By LLOYD COMBS
for the Daily Telegraph
Bristol did its best to climb out of an early hole, but Bluefield kept the White Sox down by building a proverbial picket fence on the scoreboard.
The Blue Jays used a 13-hit attack and some solid base running to hold off the Sox, 7-5, Sunday afternoon at Bowen Field.
The win helped Bluefield (19-10) maintain its slim lead over second-place Pulaski in the Appalachian League’s East Division. Bluefield has won four straight and eight of their last nine.
The Jays put pressure on throughout the contest, putting two or more runners on base in each of the first six at-bats and scoring single runs in seven different innings.
Bristol (8-20) mounted a comeback with a two-run homer from Patrick Palmeiro in the sixth inning and a pair of run-producing extra-base hits in the top of the eighth.
Bluefield kept adding runs, scoring in every inning but the fourth.
“In a game like this you got to add as many runs as you can get, one run here and one run there, one run here and one run there,” Blue Jays manager Dennis Holcomb said. “Everybody got involved. And we had six stolen bases. Tim Raines, (the Blue Jays’ base running instructor) was in town and I’m always happy to see that.”
The Jays pulled off two double steals in the game and manufactured one run without a hit in the seventh, the only time they had fewer than two base runners. Jonathan Davis was hit by pitch, moved to second on a balk and to third on a wild pitch. He scored on a one-out sacrifice fly off the bat of Jorge Saez.
Saez drove in two runs, while Tim Locastro and D.J. Davis each delivered two hits. No one had a better day than Mitch Nay, who drove in Locastro three times with a pair of opposite-field singles off losing pitcher Kelvin Valero and a double in the fourth.
“The first at-bat I was looking for something away, because (Valero) was working away to us righties,” Nay said. “I got a good pitch to hit to the right side, same thing with the next at-bat.
“(The double) was one of those that just falls. I just wanted to put something in play and give myself a chance.”
After a slow start against Bluefield starter Zak Wasilewski and reliever Tim Mayza, the White Sox got three big hits and got within a run twice.
Palmeiro’s towering shot off the light pole in left-center cut the Sox deficit to 4-3 in the sixth. An RBI triple to the left field corner by Toby Thomas and an RBI double by Angel Rosario that plated Thomas trimmed the Jays’ advantage to 6-5 in the eighth inning.
“We battled back and we got some big hits, which we haven’t had in a while with runners in scoring position,” Bristol manager Mike Gellinger said. “We gave ourselves a chance.
“Thomas smoked two balls in the same spot. One of them the centerfielder made a great catch on. Palmeiro swung the bat well, that’s good to see.”
The six steals, the extra base hits and seeing a slew of Bluefield runners go from first to third was not good to see, Gellinger added. Three Sox pitchers pitched into and out of jams the entire game.
“We’ve got do the little things to keep them from getting the extra base, or you’re going to keep putting yourself in jams,” he said.
The Jays had two or more base runners from the top eight spots in the batting order and number nine batter Angel Rojas contributed a sacrifice fly to drive in the second run of the game in the second, after Matt Dean and Garrett Custons both reached on infield singles.
“We got a lot of guys on base and kind of kept it simple and managed to get one run an inning,” Nay said. “We’ve been having quality at-bats, getting guys on and scoring some runs. That’s all you can ask for, to have quality at-bats.”
Holcomb praised Nay’s efforts at the plate. He also felt like his club missed out on a couple of chances to put the game out of Bristol’s reach. The Jays stranded a whopping 13 runners.
“We left some guys out there,” he said. “A couple of times we had runners on third and less than two outs and didn’t get them in.
“Mitch had a good day at the plate. He’s been swinging the bat real good. He’s starting to get a little confidence about himself at the plate and this game is all about confidence.”
Bristol pitching coach Larry Owens was ejected for arguing ball and strike calls in the seventh.
The two clubs conclude their series tonight at 7:05 p.m.
At Bowen Field
Bristol.........000 102 020 — 5 6 0
Bluefield.....111 011 11x — 7 13 0
Valero, Barnette (5), Ball (7) and Rosario. Wasilewski, Mayza (5), Del Rosario (8) and Custons, Saez (4). W-Mayza (1-1). L-Valero (2-3). Sv-Del Rosario (1). HR-Bristol: Palmeiro (1), 6th, 1 on.