York Revolution manager Mark Mason knows getting the third win of the Freedom Division Championship Series will be the hardest.
It'll be the one that will send York to the Atlantic League Championship Series against either the Somerset Patriots or Long Island Ducks.
After Thursday night, Sept. 21, the Revs will have three chances to secure that all-important win.
Courtesy of a trio of long home runs, York extended its best-of-five series lead to 2-0 with a 7-2 win over the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs in front of 4,027 fans at PeoplesBank Park.
"It'll be like business as usual," Mason said after Thursday's victory. "We're going to go out and play a game and see how it unfolds. ... We're not looking at it like it's gotta be the wrap-up game right here. Go out and play and see what happens."
Still, it's a much better spot to be in compared to how the playoffs unfolded for the Revs a year ago. In 2016, they were on the opposite end of a 2-0 series after a pair of road defeats.
On Thursday, though, in what everyone knew could potentially be the last home game of the year, York made sure that, if it was, it made it a memorable one.
After spotting the Blue Crabs a 2-0 lead after the first inning, the Revs provided all of the offense the rest of the way.
It took a few innings for York's offense to arrive, but when it did, it was explosive. In the bottom of the third inning, Game 1 hero Telvin Nash provided more fireworks by launching a two-out, three-run homer to put the Revs in front, 3-2. That long ball turned out to be the winning blast. York only continued to build on its lead from that point on.
The home run by Nash was also his 18th of the season in 50 games since being acquired by the Revs during the second half of the season.
"He's been a huge pickup," Chase Simpson said about Nash's impact on the club. "I know he's been here before. He's an experienced player, he knows what he's doing and has the ability to hit the long ball at any moment, so that's obviously a big plus for us."
One inning later, Alonzo Harris added to York's lead with a towering solo home run over the Arch Nemesis in left field to put the Revs ahead, 4-2.
The game stayed that way going into the eighth inning, with York holding the same advantage as it did in Game 1, when Southern Maryland tied the game to force extras.
Things got dicey again in the eighth, after a Blue Crabs runner got on base, bringing the tying run to the plate. Mason removed set-up man Ricardo Gomez with two outs, to bring in closer Chase Huchingson for a four-out save. Huchingson escaped the jam with no damage thanks to getting a close call at first base on a bang-bang play.
In the bottom half of the frame, the Revs, looking to blow the game open, put two men on for No. 9 hitter Chase Simpson. Just looking to put the ball in play, Simpson got the perfect pitch to hit and drove it to left-center field, just clearing the wall to make it 7-2 and put away the game.
"I'm always looking to do damage," Simpson said. "Honestly, I was just trying to put the barrel on the ball and, that time, it just happened to get out."
Huchingson closed out his four-out save by stranding a pair of runners in scoring position in the ninth to wrap up the home portion of the series.
Southern Maryland's only offense came in the top of the first, with leadoff man Jose Lozada immediately greeting Mateo with a solo home run to quickly make it 1-0. A few batters later, Cory Vaughn extended the Blue Crabs' lead to 2-0 with a bloop single, but Mateo escaped the jam with no further damage.
Mateo settled in after that and made Southern Maryland pay for not getting to him for more runs in the first. He lasted 5 1/3 innings, allowing the two runs on seven hits, walking one and striking out one, before being replaced by Michael Click in the sixth.
"He gave up the two runs and then he settled in," Mason said. "He got the ball down better in the third, fourth and fifth innings."
The Revs will now head to Southern Maryland looking to wrap up the series. Game 3 is slated for Friday night, Sept. 22, at 6:35 p.m. at Regency Furniture Stadium.
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at firstname.lastname@example.org