MOOSIC — It was the kind of day dream that any kid that ever played baseball imagines.
The script almost seems almost too trite.
The game of his life in front of a hometown crowd with a championship on the line.
Joe McCarthy made boyhood aspirations a reality with a career performance to bring the Durham Bulls their second consecutive Governors Cup. Playing just miles from his native Scranton home, McCarthy either scored or drove in every run to lead the Bulls to a 6-2 victory over the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders on Saturday, in the fifth and deciding game of the Governors’ Cup Finals.
“Honestly, for the season to end the way it did, Game 5 in Scranton, winning it all here after two months ago, missing the trip home with the back injury, and thinking I was out for the end of the year,” McCarthy said. “This is really a dream come true for me.”
Durham advances to the Triple-A Championship Game to either play Fresno or Memphis for the second straight season. The game against the Pacific Coast League opponent is set for Tuesday in Columbus, Ohio.
McCarthy finished 3-for-5 with a home run, two runs, two doubles, and four RBI.
“It is the postseason,” McCarthy said. “If I went oh-fer the entire series and we were able to take it, it sounds cliché — I’d be happy with it. Because the postseason is about winning. It’s not about coming to your hometown and getting base hits. It’s about winning.”
Playing the series at PNC Field for the first time since “getting shelled” as a Scranton High School pitcher, McCarthy wasted no time shaking off the nerves the first at-bat. He crushed a ball for a solo home run for the game’s first runs. McCarthy gawked at the home run and watched it clear the Budweiser Rail House in right field before beginning his trot.
“Off the bat, it felt good,” McCarthy said. “I knew it was out. I felt a lot of the weight come off my shoulders when I saw the ball go over the fence. Again, I was just extremely happy we were able to jump out to a lead.”
In the third, McCarthy sliced a two-out double to opposite field that beat the shift and hustled to second base to squeak past the tag. Rob Refsnyder drove him in with an RBI double to left center.
With a 3-0 lead, McCarthy cleared the bases in the fourth inning to extend the Bulls’ lead to 6-0. He said he was expecting a slider on a full count from RailRiders reliever Justus Sheffield and drove it into left center for a double.
Following the game, RailRiders manager Bobby Mitchell announced to the team that both Domingo German and Sheffield were called up to the New York Yankees.
German took the loss as the starting pitcher. He went 2.2 innings with three earned runs allowed and two strikeouts. Each of the three hits allowed were for extra bases.
Sheffield, the Yankees’ top prospect, struggled again in a bullpen session. He allowed three unearned runs and two hits with two strikeouts.
The No. 27 prospect in baseball, according to MLB Pipeline, said he was “at a loss for words” following the promotion news. Sheffield said that he is glad that the long wait of whether or not he was going to play with the Yankees this season as come to a close.
“The transition to the bullpen, obviously, I knew there was something going on there,” Sheffield said. “So it was hard for me to block it out and do my thing. When I did, I felt back to myself. It was one of those things where it was hard to block out.”
After giving up a wild pitch and an Austin Meadows RBI single in the third, Sheffield wrestled with command issues in a tumultuous fourth inning.
He beaned Brandon Snyder to put the lead-off batter on base. Following an error at first base, Micah Johnson hit a soft pop-up in the infield that Sheffield made a circus catch-and-roll for the first out. Sheffield’s attempt to double-up Snyder at second base went into center field. His night ended when he hit Kean Wong in the helmet with a fastball and gave up McCarthy’s bases-clearing double.
“I had a tough one today,” Sheffield said. “I’m not going to lie. I just did not feel good out there. It was just a rough day. I feel I had to go up there and do my job.”
Refsnyder, a former RailRider, was selected as the International League Postseason Most Valuable Player. He batted .350 with four RBI for the series.
The RailRiders ended the scoreless drought in the sixth inning. After Gio Urshela singled up the middle, Mike Ford hammered a pitch to the top of the right field hill for a two-run home run in the sixth inning to cut the deficit to 6-2.
Scranton/Wilkes-Barre did not get a runner on base for the remainder of the game.
Urshela finished 2-for-3 with a run scored. After Sheffield’s exit, the RailRiders’ bullpen went 4.1 innings with no runs and just three hits allowed.
“It’s kind of an incredible thing we pulled off there,” RailRiders left fielder Mark Payton said. “With all of the transactions that happened right around the trade deadline, we still found ways to win in the second half. Obviously, we put together a good run to get into the playoffs and the run we just had.”
Bulls coach Jared Sandberg said that winning the championship with Durham fans dealing with Hurricane Florence back home makes
“We’re thinking of them with a heavy heart,” he said. “Just the distraction of playing all five games here. I think we’ve dealt with it just fine. The uncertainty of what was going to happen and the track of the hurricane was on our minds.”
GOVERNORS’ CUP FINALS
Game 5 (Durham wins series 3-2)
Durham 6, RailRiders 2
2B — Urshela (3), McCarthy 2 (3), Refsnyder (2); HR —Ford (3), McCarthy (1).
Team RISP — SWB 1-for-6, DUR 4-for-9. Team LOB — SWB 7, DUR 8.
German (L, 0-1)`2.2`3`3`3`1`2
Alaniz (W, 1-0)`2`0`0`0`0`2
WP — Sheffield. HBP — Urshela (by Bird), Mazzilli (by Bird), Snyder (by Sheffield), Wong (by Sheffield)
Umpires — HP John Bacon, 1B Dan Merzel, 2B Jeremy Riggs, 3B Alex Rosi. Weather — 79, partly cloudy. Wind — 3 mph, L to RF.
First pitch — 4:06 p.m. T — 2:48. Att — 3,299.
Reach Times Leader sports at 570-829-7143 or on Twitter @TLsports