MOOSIC — In the pivotal Game 3 of a deadlocked first-round series with the rival Lehigh Valley IronPigs, manager Al Pedrique and the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders put the ball, and their faith, in Brady Lail.
The 24-year-old right-hander delivered with one of his strongest outings of the season.
Lail pitched six innings of one-run baseball, while the RailRiders backed him up at the plate, en route to a 6-1 victory over the IronPigs. Scranton/Wilkes-Barre took the 2-1 edge in the best-of-five Governors’ Cup first-round series.
“I wanted the ball so bad. I was itching for it in Lehigh, even that long extra-inning game. I wanted to get out there,” Lail said. “It’s just so nice because I know this team’s been picking me up so much on a rough year. I wanted to go out there and leave everything I had, just to prove to guys that I’m still here and I love them and it’s ours to win. I wanted to make sure everybody knew that I’m out here for the playoffs to get going. I was just excited to get the win and these guys played their hearts out behind me.”
While Lail was effective much of the night, he was tested often by Lehigh Valley.
The IronPigs got runners in scoring position in the third, fourth and fifth innings, including in the fourth and fifth when they had runners on the corners and two men in scoring position, respectively. However, Lail was able to pitch out of trouble each time.
Lehigh Valley’s lone run came on a Brock Stassi lead-off fourth-inning, home run. But Lail was able to bounce back and finish the frame.
“It’s back to that hard-nose, trying to get ahead, make them get themselves out, trying to stop being so fine on the edges and all the sudden I was trying to throw down the middle and the ball was ending up on the outer corner and I was able to play off of that. It just helped me out,” Lail said. “It’s really nice to have (catcher Kyle Higashioka) back. Higgy’s caught me for the last two, three years. He knows when I’m really good and when I’m really bad, so he just kept going with that stuff that he knows from the past that got me through things.”
Lail’s success came mostly from his aggressiveness with his fastball early, and his ability to mix in an impressive changeup that kept the IronPigs off-balanced.
The battery’s chemistry was evident as Lail only called off Higashioka once and was able to help develop a successful game plan. Lail gave up seven hits and a walk while striking out five in the win.
“I’ve pitched against these guys, I can’t even count how many times, so they know me, and I kind of just changed my game plan. Usually I’ve been pitching backwards to them,” Lail said. “I got to (my changeup and curveball) a little earlier than me and Higgy really wanted to, but me and Higgy were on the right page. Higgy really carried me through this outing.”
Billy McKinney, Donovan Solano and Mason Williams continued their dominance at the plate.
McKinney homered for the second time of the series with a two-run blast in the sixth in inning. His two-run shot broke the 3-1 game open. Solano was 3 for 4 with a double, two runs scored and two RBI. It was the veteran second baseman’s second multi-hit of the series. 4 Mason Williams, who’s red hot of late, registered his second-straight multi-hit game, going 2 for 4 with a run scored.
“It’s going to be a team effort,” Pedrique said. “I know from the top to the bottom, that if everyone’s hitting the ball the way I know we can, but I’m glad that McKinney, Solano, they’re coming up with huge at-bats. They’re coming through. The key for us is Mason Williams.”
Williams scored at least one run for the third straight game. He’s scored four of the RailRiders’ 15 runs this series.
“I just want to get on base,” Williams added. “If I can grab a hit or put a bunt down or maybe grab a walk, I just want to get on base and maybe hopefully steal a bag and help these guys behind me drive me in.”
RailRiders 6, Lehigh Valley 1
H. Rodriguez cf`4`0`0`0
Lehigh Valley`000`100`000` —`1
E: Solano (1); LOB: IronPigs 12, RailRiders 3; 2B: Stassi (2), Kingery (1), Solano (1); HR: Stassi (1), McKinney (2).
Umpires: Alex Tosi, HP; Robert Moreno, 1B; Dan Merzel, 2B; Ryan Clark, 3B.
Time: 2:35; Att.: 2,324.