HARTFORD, June 9 – Willie Abreu’s two-run single in the sixth inning lifted the Hartford Yard Goats to a 3-1 Eastern League victory over the Binghamton Rumble Ponies Sunday before another sellout crowd on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon at Dunkin’ Donuts Park.
The win keeps Hartford in first place in the Eastern Division with seven games left to play in the first half of the season. Leaders of the EL’s Eastern Division and Western Division at the break will secure a berth in September’s playoffs.
Hartford (36-25) has a half-game lead over Trenton (34-24), a one-game lead on Reading (34-25) and a two-game lead over the Rumble Ponies (32-25).
Held without a hit for five innings by Binghamton starting pitcher Luc Rennie – making his Double-A debut – the Yard Goats rallied in the sixth against reliever Austin McGeorge.
With one out, Hartford’s Manny Melendez and Tyler Nevin hit back-to-back singles, before Colton Welker walked to load the bases. Abreu followed by stroking a two-run single to right-field. Welker scored the game’s final run on a fielder’s choice ground out by Alan Trejo.
The rally erased a 1-0 Binghamton lead. The Rumble Ponies, the Double A affiliate of the New York Mets, took a 1-0 lead in the fifth inning. Ali Sanchez led off with a double and moved to third on a wild pitch. He scored on a sacrifice fly down the left field line by Braxton Lee.
Leading by two runs, Hartford relievers Heath Holder and Logan Cozart each pitched a scoreless inning, setting the stage for Yard Goats closer Ben Bowden in the ninth inning. Bowden struck out the side to nail down his EL-leading 19th save in 19 chances.
Hartford starter Rico Garcia picked up his league-leading eighth victory (8-1), thanks to the comeback. The Hawaii native allowed one run on three hits, walked three and struck out four.
The Yard Goats, the Double A affiliate of the Colorado Rockies, are now 8-1 in deciding games of series this season.
It was the 18th sellout crowd of the season in 30 home dates. The Yard Goats, averaging 5,737 fans per date, lead the EL in attendance with 172,101. Hartford needs to draw 23,761 to reach the one million mark in the third year of the franchise at Dunkin Donuts Park. The Yard Goats played their first season on the road as the city of Hartford built the $71 million facility.
If the Yard Goats are going to clinch a playoff berth, they will do it on the road. After three games in Akron beginning on Tuesday night, the Yard Goats will play three games at Erie on June 14-16. Hartford returns home on Tuesday, June 18 to host Bowie – the final night of the first half of the season.