The York Revolution players were happy to be home.
The Revs spent the past six days stuck in Sugar Land, Texas, for a six-game series, and did not arrive in York until 11:30 a.m. Monday, Aug. 21.
Not surprisingly, York wasn't in the mood to play the nicest of hosts to the visiting Somerset Patriots Monday evening.
The Revs returned to PeoplesBank Park with a purpose, scoring eight times in the bottom of the first — a franchise record for runs in a first inning — en route to a convincing 11-2 victory.
The win for York (25-19) kept it atop the Atlantic League's Freedom Division second-half standings, moving the team a half-game clear of the rival Lancaster Barnstormers, who had their game on Monday postponed because of rain.
"You don't expect that," manager Mark Mason said about the big first inning. "Their pitcher had a bad night and we've given up some runs like that too, where you hit a big inning and there's not a whole lot you can do. ...They say hitting is contagious, just like not hitting is contagious too. So, we got off to a great start."
Contagious hitting: Before the Revs even made an out, they had the bases loaded against Somerset starter Patrick Johnson. But, after a strikeout and sacrifice fly, it looked like York was only going to manage a single run in the inning. Then, the floodgates opened.
Luis Cruz singled to make it 2-0 Revs and then the big sticks came out. One batter later, Dayron Varona launched a three-run homer to left field to make it 5-0, providing a more than satisfactory inning to open the game.
The Revs, however, weren't done. Back-to-back singles extended the inning back to the top of the order for Alonzo Harris, who matched Varona's three-run bomb to left with one of his own to push the lead to 8-0.
"You get up there and see everybody else is being successful, taking good swings at good pitches, it makes you lock in as a player to be ready to jump on the first good pitch you get," Harris said.
Mateo holds lead: From that point forward, it was smooth sailing for York, which never let the Patriots sniff a comeback.
The offense continued to come for the Revs, who scored in each of the next two innings to eventually build a 10-1 lead after three innings. After that, it was up to York starter Victor Mateo to make it hold it, which he did. Mateo exited the game after going five innings, allowing two earned runs on six hits and with a 10-2 lead.
"I liked that he was able to limit the damage," Mason said. "I thought the pitch count was a little bit high for him. ... But, overall, I thought he threw the ball well. I thought it was too many deep counts, considering the lead we had, but if that's how you pitch, that's how you pitch. You're not just going to rear back and throw the ball down the middle because you have a big lead."
Shutdown bullpen: While the offense took center stage in the early part of the game for the Revs, the bullpen stole the show late.
After Mateo was lifted to start the sixth, a combination of four relievers sealed the win for York. Michael Click and Joe Van Meter each pitched scoreless sixth and seventh innings, respectively, while Ricardo Gomez followed suit with a scoreless eighth, despite allowing two singles.
With the scoring at a standstill since the fourth, Telvin Nash got in on the barrage of home runs for the Revs in the bottom of the eighth, extending the lead to 11-2.
With the game in hand, Chase Huchingson entered to close it out in the ninth, pitching a clean frame to move York into sole possession of first place.
Varona and Harris were the big contributors offensively for the Revs thanks to their home runs in the first. Varona's four RBIs led the team and it was the third time this season he's driven in at least four runs in a game. Harris went 3 for 4 with three RBIs and two runs scored.
Second-half surge: The convincing victory was another sign of York's bounce-back second half after a disappointing first half.
The team is having fun, which is easy when you're winning. The way things are going, it's not hard to envision the Revs vying for a playoff spot until the very end of the season.
"We're a brotherhood," Harris said about the second-half push. "We've been having fun together and keep it as a team, keep having fun and take it back to when we were kids, just out there having fun. If we can keep it that simple, we can keep it up."
York and Somerset will play the second game of the four-game series on Tuesday, Aug. 22, at 6:30 p.m. at PeoplesBank Park.
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at firstname.lastname@example.org