MOOSIC — As the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders move farther into the second half of their schedule, it’s been a tough season for the defending International League North Division champs.
With all of the movement between the RailRiders, New York Yankees and Double-A Trenton Thunder, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre roster has been often left in flux. In fact, eight of the 14 RailRiders that played on Opening Day are either on the disabled list, up with the Yankees, down in Double-A Trenton or in a different organization entirely.
Because of that, it hasn’t been until lately that the RailRiders have been able to gel.
“I think the guys have done great with the turnover in players with everyone coming up and going down,” RailRiders manager Bobby Mitchell said. “It’s not easy as a player to — like take for example (Zack) Zehner, who’s up here and goes down and comes back up. It’s not an easy transition all the time.
“There’s been a lot of changes and a lot of good things have happened, which is good. Major league club is winning and we have guys up there and that’s really the main objective for us all.”
Despite a rough May, the RailRiders are nearing .500 and are only 4.5 games out of the wild card heading into Saturday night’s tilt in Rochester. If the RailRiders can win Saturday night and Sunday, they’ll be back to .500 for the first time since April 28.
Scranton/Wilkes-Barre is 11-9 in June after losing records in both April and May.
“We were in a rut a little bit of winning two, losing two, winning, maybe, three, losing three — just kind of going back and forth, back and forth,” Mitchell said. “Losing streaks were outweighing the winning streaks, but now I think that the team is coming together a little bit, especially we were going through a stretch offensively where we were putting some points on the board early. We didn’t win them all but at least we had the offense going well and offense is contagious.”
Payton comfortable in No. 2 hole
With Clint Frazier in the bigs, Mark Payton has taken over as the RailRiders’ No. 2 hitter. And he’s thrived.
It’s a role that suits him well, batting out of the two-spot in college at Texas, and it has shown with the RailRiders. Payton is batting .267 with a double, triple, two runs scored, three walks and three RBI in four games out of the spot.
“Just put together good at-bats where ever you are in the lineup,” Payton said. “Try to not obviously fill anybody’s shoes or anything, just be who you are and just move the line.”
Reach DJ Eberle at 570-991-6398 or on Twitter @ByDJEberle