The promotion Wednesday night at PK Park was “Christmas in July.”
But far from being in the spirit of giving, Eugene decided to do some taking, and successful steals led to the first two runs for the Ems in a 4-1 victory over Salem-Keizer in a Northwest League game.
In the fourth inning, the Ems knotted the game at 1-1 when Jonathan Sierra, after reaching on a fielder’s choice, stole second and scored on a single by Nelson Velazquez. Two innings later, Luiz Vazquez led off with a walk and stole second before scoring on Sierra’s single. Then Velazquez had his second RBI of the game with a double to make it 3-1.
“We got some good jumps there,” Ems manager Steve Lerud said of the steals to set up runs. “We were able to take advantage of some opportunities and they got good reads off the pitcher and got into scoring position.”
The Ems had four total steals in the game as Fernando Kelli upped his season total to 20 steals. He was tied for the league lead with 18 entering the game. If not as numerous in their totals, Vazquez (five for five on steal attempts) and Sierra (seven in eight attempts) have certainly been effective.
“Any time you get those guys on the bases, you try to see if you can get an extra one and get us in scoring position,” Lerud said. “At some point, we have to create something and hopefully get them around to home plate.”
It didn’t take much offense for the Ems as Jeffrey Passantino threw 4 2/3 innings of relief before Mitch Stophel recorded the final four outs for the save as the Ems evened their second-half record at 1-1.
Passantino (4-0) gave up six hits and never had a 1-2-3 inning but was especially effective with runners on base, regularly working out of jams to keep the Volcanoes off the scoreboard. Passantino recorded five strikeouts, two of them for the third out of an inning with two runners on base.
“He threw the ball really well,” Lerud said of Passantino, who has both started and worked in relief. ”He’s a guy you could put in any role.
“He likes to go out there and compete.”
The Volcanoes took a 1-0 lead in the third inning on an RBI triple to center by Aaron Bond off Ems starting pitcher Zach Mort, who struck out seven in his three innings.
The Ems only had six total hits, but two of them came from Velazquez for key RBIs, after he entered the game hitting only .221.
“That’s the kind of player he needs to be for us and that’s the kind of player the Chicago Cubs see him being in the future,” Lerud said of the 19-year-old outfielder. “Getting in those situations and delivering those RBI hits, that’s huge and part of his development.”
The lead grew to 4-1 in the seventh when Tyler Durna walked with one out, went to third on a Luke Reynolds single and scored on a wild pitch.
NOTES: Luis Aquino, who had two saves and a 1.83 earned run average in 12 appearances for the Ems, has been promoted to South Bend of the Midwest League. The 24-year-old Aquino recorded 19 strikeouts in 19 2/3 innings ... In the series finale Thursday, Eugene’s scheduled starting pitcher is right-handed Paul Richan (0-1, 3.00 ERA). The Volcanoes scheduled starter is Gregory Santos (2-2, 3.31) ... the Ems begin a five-game series at Vancouver on Friday, then return home for a five-game series starting next Wednesday against Spokane.