MOOSIC — The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders needed to win Wednesday night’s game against the Syracuse Chiefs.
For Mike King.
The 23-year-old right-hander pitched six perfect innings and was only pulled so Luis Cessa and Chance Adams could get in work out of the bullpen.
For a while the RailRiders had trouble backing King, even though the right-hander was sporting a one-run lead when he exited the game. The Syracuse pitching staff stifled the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre bats. But with the game tied and the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth inning, Ryan McBroom worked a full count and then took ball four on a cut-fastball.
After staring back at homeplate umpire Ryan Clark, wondering whether or not it was a ball, the RailRiders first baseman jogged down to first base, where he’d soon be doused in water by a rehabbing Gary Sanchez, after he got the OK. The RailRiders (69-64) walked off 2-1 to down Syracuse (60-75) in what proved to be an intense pitchers’ duel.
“Yeah. Yeah, that’s huge,” McBroom said of getting the win for King. “He’s nasty. He’s one of the best pitcher’s I’ve ever played defense behind and seen in professional baseball because he’s done it consistently. It’s not the first time he’s done something like this. He does it pretty much every outing. He’s fun to play behind and, you know, when we got him on the mound we just have to score a few runs to win the ballgame.”
King pleaded his case to pitch the seventh inning. But at the end of the day, removing him from the game in favor of Cessa and then Adams will be better in the long run and for the New York Yankees.
It took King about 10 minutes and his post-game routine to cool down and reflect. He understood the move.
Even still, leaving early doesn’t take away from the fact that King pitched his best game as a RailRider in what has already been an impressive Triple-A stint. He struck out six over the six frames and lowered his ERA from 1.33 to 1.09.
“I lost command glove-side fastball early,” King said. “I guess I would have liked to have gone back to it a little bit, but I was able to work in off on righties and kind of go to sliders away and they didn’t really stay on it. So it was one of those because it was working I just kept going.
“I’m always going to be a tough critic on myself. Even if I do go perfect, I’m going to find something that I still need to work on. I was happy with the way I threw my changeup. I still hung a few breaking balls that I got lucky on.”
King’s outing even impressed Sanchez, who continues to rehab with the team. The catcher noted King’s ability to attack the strike zone as one of the keys to a successful outing against the Chiefs.
Sanchez caught all nine innings on Wednesday and is scheduled to catch nine again in the series finale on Thursday.
“He stayed on top of the count. He never fell behind,” Sanchez said through an interpreter. “Just attacked the strike zone, threw a lot of strikes and every time he asked for a pitch he needed he executed it. That’s what made him successful today.
“I had an easy day because of the way he pitched.”
All reports were good from the 25-year-old catcher after catching nine innings for the first time with the RailRiders.
Sanchez even added that if he was asked to play for the New York Yankees on Thursday that he’d be ready. But for now, he’ll stay in Moosic. He was 0-for-4 at the plate.
“I feel ready now, but I just have to keep with the process and what they’re planning for me to do,” Sanchez said. “I’m seeing the ball well and I’m having good contact. I’m feeling good and I’m ready to go.”
Race for playoffs
With their win Wednesday, the RailRiders remain a game out of the top wild card spot, behind the Indianapolis Indians, who beat the Toledo Mud Hens 4-3. With the loss, Toledo moves 0.5 games back of the RailRiders.
RailRiders 2, Chiefs 1
E: Wilson (6); DP: Chiefs 2, RailRiders 1; LOB: Chiefs4, RailRiders 7; 2B: Robles (8).
Syracuse`000`000`100 — 1
RailRiders`010`000`001 — 2
Torres (L, 4-4)`0`1`1`1`3`0
Cessa (BS, 1)`1.2`2`1`1`0`1
Adams (W, 4-5)`1`1`2`0`0`1`2
IBB: Avelino (by Torres).
Umpires: Ryan Clark, HR; Charlie Ramos, 1B; Reid Gibbs, 3B.
Time: 2:16; Attendance: 6,012.
Reach DJ Eberle at 570-991-6398 or on Twitter @ByDJEberle