With just nine games left on the 2013 schedule the RailRiders are now playing for pride – and spoiler as every game is against a playoff contender.
Scranton/Wilkes-Barre entered Saturday night’s game against Pawtucket hanging by a thread in its quest for a playoff berth. The team had an elimination number of three in the International League North Division and in the race for the Wild Card, the league’s final playoff berth.
The RailRiders are also trying to finish with a non-losing record for the first time since the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre franchise became a Yankees affiliate in 2007. In fact, the last time SWB had a losing record was the 2005 Red Barons. If that’s going to be avoided this season, the RailRiders will have to win eight of their last 10 games, including Saturday’s contest. The franchise is also trying not to finish in last place in the division for the first time since 1998.
Lehigh Valley IronPigs
The two closest rivals in the International League play four times this week with two games at PNC Field (Wednesday and Thursday) – to close out the home schedule – immediately followed by two at Coca-Cola Park in Allentown.
There’s a lot at stake in the four games, as the inaugural IronRail Series will be settled.
The trophy was implemented right before the first game was played this season between the clubs. The winner of the 16-game series pitting the two claims the newly-made trophy for a whole year. Other perks going with the bet is that the losing team’s general manager – Scranton/Wilkes-Barre’s Rob Crain or Lehigh Valley’s Kurt Landes – will have to dress up in a fat lady suit and sing after games played in next year’s series.
The IronPigs currently hold an advantage in the series, 7-5 meaning the RailRiders will have to win all four games to claim the trophy outright. However, if the season series ends in a tie, the victor of the final game of the season claims the memento for next season. So, Lehigh Valley is in position, but if SWB wins three of the four games, including Saturday’s game in Allentown, the RailRiders will get the bragging rights.
The IronPigs began Saturday with a 68-65 record and just 3.5 games out of the Wild Card and 4 out of the I.L. North Division lead. They have been supplying Philadelphia with several players throughout the season, but still consist of key players who have seen Major League time in infielder Freddy Galvis and outfielder Cesar Hernandez. Former Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankee pitcher Greg Smith leads the rotation. He hasn’t pitched against his former team yet this season, but is likely to see them this week.
Pawtucket Red Sox
Starting today the RailRiders are in Pawtucket for three games to face archrival Pawtucket in a matchup between the Triple-A affiliates of the two fiercest rivals in Major League Baseball to conclude the season series. The last time they played at Pawtucket, it was an unconventional five-game series in late June-early July with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre claiming three wins and scored 27 runs in those three victories.
Playing in Rhode Island has been much better than Moosic for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, as the PawSox have won the majority of the games played at PNC Field — six of the seven games prior to Saturday night’s contest. Pawtucket has owned the season series winning eight of the 12 games.
The PawSox, the defending Governors’ Cup champions, consist of some of the top prospects in the organization, including Jackie Bradley Jr. They began Saturday leading the division by a half game ahead of Rochester.
Rochester Red Wings
The Red Wings are currently leading the league’s Wild Card by 1.5 games over Norfolk, 3.5 over Lehigh Valley and Buffalo. They are currently in second place in the North Division just a half game behind Pawtucket as the Red Wings hope to claim their first division title since 1997.
The teams meet on Sept. 1-2. So there’s likely to be changes to both rosters with September call-ups. Either way, the final two games will almost surely have playoff implications. And if the RailRiders aren’t battling at that point, they will be looking to play spoiler.
In the 14 games played this season between the clubs, the RailRiders have won eight and have already secured a non-losing series against their divisional foe.