MOOSIC — A struggle with the tarp ultimately forced the suspension of Sunday’s next-to-last game of the season for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders.
But for Danny Burawa, a return to Triple-A proved no trouble at all.
Recalled from Double-A Trenton earlier Sunday morning, Burawa struck six of the nine batters he faced during a dominant relief performance that helped the RailRiders forge a 1-1 tie with Lehigh Valley.
“It’s great to be back,” Burawa said.
The RailRiders found it was great to have him in a game that will be continued at 11:30 a.m. today at PNC Field, before the RailRiders finish their year against Lehigh Valley with a seven-inning game afterward.
Scranton/Wilkes-Barre’s patchwork pitching plan included three relievers who made the next-to-last game of the 2014 season a real battle. The teams were tied 1-1 in the bottom of the eighth inning, but Carmen Angelini smoked a leadoff single in the frame and speedy Antoan Richardson pinch-ran for him when the skies opened up with hard rain at PNC Field.
That’s when things became interesting.
The RailRiders grounds crew couldn’t pull the tarp beyond the edge of the infield because, according to RailRiders president and general manager Rob Crain, the rain came down so heavily and so quickly that the crew members didn’t have time to react - or the strength to extend the tarp to its full capacity.
As a result, only the left side of the infield was protected from the downpour - while the whole right side of the infield turned into an unplayable puddle.
When the downpour subsided shortly afterward, the rest of the field was primed nicely for play. But after a delay that lasted longer than 1 hour, 20 minutes, umpires decided that left side of the infield wouldn’t be ready anytime soon and suspended the game until today.
“That was different,” Burawa said. “I saw something just like that (on television) in the major leagues a couple days ago in Chicago, where the tarp got so heavy it wasn’t able to move. So I think there’s a little precedent for it. But it’s definitely the first time I ever saw it in person.”
What the RailRiders saw from Burawa was a renewed confidence and unbridled aggression.
He followed three scoreless innings from relief pitcher Diego Moreno at the start with 2 2/3 dominant innings of his own, flashing the potential Burawa showed for the RailRiders in spurts earlier this season before he was sent to Trenton on July 27.
“When I got sent down to Trenton, I pouted for a day,” Burawa said, “and then decided to get to work. I feel way better. I went down there and improved everything they wanted me to improve.”
It showed Sunday.
Burawa struck out the side upon entering the game to open the fourth inning, allowing a double to Cam Perkins in the frame as the only hit he surrendered on the day. After that, Burawa retired the final six hitters he faced, including four by strikeout.
“Just being aggressive, throwing my fastball and my slider,” Burawa said.
His effort was part of a pitching gem by both sides until the rain hit.
Hits were tough to come by for the RailRiders against IronPigs starter Sean O’Sullivan, who only allowed four during seven innings.
But one was an impressive home run by RailRiders cleanup man Kyle Roller, who walloped a shot behind the second (retaining) wall and onto the grassy hill in dead center field to give Scranton/Wilkes-Barre a 1-0 lead to start the second inning.
That looked as if it’d hold up, until IronPigs No. 9 hitter Tyler Henson drove a home run over the right-center field wall in the top of the eighth inning to tie things at 1-1.
“Everybody’s still playing for something,” Burawa said of the pitching battle between the two teams the bottom of the International League North Division. “Everybody’s trying to make a good last impression.”