MOOSIC — Nestor Cortes fist-pumped as he walked off the mound and into the home dugout after striking out Lehigh Valley IronPigs first baseman Zach Green to end the eighth inning.
Sure, Cortes lost his no hitter just two batters later, but with the strikeout, got the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders three outs closer to taking a two-game series lead to Allentown.
Newly-converted RailRiders reliever Chance Adams sealed the deal when he took the mound in the ninth and retired the IronPigs in order to to secure the 3-0 victory.
“Yesterday, with (Erik Swanson) only going (three innings) due to injury and the bullpen getting shaken up a little bit, I knew I needed to at least throw five,” Cortes said. “I had a no-hitter all the way to the eighth — opening the eighth inning — and I think that’s a huge win for us. Yesterday was a huge win for us, too, when (Mark) Payton walked it off. I think this might have turned on a switch for us. I think we’re in it to win it.”
While Cortes admits that he didn’t have his best stuff despite eight one-hit innings and credits his defense for a lot of his effectiveness — Gio Urshela and Ryan McBroom, especially, made a handful of good plays in the field — the 23-year-old southpaw did a tremendous job keeping the Lehigh Valley bats off-balance all night.
In fact, Cortes continued his dominance against the IronPigs in the postseason.
In his first Triple-A postseason in 2017, Cortes got the ball in Game 4 of the first round against the IronPigs and picked up the series-clinching victory after throwing seven shutout innings. Now after Thursday’s outing, Cortes has pitched 15 shutout innings against Lehigh Valley during his postseason career.
“After the performance I had today, I said, ‘Man, last year I threw seven (shutout) against them, too,’” Cortes said. “Playoff baseball is playoff baseball no matter how you put it. Just come out and get ready to win and that’s what we did tonight.”
After watching Cortes dominate from the bullpen, Adams did his best to follow suit. And he was impressive.
Touching 95 mph three times, and 94 six more, Adams struck out a pair of batters and retired the side. It only took him 12 pitches.
In his last three appearances out of the RailRiders bullpen, Adams has pitched 4.1 shutout innings and allowed just three hits and a walk while striking out three.
“It’s awesome what he did,” Adams said of Cortes. “He went out and pitched great, defense made some excellent plays behind him. McBroom, that diving play. Urshela, a few nice plays.
“Just felt good. Just trying to go out and get my work in. Put zeroes on the board so we win this thing.”
Just like Wednesday’s Game 1 win, the RailRiders came up with timely hitting again and again.
Payton led off the fourth inning with a triple before scoring on an Urshela groundout. Then, Wilkin Castillo clubbed his third homer of the year to give the RailRiders a 2-0 lead in the fifth. Scranton/Wilkes-Barre put the IronPigs away for good when Payton came around to score on Lehigh Valley closer Pedro Beato’s second wild pitch of the ninth inning.
“That’s a blast man. That didn’t get very high,” RailRiders manager Bobby Mitchell said of Castillo’s home run. “To put us ahead by two at that point in time was huge. Was really huge. Obviously the third run is huge, putting a lot of pressure on a team. Coming in, they have to score more than one and then more than two — it’s tough.”
King honored again
RailRiders starting pitcher Mike King was named the International League Player of the Month by MiLB.com on Thursday.
King made five starts in August and went 3-0 with a 1.09 ERA. That impressive run included a perfect six innings in against Syracuse on Aug. 29, a game he didn’t factor in after being pulled with the lead.
King gave up just 17 hits and four walks in 33.1 August innings, to pair with 27 strikeouts.
“He’s consistent in everything he does,” Mitchell said. “There’s no real times I’ve seen so far where he’s floundered at all. He makes a bad pitch here or there, but he gets right back into it. It does’t continue to snowball on him one little bit. That’s why he’s been so successful, because of his execution. His consistent execution.”
With the season winding down, RHP Erik Swanson’s season is likely over. The starting pitcher exited Wednesday’s game with a sore groin and Mitchell said on Thursday that the team won’t rush him back to action and his season is likely over.
GOVERNORS’ CUP PLAYOFFS
GAME 2 (RAILRIDERS LEAD 2-0)
RailRiders 3, IronPigs 0
LOB: IronPigs 2, RailRiders 5; 3B: Payton (1); HR: Castillo (1).
Lehigh Valley`000`000`000 — 0
RailRiders`000`110`01x — 3
Irvin (L, 0-1)`7`6`2`2`1`4
Cortes (W, 1-0)`8`1`0`0`1`7
Adams (S, 1)`1`0`0`0`0`2
WP: Beato 2.
Umpires: Brennan Miller, HP; Adam Beck, 1B; Ryan Clark, 2B;John Bacon, 3B.
Time: 1:54 (0:41 delay); Attendance: 912
Reach DJ Eberle at 570-991-6398 or on Twitter @ByDJEberle