MOOSIC — To keep pace in the International League wild-card race, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders had to beat an incoming torrential rain storm, overcome a three-run deficit in a half inning, and do it all against Pittsburgh Pirates pitching prospect Nick Kingham.
Somehow, improbably, the RailRiders stepped into the dugout 10 minutes later with a four-run lead as the grounds crew raced to drape the tarp over the infield.
Scranton/Wilkes-Barre beat out Mother Nature Tuesday by rallying for seven unanswered runs en route to a 7-3 rain-shorted victory over the Indianapolis Indians. As the downpour came on, the RailRiders (62-56) piled all seven runs without recording an out in the bottom of the fifth inning against Indianapolis (65-55).
“I had no idea (the rain) was even coming until I saw the field crew jump on the tarp,” RailRiders right fielder Ryan McBroom said. “A bunch of guys put great at-bats together. Runners on. I figured we might as well get this game over with and put a couple of runs on the board. And we did that.”
The game was initially set as a doubleheader. Steady rains delayed the game for nearly three hours, forcing officials to instead play one nine-inning game. There will be a doubleheader scheduled for Wednesday with the first pitch of the opener at 5:05 p.m.
The seven runs were the most scored in an inning by the RailRiders all season.
As the RailRiders were just about to bat around, Kingham was replaced by right-handed reliever Tanner Anderson. Before Anderson could even throw his first pitch, the umpires called for the tarp.
“It’s the old phrase, ‘hitting is contagious,’” RailRiders first baseman Mike Ford said. “We all got hot at one point. It’s just consistent hits.”
Prior to the bottom of the fifth, the RailRiders struggled offensively against Kingham, managing just three hits in four scoreless innings. The sense of urgency consumed the RailRiders with all nine batters in the inning reaching base.
After Giovanny Urshela reached with a single through the right side, Zack Zehner scorched a groundball that took a bizarre hop on the grass line and deflected off of shortstop Kevin Newman’s mitt. Wilkin Castillo drove in the RailRiders’ first runs with an RBI single to right field. Tyler Wade singled up the middle to cut the Indians’ lead to one.
As the rain intensified, the RailRiders attempted to move the runners over via a sacrifice bunt, but Abiatal Avelino did not get a pitch in the strike zone for a walk. McBroom manufactured the game-winning hit by lifting the ball over the shortstop’s head to score two runs.
“It’s hard in games like this when you’re waiting around all day,” McBroom said. “It’s hard to lock in all day. When you have 30 minutes to get ready and things like that. But when the games are on the line, you got to stay relaxed and wait for a good pitch to hit.”
On the next at-bat, Ford sent a high fastball over the right field wall for a three RBI home run to take the 7-3 lead.
“I was just looking for something elevated to score some guy for an insurance run in case we had to score again. I just got a good pitch and got enough of it.”
Kingham’s night was spoiled with a four-inning performance that consisted of 10 hits, seven earned runs with just one strikeout.
Erik Swanson recorded his second victory of the season with a complete game. He struck out seven batters, allowed four hits, and yielded three earned runs.
Swanson got out of some trouble in the second inning. He had three consecutive full counts and allowed a pair of walks. The right-hander caught Pablo Reyes looking to end the threat for his fifth strikeout of the contest.
“I needed to work in to these guys, wish I would have done it a little more,” Swanson said. “I got away from the game plan a little bit. But I got back to it.”
The Indians touched up Swanson in the fourth inning. He hung a slider for Jerrick Suiter, who launched a three-run home run down the right field line for his second of the season.
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