MOOSIC — With Domingo German taking the mound Tuesday night, in Game 1 of the Governors’ Cup Finals against the Durham Bulls, Bobby Mitchell wasn’t sure how sharp the right-handed pitcher would be.
Just a couple months ago it looked like an elbow injury would derail the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders starting pitcher’s season. Despite his season being in doubt due to ulnaritis, which is an issue with an ulnar nerve, German was able to get back on the rehab trail, and after a short stint with High-A Tampa, he finally made his way back to the RailRiders on Saturday.
German was scheduled to pitch Game 5 of the first round against the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, if the series got there. It didn’t, as the RailRiders won the series in four games, pushing German to Tuesday. Mitchell hoped German could pitch three innings, but realistically, the RailRiders manager admitted that his starting pitcher would likely only be able to throw two innings because of a 40-45-pitch, pitch count.
German exceeded his manager’s expectations, pitching three scoreless innings in his first outing since a three-inning appearance on Aug. 30 for Tampa. The RailRiders would go on to beat Durham, 3-2, and take a 1-0 Governors’ Cup Finals series lead.
“He pitched really well — and he pitched. He didn’t just throw. He threw all of his pitches,” Mitchell said of German. “He did a really good job, I thought, of keeping them off balance and mixing his pitches well and it worked out. I was really happy for him that he’s healthy and he can pitch like that because down the line somewhere he’s definitely going to be usable. Hopefully he can help the big-league club, and if he throws like that he can, I think.”
German was effective from the very start of his tree-inning appearance.
The 26-year-old right-hander only faced one batter over the minimum during his outing and struck out five batters in the process. This was the first time he struck out five batters since an Aug. 25 outing with the Tampa.
Tuesday’s appearance could be another step in the right direction for German, who the New York Yankees hope can join the big-league club at some point before season’s end.
“After what happened in July, when the results came back, I knew that I wasn’t going to be out for the whole year. So I was hopeful to come back,” German said through an interpreter. “That time I had off in Tampa and away from the game made me realize that — I fixed my mechanics, fixed some stuff that I needed to get worked on and I’m happy I had that down time to get back on track and work on my pitches. Now I’m just happy to keep on pitching and stay healthy so I can go back up (to the Yankees) and help the team win.”
A three-run fifth inning was the difference maker for the RailRiders.
Wilkin Castillo got things going with a one-out single, but the big play came when Mark Payton drilled a single through the middle and the RailRiders catcher took third on the play. Watching the ball get thrown from Austin Meadows, in center, to Durham’s third baseman, Brandon Snyder, in an effort to get Castillo out at the bag, Payton took second base. Both RailRiders were safe on the play.
Bruce Caldwell took advantage of the smart running in the next at-bat with his two-run double to deep right center. Then Ryan McBroom’s two-out single, making it 3-1, was the final nail in the coffin for Durham.
“I’ll tell you what. The biggest play, offensively, was Castillo going first-to-third right in front of the center fielder and Payton following him to second. That was huge,” Mitchell said.
A marathon game
Before the RailRiders could take the Game 1 win from Durham, they had to wait through a 2-hour, 59-minute rain delay.
The tarp was pulled onto the field with the RailRiders at the plate, Zack Zehner was batting and Ryan McBroom was on first base, with no outs in the bottom of the eighth. Scranton/Wilkes-Barre was leading 3-2 at the time.
When play resumed shortly before midnight, in a water-logged infield and warning track, the RailRiders went down in order to end the eighth and Durham couldn’t get their lead-off walk off of first base.
“The weather here was kind of confusing,” Mitchell said. “We didn’t really know — the radar said it wasn’t supposed to rain and it was still raining. So it was a pretty weird situation.”
McCarthy leaves mark
Scranton alum Joe McCarthy made his presence known for the Bulls on Tuesday.
The left fielder saw a slow start at the plate, striking out in his first two at-bats, before singling off of Justus Sheffield in the top of the sixth inning. He beat the shift, but was the Bulls’ only hit of the frame.
McCarthy also worked a walk in the eighth.
“It was a lot of fun tonight,” McCarthy said. “I had a great opportunity to play in front of my friends and family with a great atmosphere here. It’s something I’ll never forget.”
GOVERNORS’ CUP FINALS
Game 1 (RailRiders lead 1-0)
RailRiders 3, Bulls 2
PB: Pena; DP: Bulls 0, RailRiders 1; 2B: Meadows (1), Caldwell (1); HR: Refsnyder (1).
Durham`000`010`100 — 2
RailRiders`000`030`00x — 3
Weber (L, 0-1)`5`8`3`3`1`2
Umpires: John Bacon, HP; Dan Merzel, 1B; Jeremy Riggs, 2B; Alex Tosi, 3B.
Time: 2:37 (2:59 delay); Attendance: 2,521.
Reach DJ Eberle at 570-991-6398 or on Twitter @ByDJEberle