ALLENTOWN — Nick Rumbelow had Lehigh Valley pinch-hitter Mitch Walding facing an 0-2 count with two on and two out in the bottom of the seventh inning.
Then the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders closer uncorked a breaking ball that got away and hit the backstop. Suddenly the IronPigs had two men in scoring position — thanks to the wild pitch — and the crowd at Coca-Cola Park woke up.
With the Lehigh Valley faithful waving their rally towels from the previous night’s tilt, Rumbelow’s next pitch was a fastball out of the zone and Walding, who was the go-ahead run, had worked his count even.
But Rumbelow wasn’t rattled. He stayed the course and forced Walding into a soft flyout to Donovan Solano, who was shifted into shallow right field. The inning was over and so was Lehigh Valley’s final threat as the RailRiders evened the Governors’ Cup playoffs first-round series with a 4-2 win.
The series is tied 1-1 heading to Moosic for Saturday’s Game 3.
“It’s playoff baseball. It’s such a good atmosphere,” Rumbelow said. “We lost the first one, so we definitely wanted to grab one here before we went back to Scranton. Chance (Adams) started us off really well. Joe (Mantiply) came in after that, and just tried to get the ball from Joe and take off with it.”
Rumbelow wasn’t done after pitching out of the jam in the seventh.
With the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre bullpen shortened after Thursday’s extra-innings loss, and the RailRiders already used two pitchers, manager Al Pedrique would need Rumbelow to finish the game.
He delivered. The right-hander picked up his fifth save of the season in 2.1 innings of perfect work, striking out four in the process.
“Rumbelow threw the ball real well. He came in, gave us 2.1 innings —outstanding — and that’s what we’re hoping,” Pedrique said. “When he came on the mound, I was trying to tell him what to do, what the plan was. He said, ‘I’m ready.’ So I walked off the mound and you could tell, yes, he wanted the ball real bad.”
While catcher Kyle Higshioka didn’t find much success at the plate in his return to the RailRiders’ lineup, he was able to guide Adams to five innings of two-run baseball and his first victory since Aug. 26.
Adams gave up five hits and four walks while striking out five.
Higashioka sensed Adams was in trouble in both the third and fourth innings, when the right-hander got himself into a bases-loaded jam and two-on-one-out jam, respectively. The veteran went out to meet with his pitcher and calm him down. Adams was able to then pitched out of trouble in both innings.
“That was a good job by Higgy, and that’s the catcher’s job. Be able to control your staff, be able to figure out when your starter’s in trouble and you can probably say something that will click, and that’s what happened tonight,” Pedrique said. “Adams slowed down. He located his pitches a lot better after the conversation because before that you could tell he was trying to overthrow his fastball. Higgy talked to him and it was a great job. The whole night they were on the same page.”
“They’re a good team. I just had to bear down and focus and make good pitches,” Adams added.
Miguel Andujar and Mason Williams did the most damage for the RailRiders offensively.
Andujar was 3 for 5 with a pair of doubles and an RBI. Williams was 2 for 4 with a double, a walk and two runs scored.
Andujar’s fifth-inning RBI double to deep left center proved to be the nail in the coffin for the IronPigs.
Lehigh Valley had just scored two runs in the third inning and threatened with two men on and just one out in the fourth to take the momentum from the RailRiders. However, Andujar’s double gave the RailRiders a two-run lead and Adams some breathing room when he came out of the dugout to pitch the bottom of the fifth.
“I think we have really great hitters up and down the lineup,” said Billy McKinney, who was 1 for 4 with an RBI single and run scored. “It’s actually unbelievable to see. It’s one of the best lineups I’ve ever played with, so it’s fun to watch. You just want to produce any way, any how, wherever you are in the lineup and just stick to the process.”
RailRiders 4, Lehigh Valley 2
DP: RailRiders 0, IronPigs 1; LOB: RailRiders 10, IronPigs 9; 2B: Williams (1), Andujar 2 (2), Stassi (1); SB: Williams (1).
Adams (W, 1-0)`5.0`5`2`2`4`5
Mantiply (H, 1)`1.2`1`0`0`1`3
Rumbelow (S, 1)`2.1`0`0`0`0`4
WP: Adams, Rumbelow, Garcia.
Umpires: Ryan Clark, HP; Alex Tosi, 1B; Robert Moreno, 2B; Dan Merzel, 3B.
Time: 3:01 (0:19 delay); Att.: 3,912.