Mike Massaro’s HR spurs RailCats to 4th straight win
By Mike Clark Sun-Times Media August 4, 2013 7:48PM
Updated: September 6, 2013 6:20AM
GARY — U.S. Steel Yard is a big park to begin with and sometimes it plays even bigger.
It’s a place where fly balls go to die, turned into long outs by a RailCats outfield that can chase down most anything and breezes that often seem to be in a hitter’s face.
So it was Sunday when the only way to hit a home run was to split a gap and run like crazy, as Mike Massaro did for the first inside-the-park homer of his pro career.
That solo shot to right-center, just out of the reach of St. Paul center fielder Jose Hernandez, put an exclamation point on the RailCats’ 7-3 win over the Saints before an announced crowd of 4,282.
Billy Spottiswood (5-1) overcame his own throwing error in the Saints’ three-run fourth inning to win his third straight start. He pitched seven-hit ball over six innings, with relievers Taylor Sewitt, Estevan Uriegas and Marco Gonzalez each working a hitless inning of relief to close out Gary’s fourth straight win.
Brian Kolb delivered a two-out, three-run double to left in a five-run second for the RailCats and Drew Martinez added an RBI single — again with two gone — in the fourth. But afterward, it was the home run that was — and the homers that weren’t — that were the topic of conversation.
“I hit it and I saw (Hernandez), he got a great read and a great jump,” Massaro said. “So I was like, ‘Is he going to catch the ball?’
“Down at first (base), I saw him reach out and I saw the ball drop so after that, I just put my head down and I ran.”
Meanwhile, players on both sides hit long fly balls that were tracked down by and Gary’s Craig Maddox hit a mammoth shot foul to right that wound up on the roof of the former Bennigan’s. To hit a home run here, Massaro said, “it’s going to take a good day when the wind is not blowing or (it’s) blowing out. And it’s going to take a ball that is hit very well. You saw today, the wind was blowing in, Ole Sheldon and Adam Frost (of St. Paul) hit two balls very well and had nothing to show for it. We had Maddox and (Christian) Vitters hit two balls very well and have nothing to show for it.”
RailCats manager Greg Tagert has been watching this phenomena for nine seasons. “Probably one of those days Saints players are shaking their heads at the Steel Yard — a good reminder of what it’s like to play here.”
And Massaro’s shot was a reminder of why Tagert targets doubles and triples hitters when he puts together his roster.
“I remind guys this park may not reward you if you hit the ball in the air,” he said. “But if you can split those gaps — Mike Massaro is the perfect example of a guy who can have a lot of success (here). He’s a tremendous hitter, he’s athletic.”