Barons' Mercedes Hits for the Cycle in 11-Inning Stars Loss

(BIRMINGHAM) -- Victor Mercedes hit for the cycle in Birmingham's 7-5 win over the Huntsville Stars Tuesday night, saving the biggest blow for last: a 2-run homer in the 11th that propelled the Barons to their 6th win in their last 9 games.

Mercedes, who hit for the cycle last year for the first time since Reggie Jackson did it in 1967, recorded just the 5th such performance in Birmingham's long history.

The game-winning homer was also the first since Mercedes hit a game-ending grand slam to beat Mobile, August 17 of last season.

The Stars are now 3-9 in extra-inning games thsi year.

Most of the scoring came after Mike Jones held the Barons to a 3-1 lead after 8 innings. Javier Castillo's double in the 3rd and Ricardo Nanita's single in the 4th off starter Donovan Hand gave the Barons a 3-0 lead.

Hand gave up 9 hits in 5 innings before giving way to Jones, who allowed just one hit in three scoreless innings.

The Stars broke through in the 6th on Cole Gillespie's one-out RBI single off Birmingham starter Aaron Poreda, then went ahead 4-3 in the top of the 8th after reliever Brian Omogrosso got the first two batters in the inning out on ground balls.

Mat Gamel singled and Cole Gillespie walked. League-leading closer Jon Link then came in from the bullpen to strike out Chris Errecart, which would have ended the inning, but a passed ball by catcher Erick San Pedro allowed Errecart to reach first, loading the bases. Mike Bell, who snapped an 0-for-10 slump with a 3rd-inning single, doubled off the top of the wall in left, clearing the bases.

Juan Sandoval, who picked up his 17th save for the Stars Monday, was called on to save the game for Jones, but the inconsistency from the bullpen that has plagued the Stars almost all season, surfaced again. Leadoff hitter Lee Cruz singled, moved to second on a sacrifice, then to third on a wild pitch. San Pedro then redeemed himself on his passed ball in the 8th with a soft liner that fell out of the glove of a sprinting Lorenzo Cain for a double, scoring Cruz, but Robert Hudson, who had stolen second while San Pedro was at the plate, and representing the winning run, was thrown out at the plate.

For Sandoval, it was the 6th time this year he had blown a save. The Stars pitching staff has blown 23 this season, more than any team in the league.

The Stars used a hit batsman, a walk, and a wild pitch to take a 5-4 lead in the top of the 10th off Ryan Rote, but Birmingham again came back to tie the game.

Mercedes got 3/4 of his cycle performance with a leadoff triple into the right field corner, then tied the game on a sacrifice fly from Cruz.

The game-winning rally came an inning later and began when San Pedro drew a leadoff walk against Robert Hinton (3-4). After Miguel Negron struck out, Mercedes crushed a line drive over the fence in the right field corner for the game-ending blast. The home run was his 11th, a new personal single-season high.

Bell was the only Star with a multiple hit game, going 2-for-5.

Birmingham's 16 total hits was their highest total since rapping out a season-high 18 against Jacksonville on May 27.

Fernando Hernandez (6-4) earned the win as the Barons' 5th pitcher of the night after tossing a scoreless 11th inning.

Wednesday night, right-hander Justin Cassel (9-4), the Southern League's ERA leader with a 3.01 mark, will face hard-luck lefty Brae Wright (6-9). Wright has not won a game since June 26 despite a 3.17 ERA in his last 8 starts, only 3 of which he lost.