MOOSIC — Outside of Games 1 and 2 at PNC Field Tuesday and Wednesday, the Governors’ Cup Finals between the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders and Durham Bulls is a giant unknown.
With Hurricane Florence set to hit landfall in South and North Carolina late Thursday or Friday, according to the New York Times, just as the Governors’ Cup Finals heads to Durham, the International League will have some decisions to make.
For now, the only concrete dates are Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s playoff games at PNC Field, according to International League president Randy Mobley. The earliest a decision could come on the schedule of Games 3, 4 and 5 is on Tuesday when Mobley heads to Moosic to meet with the two teams.
As it stands currently, Games 3, 4 and 5 will be played Thursday through Saturday in Durham.
“Yes, IL is watching closely and has been in conversation with the two organizations since yesterday,” Mobley responded in an e-mail on Monday. “There is the possibility of schedule adjustments, but no decision on that today. Tomorrow at the earliest. The only thing we know for sure at this moment is Games 1 and 2 will be at PNC Field.”
The National Weather Service in nearby Raleigh, N.C., issued a Hazardous Weather outlook bulletin on Monday morning, stating that “the associated risk of life-threatening impacts well inland into central North Carolina, including damaging wind, tornadoes, and prolonged, extremely heavy rainfall, is increasing.”
With the locations of Games 3, 4 and 5 up in the air, even more of an incentive has been placed on the RailRiders to start hot, just as they did in the first round against the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, when they won Game 1 and 2 at home before they shipped off to Allentown.
Domingo German will get the nod for the RailRiders on Tuesday, with first pitch scheduled for 6:35 p.m.
“I think when it’s a best-of-five series, the first game can set the tone,” RailRiders first baseman Ryan McBroom said. “Definitely, with the weather coming and things like that, we don’t really know our schedule. So whenever we can get on the field and play, we have to take wins. There’s not a huge room for error depending on if the hurricane’s hitting Durham and things like that.
“Wins are huge when hurricanes and things like that are coming our way. We just need to get some wins.”
When things get underway on Tuesday, the RailRiders will be up against a tall task in Durham.
The Bulls won the season series 4-2, and when they come to town, they’ll be sporting one of the best rosters in the International League.
The Durham active roster includes four players on the Tampa Bay Rays’ 40-man roster, lead by top prospect Austin Meadows. Durham infielder Keon Wong also was named an International League All-Star this season.
The Bulls finished the 2018 regular season leading the IL in both runs scored (653) and strikeouts thrown (1,267) while finishing second in home runs (141) and third in both batting average (.259) and ERA (3.54).
“They’re good. They’re real good,” RailRiders manager Bobby Mitchell said. “They’re a good hitting team. They can run. They can do a lot of things. That’s why they are where they are. We’re going to have to play really well.”
But the RailRiders are facing a familiar foe in the Bulls.
This is a rematch of the 2017 Governors’ Cup Finals when the Bulls won the series in four games. Durham even went on to win the Triple-A National Championship on the RailRiders’ home turf.
“You remember what it’s like to celebrate it after winning it and you remember what it’s like losing, watching somebody else jump around on the mound or wherever it is,” said RailRiders outfielder Mark Payton, who was a part of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre team that made it to the Governors’ Cup Finals each of the past two seasons. “You kind of have those feelings in the back of your mind. Obviously, you just want to go out there and try to win every inning.”
German goes Game 1
German has a two-inning, 40-pitch count on Tuesday as he takes the mound in Game 1 for the RailRiders.
The only other certainty out of the starting rotation is that Mike King with pitch Game 3.
McCarthy returns home
Scranton native Joe McCarthy returns to PNC Field for the first time as a Bull this week.
The former Scranton High School and University of Virginia standout was placed on the disabled list with a back injury just before Durham played the RailRiders at PNC Field earlier this season. McCarthy hit .269 with eight home runs and 25 RBI in 49 games with the Bulls during the regular season.
“I think it’s exciting for him, I’m sure,” Mitchell said of McCarthy. “Obviously, he’ have a lot of people here, a lot of fans, which is good — you should. Everybody here should be proud of what he’s done. You don’t have that very often, really, when you go to a hometown where you’re from and play in the finals. I’m happy for him. I really am.”
Reach DJ Eberle at 570-991-6398 or on Twitter @ByDJEberle