MOOSIC — Giovanny Gallegos’ breaking ball was near unhittable Tuesday night and Kyle Higashioka knew it.
As the Gallegos struck out seven Durham Bulls, the RailRiders catcher could sense that even though the Durham batters knew they’d likely face a breaking ball, they still weren’t able to do anything with it.
It wasn’t just Gallegos, either. The Bulls struck out 18 times against Gallegos, David Hale and Cody Carroll as the RailRiders (26-30) took the series opener against the Bulls (31-25), 6-3.
“I kind of started laughing to myself because it was pretty ridiculous how good his breaking ball was tonight,” Higashioka said after the win. “It was almost like the other hitters knew they were going to get it, but still had a hard time laying off of it. That’s fun when that happens.”
It was an impressive performance from the RailRiders pitching staff start to finish.
Hale took the bump and threw 5.1 innings of two-run baseball while giving up four hits and two walks. He struck out a game-high eight batters, which was a high for him dating back to 2015.
Gallegos’ 2.2-innings of scoreless baseball included seven strikeouts, which was a high for the right-hander as a reliever.
Then Carroll struck out the side while giving up a run on three hits in the ninth.
“Hale really had his off-speeds working. His changeup is a great pitch and he was really throwing it in the right areas, the right counts to get some good swings and misses,” Higashioka said. “Then Gio came in, obviously his two breaking balls are just unbelievable. Basically the reason he’s a major leaguer. And he was putting that in the perfect spot, too. We were getting into good counts that we could use it. Obviously Cody, absolutely filthy. Throws 98.
“I think the key was they were all throwing strikes early. Kind of allowed us to have more freedom.”
While the pitching staff did more than enough on its end, the RailRiders offense was able to take advantage of almost every Durham mistake. The Bulls committed errors in the second and third innings, which were the frames that Scranton/Wilkes-Barre scored five of its six runs in.
Designated hitter Mark Payton hit a two-out, two-run single to plate the RailRiders’ first two of the game en route to a two-hit night. Payton’s second-inning single was his first hit of the season after playing the Indianapolis series without recording a hit. Tuesday was just his fourth game after suffering a knee injury in spring training that caused him to miss the first two months of the season.
“It was good to just kind of get the weight off your shoulders after not getting a hit in the first series, but obviously jump ahead for us and let Hale settle in,” Payton said. “To pitch with the lead is always good and kind of just cruise the rest of the game.”
Bruce Caldwell hit his first home run with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in the sixth inning to give his team a 6-2 lead. The solo shot was the RailRiders’ answer to a two-run inning during the top of the frame.
Caldwell’s home run was his second hit of the night, which was a feat that four RailRiders achieved. Tyler Wade was 2-for-5 with an RBI and Billy McKinney was 2-for-4 with a run scored and an RBI.
“I thought we played a really good, all-around game tonight,” RailRiders manager Bobby Mitchell said. “Timely hitting by McKinney, home run by Caldwell I thought was huge, Payton comes through, really clutch hitting and I thought the defense was outstanding. I thought the whole game was really clean throughout.”
As RHP Tommy Kahnle looks to regain form, the recently demoted reliever is scheduled to pitch an inning of relief every other day starting Wednesday. Kahnle saw a dip in velocity recently with the New York Yankees, which in part leading to his demotion. … INF Thairo Estrada suffered a setback during his rehab in Tampa. Just as his wrist injury was clearing up, Estrada suffered a hamstring injury. Mitchell said the injury was not related to the bullet wound he suffered during the offseason.
RailRiders 6, Bulls 3
E: Williams (2), Adames (8); DP: Bulls 2, RailRiders 0; LOB: Bulls 7, RailRiders 8; 2B: Wong (9), Torresyes (1), Drury (7); HR: Snyder (5), Caldwell (1); SB: Bauers (10).
Durham`000`002`001 — 3
RailRiders`041`001`000 — 6
Hu (L, 1-5)`2`3`4`4`1`2
Hale (W, 2-2)`5.1`4`2`2`2`8
Gallegos (H, 1)`2.2`1`0`0`1`7
Umpires: Skyler Shown, HP; Rich Grassa, 1B; Adam Beck, 3B.
Time: 2:53; Attendance: 4,419.
Reach DJ Eberle at 570-991-6398 or on Twitter @ByDJEberle