SYRACUSE, N.Y. - Matt Joyce hit his first career grand slam. He also smacked a three-run homer for the second time this season.
The end result helped the Toledo Mud Hens to a 12-2 win over the Syracuse Chiefs last night at Alliance Bank Stadium.
The Hens banged out 19 hits in the game but it was the pitching of starter Virgil Vasquez (6-6) that had manager Larry Parrish smiling afterward.
"We needed that," Parrish said of his starter's efforts. "Our starters have gone short, short short. We needed someone to go long and he picked us up tonight. He pitched well and it couldn't have come at a better time."
Vasquez helped give an overworked bullpen a day off, going eight innings and allowing two runs on five hits. He struck out five and walked one. "Oh, man," Joyce said with a big exhale when asked about Vasquez's time on the mound. "He's been tremendous all year."
The Hens had two runs cross the plate before Joyce crushed his three-run blast to right field off Syracuse starter Kane Davis (6-7) in the first inning.
"You don't have that kind of hitting too often," Joyce said of his 3-5, 7-RBI performance. "Whenever you give your pitcher a five-run lead in the first inning and follow that with four more in the second well all he has to do is go out and throw strikes."
Joyce tagged Davis once again in the second inning for the grand slam and a Hens' season-high seven RBIs on a fastball over the middle. The Hens' record of eight was last done by Tim Teufel against Richmond on April 26, 1983.
"He had a big game tonight, no doubt," Parrish said of his right-fielder's plate appearances. "Overall it was a nice offensive game on a day we needed it."
Joyce had a chance of hitting a third home run this time off of Syracuse reliever Michael MacDonald in the fourth inning. Instead he got under a curveball and popped it to deep right. "I just missed that one, that would have been icing on the cake," Joyce said smiling. "I've had trouble with the curveballs and the change-ups but little adjustments here and there and I'm getting my confidence back."
Joyce, along with Brent Clevlan (RBI), Mike Hessman (RBI), Maxwell Leon (RBI) and Derek Wathan (2 RBI) gave Vasquez more than enough run support for the righty's first back-to-back wins of the season.
"To get nine runs in the first two innings was huge," Vasquez said.
Vasquez had his change-up working well throughout the game and it came in handy when he went up against the Chiefs' Curtis Thigpen and Chip Cannon. "It was the first time I've faced them since we played together in the Arizona Fall League," Vasquez said. "I had to work a lot at those at-bats." Both Chiefs were 0-3.