MOOSIC — The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders had their chances Friday night, bringing the tying run up to the plate in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings.
But the three runs they scored in the bases-loaded opportunities weren’t enough.
A two-run home run by Durham third baseman Daniel Robertson proved to be the difference, as the sixth-inning shot to deep right provided the Bulls with a five-run lead at the time.
Even though the RailRiders scored runs in the sixth, seventh and eighth, the International League North Division champions’ season still came to an end with a 6-4 loss. The Bulls beat the RailRiders in four games to take the Governors’ Cup Finals.
“We had plenty of chances the whole game. We had the early 1-0 lead, they came back, scored three and we didn’t quit,” RailRiders manager Al Pedrique said. “I’m very proud of this group. Like I just told them in a team meeting, `There’s nothing to feel sorry about. It was a great year, great run and I’m hoping that we’ll all learn from being in the playoffs, being in the finals.’ Now they have the taste. Durham played better.”
After leading the International League in both runs and batting average this season, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre struggled to do both in the finals. Especially on Friday.
The RailRiders were 2 for 14 with runners in scoring position and left 13 men on base in Game 4. Jake Cave left six men on base, coming up with the bases loaded twice, while Williams left five on.
“It’s tough when you come so close,” said RailRiders shortstop Jonathan Diaz, who was 1 for 1 with two walks, a hit-by-pitch and a run scored. “We had a bunch of opportunities there. We hit some balls hard and some of them didn’t fall. It’s tough when you know you could have broke out any of those innings, but you have to give credit to those guys. They made good pitches and good plays.”
After pitching lights out to pick up the Game 3 win against the Lehigh Valley IronPigs in the first round, RailRiders right-hander Brady Lail pitched just five innings and gave up four runs — three earned — to take the loss on Friday.
Lail was cruising through the first three innings with a 1-0 lead, but struggled his second time through the order.
Willy Adames and Jake Bauers got the fourth inning going with a pair of one-out singles. Then Patrick Leonard worked a six-pitch walk to load the bases.
Lail was able to strike out Bulls designated hitter Shane Peterson on three pitches, but with Robertson at the plate, the Bulls third baseman hit a first-pitch single to right field, scoring both Adames and Bauers. However, when RailRiders catcher Kyle Higashioka received the throw from the cut-off man the ball dropped out of his glove as he was trying to tag Bauers. Leonard scored on the play to give Durham a 3-1 lead, and Robertson went to second base.
Robertson’s two-run home run in the sixth inning to give the Bulls the cushion they would need.
“That’s a make-or-break pitch. That’s the one that’s haunting me until I come back and pitch in spring training,” Lail said of Robertson’s two-run single. “That’s the one mistake I felt like I made all day. Other than that, I thought it was an OK outing. It was just that one mistake, but it’s frustrating to end like that.”
Lail had been clutch for the RailRiders in his prior three postseason starts, sporting a 2-0 record and 1.12 ERA, but the two-run single by Robertson will be what pushes the right-hander to become a better pitcher next season.
“I think that’s what’s going to make me better next year and going into the offseason,” a somber Lail said, fidgeting with a pair of socks. “I’ve never felt stronger in my baseball career. Throwing the ball harder. I have better pitches. I’m becoming a stronger pitcher. I’m excited to get into the offseason.”
Pedrique said after that game that both third baseman Miguel Andujar and reliever Jonathan Holder will be joining the Yankees. Starting pitcher Domingo German and catcher Kyle Higashioka will head to Tampa to continue to work out in case of emergency.
Yankees 40-man first baseman Garrett Cooper and top pitching prospect Chance Adams will not be joining the big-league club.
“We’re happy for the kid,” Pedrique said of Andujar. “I have to give him credit. That’s another kid that when he came back down he stayed humble and he knew that he had to continue working hard in order to get back and prove (things), especially on his defense. We’re very happy where he’s at defensively. Still room for improvement. He’s only 22. So I hope that he gets a chance to help New York. I told him now it’s your job to get us a ring in New York. Very happy the way he handled himself in Triple-A level.”
Game 4, Governors’ Cup Finals
Durham 6, RailRiders 4
J. Williams rf`2`0`0`0
E: Robertson (2), Higashioka (2); DP: Bulls 0, RailRiders 1; LOB: Bulls 8, RailRiders 13; 2B: Wong 2 (2), Ford 2 (2); HR: Robertson (1); CS: Robertson (1).
Umpires: Jeremy Riggs, HP; Jasen Visconti, 1B; John Bacon, 2B; Dan Merzel, 3B.
Time: 3:04; Att.: 2,036.