Clinched: RailRiders beat PawSox, secure spot in IL playoffs

By Mike Scandura - For Times Leader
The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders celebrate clinching the International League Wild Card after beating the Pawtucket Red Sox, 3-2, Sunday at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket, R.I. - Louriann Mardo-Zayat | Pawsox
The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders celebrate clinching the International League Wild Card after beating the Pawtucket Red Sox, 3-2, Sunday at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket, R.I. - Louriann Mardo-Zayat | Pawsox
The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders third baseman Bruce Caldwell throws across the diamond during Sunday’s game against the Pawtucket Red Sox at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket, R.I. - Louriann Mardo-Zayat | Pawsox
Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders second baseman Rey Navarro tags a sliding Pawtucket Red Sox right fielder Cole Sturgeon during Sunday’s game at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket, R.I. Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders second baseman Rey Navarro tags a sliding Pawtucket Red Sox right fielder Cole Sturgeon during Sunday’s game at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket, R.I. - - Louriann Mardo-Zayat | Pawsox
Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders first baseman Ryan McBroom waits for a pitch during Sunday’s game against the Pawtucket Red Sox at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket, R.I. - - Louriann Mardo-Zayat | Pawsox
The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders celebrate clinching the International League Wild Card after beating the Pawtucket Red Sox, 3-2, Sunday at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket, R.I. - - Louriann Mardo-Zayat | Pawsox
Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders reliever Joe Harvey delivers a pitch during Sunday’s game against the Pawtucket Red Sox at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket, R.I. - - Louriann Mardo-Zayat | Pawsox
Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders catcher Wilkin Castillo looks on during Sunday’s game against the Pawtucket Red Sox at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket, R.I. Castillo had the go-ahead, two-run triple in the fifth inning. - - Louriann Mardo-Zayat | Pawsox
The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders celebrate clinching the International League Wild Card after beating the Pawtucket Red Sox, 3-2, Sunday at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket, R.I. - - Louriann Mardo-Zayat | Pawsox
Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders reliever Joe Harvey is congratulated by his teammates during Sunday’s game against the Pawtucket Red Sox at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket, R.I. - - Louriann Mardo-Zayat | Pawsox
Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders reliever Raynel Espinal delivers a pitch during Sunday’s game against the Pawtucket Red Sox at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket, R.I. - - Louriann Mardo-Zayat | Pawsox

PAWTUCKET, R.I. — All the stars were in perfect alignment Sunday night for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders in order for first-year manager Bobby Mitchell’s team to clinch the International League Wild Card.

First, the RailRiders had to beat the Pawtucket Red Sox – which they did, 3-2.

Then they needed Toledo to beat Columbus. The Mud Hens obliged by defeating the Clippers, 10-5.

Lastly, they needed Louisville to beat Indianapolis. The Bats belted the Indians, 10-2.

As a result, the RailRiders can relax a bit Monday and prepare for the Governors’ Cup playoffs.

“We lost a lot of guys during the trading deadline, which I understand and which the players understand,” Mitchell said of the constant roster turnover which resulted from all the injuries and trades that involved the big-league club, the New York Yankees. “It took a lot out of our team a little bit but not for very long. They did a great job. They’re very resilient.

“We tried to stress that there’s still a lot of talent here. They proved it to make the playoffs. These guys battled forever.”

From Mitchell’s standpoint, virtually every time he stepped into the locker room he had to check the roster to see who was on his team. That requires a certain mentality to avoid becoming stressed out.

“I think we went through a two-week period where it felt like it was pure chaos,” Mitchell said. “We were either farming somebody out or sending somebody somewhere or trading them.

“We all understand that. But it’s not easy because you try to keep team chemistry. When you lose guys that you’re close to and you send them off, we’re ecstatic that we made it. It went down to the second-from-the-last game. It was a battle the whole season.”

Adonis Rosa cruised through the first three innings, allowing only a first-inning single by rehabbing Rafael Devers. But a lead-off double by Devers in the fourth inning ignited a rally which broke a scoreless tie.

Brandon Phillips singled Devers to third and Josh Ockimey followed with a bouncer to the mound. Rosa threw home to catcher Wilkin Castillo who eventually nailed Devers in a run down.

But, after Ivan De Jesus Jr. fanned, Aneury Tavarez and Mike Ohlman each lined RBI singles to give Pawtucket a 2-0 lead and chase Rosa.

Justus Sheffield (6-4) came on and retired Cole Sturgeon to squash the outburst.

Sheffield and George Kontos combined to blank Pawtucket for 3.2 innings but Joe Harvey, who was summoned in the eighth, worked himself into and out of a jam.

Oscar Hernandez drew a lead-off walk and, one out later, Devers grounded into a force at second. But Phillips singled which put the go-ahead run at second.

Harvey then battled Ockimey through a six-pitch at-bat before getting him to look at a third strike and end the threat.

The reliever only lasted two batters into the ninth because he served up a single to Tavarez and walked Mike Ohlman. That forced Mitchell to summon another reliever, in this case Reynel Espinal.

In a matter of moments, Espinal earned his second save by retiring Sturgeon on a fly to center and striking out Hernandez.

“He throws strikes,” Mitchell said. “He has a real good slider. His fastball plays up. A lot of guys don’t hang on his fastball but it has late life.

