MADISON, Alabama – The Rocket City Trash Pandas used the long ball to build a lead then held on in the ninth for an 8-6 win over the Birmingham Barons in the opener of a six-game series at Toyota Field on Tuesday night.
The victory improves the Trash Pandas’ record back to .500 at 17-17 while giving them six wins in their first seven games with their North Division rivals.
Trash Pandas starter Victor Mederos began the night with a rocky first inning. Back-to-back walks to start the game led to the opening runs of the night on Luis Mieses’ two-run double to left.
Rocket City got one back in the bottom of the frame against Birmingham starter Cristian Mena (L, 3-3). Kyren Paris reached with a one-out walk, stole second, advanced to third on an error, and scored on an RBI ground out from Edgar Quero.
Mederos (W, 2-2) found his groove in the second, working around a walk to pitch a scoreless frame. In the bottom of the inning, the Trash Pandas turned the game around. Ryan Aguilar got it started with a leadoff walk. Tucker Flint followed with a monstrous 439-foot home run to left-center that left the bat at 109 miles per hour for his second home run of the season, a two-run shot to put the Trash Pandas up 3-2.
Mederos held the lead with his first one, two, three inning in the third. The Trash Pandas extended the lead in their next turn at the plate. Paris reached on an error and Quero singled to put two on with nobody out. A balk moved the runners to second and third. Aguilar cashed in with a two-run double into the gap in left-center, making it a 5-2 Rocket City lead. Two innings later, Jeremiah Jackson cracked a leadoff solo homer over the Rocket City bullpen in left-center, his second homer of the season, to extend the lead to 6-2.
Pitching with the lead, Mederos worked around baserunners in both the fourth and fifth to hold the lead. In the sixth, the Barons got closer on a two-run homer by Adam Hackenberg to cut the Barons’ deficit to 6-4.
Mederos exited after six innings, allowing four runs on three hits with six walks and seven strikeouts to pick up the win.
Orlando Martinez restored the four-run lead at 8-4 for the Trash Pandas in the bottom of the sixth with an opposite-field two-run homer to left. Martinez’s sixth homer of the season drove in David Calabrese, who began the inning with a walk.
In relief for the Trash Pandas, Luke Murphy pitched a scoreless seventh and Kolton…