MOOSIC — Somebody’s taking this IronRail Series seriously.
So much so that J.R. Murphy went off the rails.
The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders catcher ripped three extra-base hits and scored four runs, including the game-winner in the bottom of the 12th inning to lift the RailRiders over Lehigh Valley, 5-4 Wednesday at PNC Field.
With big stakes on the line and their games against each other winding down, the Lehigh Valley IronPigs and RailRiders went into extra innings tied at 4-4 Wednesday at PNC Field.
That was before Murphy went chasing victory.
He drilled his second double of the night into the left field corner to start the 12th, then moved to third base on a wild pitch. When the ball bounced off the glove of Lehigh Valley catcher Steven Lerud — who entered the game for injured starter Cameron Rupp in the sixth inning — Murphy raced home with the winning run.
It was the fourth run of the night for Murphy, who powered the victory with a homer and two doubles.
That pulled the RailRiders within a game of catching Lehigh Valley in the season series.
The IronPigs had the upper hand coming in, holding a 7-5 advantage over the RailRiders on the season while looking to clinch at least a tie for the season series Wednesday.
Instead, Murphy helped pull Scranton/Wilkes-Barre within 7-6.
The winner gets a trophy, shaped like an iron railroad track, and the teams have three more games left — one at PNC Field tonight followed by single games at Lehigh Valley’s Coca-Cola Park on Friday and Saturday — to decide the prize.
If the series ends in a tie, the team that wins the final game between the teams gets to claim the trophy.
These days, that’s about the only thing left for the RailRiders to win.
At 65-73, they’re already assured of a losing season and were eliminated from the playoff race with Tuesday’s loss in Pawtucket.
But the RailRiders weren’t treating the final week of the season like a lost cause.
Instead, they treated Wednesday as if three was a charm.
Ronnier Mustelier ripped three hits, Murphy had three hits and Yoshinori Tateyama pitched three strong innings to get the RailRiders to the 11th inning.
It started early, when Murphy reached on a fielder’s choice, motored to third base on Mustelier’s double and scored when Adonis Garcia singled behind second base to tie the game 1-1 in the first inning.
Murphy led off the third inning with an impressive blast over the catwalk in left field for his fifth homer of the season. Then Mustelier roped his second double in as many at-bats, and later scored on Garcia’s one-out single for a 3-1 RailRiders lead.
It didn’t last all that long, because Lehigh Valley wasn’t anxious to sacrifice the game.
The IronPigs scored their first run on a Freddy Galvis sacrifice fly in the first inning. And they got two more the same way to tie the game in the fifth inning, when Galvis and Steve Susdorf used sacrifice flies to even the game at 3-3.
The RailRiders pulled ahead once again, when Murphy doubled in the fifth inning and later scored on a grounder by Randy Ruiz.
But the IronPigs tied it yet again, when Galvis doubled and Tyler Henson singled him home in the seventh inning.
After that, Tateyama came out of the bullpen for the RailRiders and took complete control.
He retired the first seven batters he faced, and allowed just one hit while striking out two in three near-perfect innings. That took the game to the 11th, when Matt Daley took the mound and pitched a perfect frame.
Meanwhile, the RailRiders went dead against Lehigh Valley’s bullpen. Following the sixth, they managed just one more hit through the next and watched 13 straight batters go down as the teams headed to the 12th.
That gave Murphy a chance to play the hero. And he seized it by slamming his third extra-base hit, then scoring his fourth run of the game.