-4; Berkey 1-for-4, HR, 2 RBI; Tristan Peterson 1-for-3, HR; Borden 1-for-4, R; Schmitt 1-for-2, RBI; George 1-for-3, R. Pitchers: Marshall (WP) 6 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 5 K; Rodriguez 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 2 K; Tolson Jr. 1 IP, 1 H, 1 BB; Taylor (S) 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 K.