“He showed it at the end of the game in a clutch situation which was huge for us for him to be able to come in because Harvey, who’s our guy to close, had run out of pitches.”

PawSox starter Josh A. Smith (5-6) retired the first 13 RailRiders until Zack Zechner fanned and reached on a wild pitch in the fifth.

Bruce Caldwell singled and, after Rey Navarro looked at a third strike, Devyn Bolaski singled home his team’s first run.

Castillo followed by lofting a high fly ball to right field that Sturgeon lost in the lights. By the time he retrieved it, two runs had scored for a 3-2 lead and Castillo wound up at third with a triple.

“We got it done here,” Sheffield said. “That was the main goal — to pull this one out tonight. We had two games to work with. We didn’t want to let it so we had to go out there and give it our all.”

The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders celebrate clinching the International League Wild Card after beating the Pawtucket Red Sox, 3-2, Sunday at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket, R.I.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/web1_204A6560.jpgThe Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders celebrate clinching the International League Wild Card after beating the Pawtucket Red Sox, 3-2, Sunday at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket, R.I. Louriann Mardo-Zayat | Pawsox

The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders celebrate clinching the International League Wild Card after beating the Pawtucket Red Sox, 3-2, Sunday at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket, R.I.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/web1_204A6567.jpgThe Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders celebrate clinching the International League Wild Card after beating the Pawtucket Red Sox, 3-2, Sunday at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket, R.I. Louriann Mardo-Zayat | Pawsox

The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders third baseman Bruce Caldwell throws across the diamond during Sunday’s game against the Pawtucket Red Sox at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket, R.I.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/web1_204A6418.jpgThe Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders third baseman Bruce Caldwell throws across the diamond during Sunday’s game against the Pawtucket Red Sox at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket, R.I. Louriann Mardo-Zayat | Pawsox

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders second baseman Rey Navarro tags a sliding Pawtucket Red Sox right fielder Cole Sturgeon during Sunday’s game at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket, R.I. Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders second baseman Rey Navarro tags a sliding Pawtucket Red Sox right fielder Cole Sturgeon during Sunday’s game at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket, R.I.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/web1_204A6426.jpgScranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders second baseman Rey Navarro tags a sliding Pawtucket Red Sox right fielder Cole Sturgeon during Sunday’s game at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket, R.I. Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders second baseman Rey Navarro tags a sliding Pawtucket Red Sox right fielder Cole Sturgeon during Sunday’s game at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket, R.I. Louriann Mardo-Zayat | Pawsox

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders first baseman Ryan McBroom waits for a pitch during Sunday’s game against the Pawtucket Red Sox at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket, R.I.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/web1_204A6462.jpgScranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders first baseman Ryan McBroom waits for a pitch during Sunday’s game against the Pawtucket Red Sox at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket, R.I. Louriann Mardo-Zayat | Pawsox

The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders celebrate clinching the International League Wild Card after beating the Pawtucket Red Sox, 3-2, Sunday at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket, R.I.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/web1_204A6550.jpgThe Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders celebrate clinching the International League Wild Card after beating the Pawtucket Red Sox, 3-2, Sunday at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket, R.I. Louriann Mardo-Zayat | Pawsox

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders reliever Joe Harvey delivers a pitch during Sunday’s game against the Pawtucket Red Sox at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket, R.I.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/web1_204A6477.jpgScranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders reliever Joe Harvey delivers a pitch during Sunday’s game against the Pawtucket Red Sox at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket, R.I. Louriann Mardo-Zayat | Pawsox

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders catcher Wilkin Castillo looks on during Sunday’s game against the Pawtucket Red Sox at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket, R.I. Castillo had the go-ahead, two-run triple in the fifth inning.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/web1_204A6504.jpgScranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders catcher Wilkin Castillo looks on during Sunday’s game against the Pawtucket Red Sox at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket, R.I. Castillo had the go-ahead, two-run triple in the fifth inning. Louriann Mardo-Zayat | Pawsox

The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders celebrate clinching the International League Wild Card after beating the Pawtucket Red Sox, 3-2, Sunday at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket, R.I.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/web1_204A6556.jpgThe Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders celebrate clinching the International League Wild Card after beating the Pawtucket Red Sox, 3-2, Sunday at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket, R.I. Louriann Mardo-Zayat | Pawsox

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders reliever Joe Harvey is congratulated by his teammates during Sunday’s game against the Pawtucket Red Sox at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket, R.I.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/web1_204A6524.jpgScranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders reliever Joe Harvey is congratulated by his teammates during Sunday’s game against the Pawtucket Red Sox at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket, R.I. Louriann Mardo-Zayat | Pawsox

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders reliever Raynel Espinal delivers a pitch during Sunday’s game against the Pawtucket Red Sox at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket, R.I.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/web1_204A6527.jpgScranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders reliever Raynel Espinal delivers a pitch during Sunday’s game against the Pawtucket Red Sox at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket, R.I. Louriann Mardo-Zayat | Pawsox
RailRiders beat PawSox, secure spot in IL playoffs

By Mike Scandura

For Times Leader

Reach Times Leader sports at 570-829-7143 or on Twitter @TLsports

Reach Times Leader sports at 570-829-7143 or on Twitter @TLsports