The sack-swiping Richmond Flying Squirrels took a four-run lead Thursday night soon after the males in a crowd of 6,643 at The Diamond replaced their caps after the national anthem.
Before making an out or getting their first hit, the Squirrels stole four bases and scored two runs. Devin Harris backed that lightning with thunder, a two-run homer. That all happened in the first inning of Richmond’s 8-5 win over Trenton in the finale of a three-game set.
The Squirrels won two of three against the Yankees’ affiliate, and have won nine of their past 11 games.
Mario Lisson hit a two-run homer, his team-leading seventh, in the fifth inning and drove in two more runs with a sixth-inning single that made it 8-3. Jack Snodgrass, who began the evening 5-0 with an ERA of 1.93, sufficiently maintained order through his 51/3 innings (three runs allowed, five strikeouts) to remain undefeated.
Snodgrass said having a 4-0 lead after an inning “simplifies things. You have more of a focus on just throwing strikes. You can smell the win a little bit. So as long as you just do your job, and maybe give up a couple of runs, we’ll most likely add on. It’s nice.”
Richmond stole six bases, all by outfielder Tyler Graham (three) and second baseman Kelby Tomlinson (three). Those first two batters in the Squirrels’ lineup twice executed a double steal.
“It really puts pressure on the pitcher to be quick to the plate and takes his attention off of the (batter),” said Harris, who has four homers. “The guy at the plate is more likely to get a fastball because (pitchers) don’t want to give up stolen bases.”
Richmond padded its lead as the top base-stealing team in the Eastern League. The Squirrels have swiped 91 bags and have been caught only 13 times. The franchise record is 105 steals, set in 2011. Graham leads the EL with 26 (caught five times), and Tomlinson ranks second with 24. He has yet to be thrown out.
“We’ve talked all year long about how speed shows up every night,” said Richmond manager Russ Morman. “We give our offense more opportunities to hit with runners in scoring position.”
Graham, Richmond’s leadoff hitter, reached on an error to start the Squirrels’ four-run first inning. He stole second and went to third on a wild pitch. Tomlinson walked. They pulled off a double steal, with Graham scoring.
Tomlinson stole third and raced home when the low throw of Trenton catcher Peter O’Brien bounced into left field. Richmond led 2-0 without a hit. The Squirrels are on a 9-2 streak after going 3-8 in their previous 11 games.
“The starting pitching is keeping us in games and the offense has been able to produce runs when necessary,” Harris said. “We’re able to throw up a crooked number every once in a while, which can really deflate the other team at times.”
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