MOOSIC — It seemed small at the time.
The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders were trailing by two runs and it was the ninth inning, but a defensive decision by the RailRiders’ Bruce Caldwell to throw home on a Dan Butler groundball and nail runner Mike Olt at the plate proved to be a huge play.
The Pawtucket Red Sox had all of the momentum, but throwing out Olt erased what could have been a three-run lead for the visitors heading into the RailRiders’ final at-bat.
Because it was there that Rey Navarro hit a two-out, two-run home run to force extra innings, giving the RailRiders an opportunity to steal the game in extras.
That’s exactly what they did in the 10th inning. Francisco Diaz collected his third hit of the night, and it proved to be his most important one.
Diaz single came in walk-off fashion, scoring Caldwell from third base as the RailRiders came back to beat Pawtucket, 7-6, to climb over .500 for the first time since April 25.
“We did a pretty good job there with the game on the line,” Diaz said. “They have to do their job, too — like scoring the run and put together some good at-bats. At the end we just did our job. Good at-bats and we got the at-bat and then we got the result. Base hit and RBI.”
The RailRiders (40-39) were down to their final strike and final out with Ryan McBroom standing on first base. But Navarro gave Scranton/Wilkes-Barre life again.
In what was the fifth pitch of the at-bat, he drove a Kyle Martin 2-2 delivery over the wall in right for a game-tying home run to force extra innings.
And it was there in the 10th that set up the late Diaz heroics.
With Caldwell standing on third, after L.J. Mazzilli’s sacrifice bunt, Diaz brought the SWB third baseman home with a walk-off single to center field.
“We’re just doing a lot of things right, and like I said, not quitting — at all. There’s no quit in us,” RailRiders manager Bobby Mitchell said. “Tonight, it was a little scary going into the ninth and two outs, but once we had a guy on you realize — the tying run is at the plate — you got a shot.”
The RailRiders were coasting.
They were sporting a three-run advantage and had 15 base runners in the first five innings. But all of the sudden, everything went sideways.
Despite striking out just two batters in Saturday’s start, Josh Rogers was able to pitch in and out of trouble through the first five innings of his outing. But after he gave up a lead-off solo shot to Mike Ohlman to start the sixth, the wheels fell off for the southpaw.
Olt followed up Ohlman’s home run with a double, then Sam Travis worked a full-count walk and Rogers was lifted in favor of Raynel Espinal.
However, the Red Sox (38-42) didn’t slow up. A walk to Butler followed and then a Ramon Flores RBI single and Mike Miller sac fly later and Pawtucket tied the game, 4-4. With a rehabbing A.J. Cole pitching the seventh for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, the Red Sox continued to do damage.
Ivan De Jesus Jr. worked a lead-off walk to bring up Ohlman. With a 2-0 count in his favor, Ohlman drove Cole’s delivery into the Budweiser RailHouse for his second home run of the night to give Pawtucket a 6-4 lead.
“We play 27 outs and obviously we were down to our last. But these guys, they’re never beaten,” Mitchell said. “You see them in the dugout, they’re all focused and ready to go until the final out’s made — even from a pitching standpoint. We’re all in it until they get 27 outs and I think that proved it tonight.”
Tanaka expected to make start in Moosic
New York Yankees starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka is expected to make a rehab start with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders on Wednesday, according to multiple media reports. Mitchell could not confirm the rehab start.
By making a start on Wednesday, Tanaka, who has been on the 10-day disabled list with strained hamstrings in both legs, would be able to make a start in New York’s upcoming series in Baltimore.
OF Shane Robinson (ankle) was activated off the disabled list on Saturday. However, he didn’t get into the game. … Erik Swanson successfully pitched simulated game before Saturday’s tilt against the Red Sox. Mitchell said Swanson isn’t feeling any lingering pain in his groin. He’s likely to throw a longer sim game next time out. … 1B Mike Ford participated in Swanson’s sim game along with Robinson. He’s no longer feeling any issues with his oblique. Mitchell said the next step for Ford might be a rehab stint in Low-A Staten Island before re-joining the RailRiders.
Reach DJ Eberle at 570-991-6398 or on Twitter @ByDJEberle