MOOSIC — It was the most inopportune time of the season for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre bats to fall silent.
With a three-way race for the lone International League Wild Card playoff spot intensifying, the RailRiders’ offense was punchless in a 3-0 loss to Pawtucket Saturday in front of a sellout crowd for their home finale.
The final numbers weren’t pretty. The RailRiders were 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position, seven left on base.
“It is just sometimes how the game goes,” RailRiders right fielder Ryan McBroom said. “When the season is as long as it is, and you come in every single day trying to compete, it’s not going to always go your way. The arms on their side did a good job keeping us quiet defensively. That’s pretty much it.”
The loss only further complicates the razor-thin difference between the three teams in the race. Toledo’s 1-0 shutout win leapfrogs the Mud Hens into the West Division lead whil the RailRiders, Indianapolis and Columbus are tied for the final playoff spot with two games remaining.
Toledo holds a half-game lead over all three teams. Scranton/Wilkes-Barre travels to Pawtucket on Sunday to finish its final series of the season.
The RailRiders’ starting pitcher Nestor Cortes cruised through the first four innings. His only blemish was a three-run fifth inning that proved to be the only crooked numbers put on the scoreboard.
Cortes seemed to have escaped with minimal damage, after allowing a lead-off double to Dan Butler and single to Aneury Tavarez, when he forced a double play to get the first two outs of the fifth. Cortes walked Mike Miller that allowed Rafael Devers – on rehab as Boston’s regular third baseman — to let loose on a two-run home run that was the only ball that seemed to get the best of the stifling winds.
“That was the big mistake, obviously,” RailRiders manager Bobby Mitchell said. “Facing the guy that’s been here all year, and then you face the big league guy? It didn’t work out very well.”
The RailRiders received four scoreless innings from their bullpen. Yankees’ prospect Chance Adams retired all six batters faced with one strikeout.
“He looked really good tonight,” Mitchell said. “It was 94 or 95. I think that’s important that he looks real comfortable. I was really impressed and pleased.”
Mitchell said that Yankees’ No. 1 prospect Justus Sheffield will pitch “either one or two innings” out of the bullpen on Sunday’s game versus the Red Sox.
The RailRiders squandered a chance with the tying runner aboard and go-ahead run at the plate in the eighth inning. Scranton/Wilkes-Barre seemed determined to end the scoreless drought when L.J. Mazzilli and Devyn Bolasky reached base to start the inning. The next two batters failed to produce, and Urshela walked to load the bases. Fernando Rodriguez Jr. struck out Ryan McBroom to spoil the RailRiders’ chances at cutting into the deficit.
Left-handed reliever Stephen Tarpley signed a contract with the Yankees on Saturday. Tarpley had a 2.65 ERA in 34 innings of relief with the RailRiders.
“It’s obviously put his name on the map,” Mitchell said. “He did a great job improving from what happened in Double-A to this year. He is throwing strikes. The ball always moved. He is throwing strikes and commanding his curveball.”
The International League crowned RailRiders pitcher Mike King as the Player of the Month for August. King went 3-0 with a 1.09 ERA in his first five outing at the Triple-A level. King threw six perfect innings with six strikeouts on Wednesday. … Prior to the game, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders and the New York Yankees jointly announced a two-year extension of their Player Development Contract (PDC). The RailRiders will remain the Triple-A affiliate of the Yankees through the 2020 season.
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