(Photo of Matt McBride provided courtesy of Cheryl Pursell.)
The Lehigh Valley IronPigs opened up their home schedule Thursday night against the Louisville Bats in front of 9,045 fans. The Pigs scored a season-high 13 runs to defeat the Bats 13-1 and improve to 3-3 on the young season.
Matt McBride returned home for his first game in his hometown. The Bethlehem native hit two home runs in the ballgame including a grand slam in the eighth inning. McBride finished the game 2-for-5 with six RBI.
Coming into the home opener game the Pigs had not scored more than three runs in a game and no more than two in an inning. Lehigh Valley scored multiple runs in four different innings including a pair of four-run innings.
Zach Eflin improved to 2-0 on the season after going six innings and allowing just one run while striking out five. After allowing back-to-back hits to lead off the game, Eflin settled in to retire 18 of the next 21 before turning the ball over to the bullpen in the seventh inning.
McBride, who signed with the Phillies in this offseason was playing in his first career game at Coca-Cola Park as a member of the home team. He hit his first of two home runs in the top of the third inning, a titanic two-run blast that capped off a four-run third inning putting the Pigs up 6-1. McBride was not done yet. Leading 9-1 in the eighth, McBride clubbed a grand slam to left field to give the Pigs the 13-1 lead.
McBride was not the only Pig who had a big night at the plate. Lehigh Valley had a season high 16 hits and had five players with multi-hit performances including Danny Ortiz and Mitch Walding, who had three and four hits respectively. Ortiz was a triple shy of the cycle and was 3-for-4 with a walk and five RBI. Walding was 4-for-5 with a double and three runs scored.
The bullpen closed the game with three shutout innings. Austin Davis struck out the side in the seventh before turning the ball over to Tyler Viza who tossed two scoreless innings to close out the victory.
Batting with runners in scoring position has been a struggle for the Pigs early on this season but they came through Thursday. The Pigs were 5-of-12 with runners in scoring position and eight of their hits were came with two outs in the inning. The Pigs pitchers did their job with runners in scoring position as well. The Bats were 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position and the Pig’s pitchers stranded four runners in scoring position.