As strong as Michael King’s Triple-A debut was last weekend, the support was lacking.
For his second start on the mound Sunday, he wouldn’t need much. But his Scranton/Wilkes-Barre teammates made sure to give him a boost.
The RailRiders exploded for three homers in a five-run second inning, and King was solid again to pick up his first International League victory in a 6-3 road win over Durham.
Mark Payton and Zach Zehner both hit two-run blasts and Tyler Wade added a solo shot for an early 5-0 lead that was more than enough for King. The 23-year-old right-hander went 6.2 innings, giving up two runs on six hits while striking out six and walking just one.
Following a rain delay in the fifth, Gio Urshela made it 6-0 in the top of the sixth, hitting an RBI double to bring home Payton.
Just like his first start for the RailRiders (61-56), King pitched six shutout innings before finally giving way in the seventh. This time it was a home run by former RailRider Rob Refsnyder that broke the ice to lead off the frame.
With two outs, Jason Coats doubled and Mac James brought him home with a single to pull the Bulls (65-51) within 6-2, ending King’s day. Joe Harvey came in to end the inning and then shook off a leadoff double in the eighth without surrendering a run.
Just seven days earlier, King ended up with a no-decision despite pitching seven innings of three-hit ball, allowing just one run and one walk while striking out four. The RailRiders led that game 4-1 over Buffalo by the time the bullpen took over, but a ninth-inning collapse turned it into a hard-to-swallow 6-5 loss.
It started a string of late-game losses for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on the week, as the ensuing road trip saw the team lose three games in walk-off fashion — twice in the ninth inning and once in the 10th.
Saturday night was particularly difficult as the RailRiders rallied to take the lead in the top of the ninth with five runs, only to see Durham win it in the home half on a two-run homer by Austin Meadows.
The Bulls again homered in the ninth on Sunday as Andrew Velasquez led off the frame by going deep off of Harvey.
But there wouldn’t be another meltdown. Harvey settled down and struck out Micah Johnson, got Coats to fly out and James to line out to end the game.
At the plate, the RailRiders finished with eight hits as Mike Ford (double), Payton and Urshela each had two apiece to help avoid a series sweep.
The road trip now over, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre returns to Moosic for a seven-game homestand. That begins at 7:05 p.m. Monday as Indianapolis comes to town for a three-game set. Norfolk will be in town for four games after that.