Lambert leads Royals past Charles Town 5-2
WINCHESTER — As the Valley League regular season enters its final home stretch, the Winchester Royals know they can ill afford to fall any further behind fourth-place Front Royal if they are to have any hopes of advancing to the postseason.
They also know a lot can happen over the final 11 games of the season, and though they need some help and must start a winning trend very soon, they must take each game one at a time.
With all that in mind, the Royals also know that since the All-Star break they have played much better, though their record doesn’t necessarily show it.
Tuesday night the Royals took a step in the right direction and picked up a much-needed, 5-2 victory over second-place Charles Town at Bridgeforth Field, snapping a three-game losing streak and keeping what playoff hopes they have alive.
“Since we’ve come back from the All-Star break we’ve played really well,” said Royals manager Kyle Phelps. “The breaks haven’t always gone our way and things haven’t always rolled our way. Over the last six games I’ve been pleased and I honestly feel like we should be 6-0 in those games. It just has crumbled the right way for us, kind of like the whole season.
“Eventually some breaks had to go our way at some point and tonight we got some breaks. We got a lead tonight and just kept playing. All in all the offense has played pretty well [this season]. The execution has lacked at time and that’s why the runs haven’t always been there.”
Starting pitcher Trey Lambert worked seven innings, allowing two runs on seven hits while walking one and striking out three. It was his third outstanding start in four chances.
Winchester (10-24) went right to work in the bottom half of the first inning. Leadoff hitter Erick Quesada doubled just inside the left-field line and one out later scored on a Jake Cintolo RBI single.
The Royals had a great opportunity to add to the lead when Tyler Rocklein followed with a single, giving the Royals three hits in the first four batters, but Cannons starter Logan Boyd was able to get a double play to end the inning and the threat.
Charles Town (18-18) answered with a run in the third to tie the game 1-1. With one out Kraig Kelley and Marc-Richard Culmer each singled to put runners on the corners and Waldyran Estrada stroked a two-out RBI single to tie the game.
For a team that has seen bad breaks go against them all summer long, the Royals were finally happy to see a few go their way in the bottom of the fourth inning.
Rocklein and catcher Dustin Woody each singled to start the inning. Willi Martin then attempted to move both up with a sacrifice bunt, but on the play Boyd fielded the bunt and fired to third base. However, his throw was wild and went all the way to the fence, allowing Rocklein to score and Woody and Martin to move up to second and third, respectively.
Jonathan Ferrendelli then ripped a single to center, scoring Woody and moving Martin to third. Ferrendelli took second on a wild throw to the plate for the Cannons’ second error of the inning.
Royals shortstop Josh Buczek, making just his third start of the summer, then lifted a sacrifice fly to center to make it 4-1 and Ferrendelli scored later in the inning on another Charles Town error to make it 5-1.
Only three more Royals would reach base the rest of the way, but with the way Lambert was pitching it would be more than enough.
Though Lambert was in control most of the way, the Cannons had plenty of chances but shot themselves in the foot on more then one occasion.
Following a leadoff double in the fourth, they bunted into a double play because of bad base running and in the seventh, with only one out, they had a runner thrown out at home trying to steal on a botched first-and-third play.
The Cannons did draw closer with a run in the fifth thanks to more offensive work by Kelley. With one out he doubled and later came around to score on what was the second of three Royals’ errors in the contest to cut the deficit to 5-2.
But that’s as close as the visitors would get. Lambert and two relievers shut down the Cannons on three hits the rest of the way to pick up the much-needed victory.
“It’s never too late to get rolling,” Lambert said. “Hopefully it worked to give the team a chance to get some wins. It’s nice to go out there and be able to go seven or eight innings, extend a little bit and give the guys in the bullpen a breather and take a little bit of pressure off the bullpen and, again, pitch well enough to give the team a chance.
“Hitting is important, timely hitting is essential. That’s what I’ve seen the last couple times I’ve been on the hill, timely hitting, get those guys in scoring position and we do the little things. It’s now or never, you can’t win two and take a day off. When you come down to a late playoff push you’ve got to go out every day and play to the best of your ability and give everything you can to scratch a ‘W.’”
The Royal outhit the Cannons 10-8 and were led at the plate by Rocklein, who finished 3 for 4 with a run scored. Woody added a pair of hits and scored a run. Kelley led the Cannons at the plate with two hits and two runs scored.
Winchester is on the road for the next three nights, playing all North Division teams as it makes a final push for that last playoff spot. The Royals return home Saturday night to take on Front Royal in what almost amounts to a must-win game over the current fourth-place team in the standings.
“We’ve been at one day at a time for a while,” Phelps said. “That was kind of the quote when we came back from the All-Star break. I think our guys have embraced that and they’ve come to the yard playing for that day. Have as much fun out here as they can and I think it’s shown up in our play.”