MOOSIC — L.J. Mazzilli probably makes the play 75 times out of 75 times.
In fact, he took around 75 grounders, just like the one he faced in the top of the ninth inning, in the cage with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders defensive coach Travis Chapman before Wednesday’s game against the Buffalo Bisons.
But when Buffalo catcher Reese McGuire hit Mazzilli a slow roller with a man on third and two outs, the RailRiders second baseman couldn’t come up with the ball. Anthony Alford scored from third on the play and McGuire was safe at first.
In a game that looked destined for extra innings, Mazzilli’s teammates had his back.
Brandon Drury and Kyle Higashioka both got aboard to set Clint Frazier up with a two-on, one-out at-bat with the game tied. The rehabbing outfielder cashed in, lacing a game-winning single into right-center field to score Drury from second base to give the RailRiders a 3-2 walk-off win over the Bisons.
“It was a side-spinning in-between ball. It was a bit weird. It came up on me,” Mazzilli said. “It was a tough play. I tried to get in front of it, but it just kicked to the right and got by me.
“I was on the top of the bench like, ‘Come on. Come on.’ Then when Frazier hit that walk-off, I said, ‘Thanks, bro.’ ”
When Frazier dug into the batter’s box in the bottom of the ninth, his first thought was to go for a home run. He hit one in his first at-bat, after all.
The 23-year-old outfielder committed to taking his “best swing” on the first pitch, but he didn’t connect. After that, Frazier just wanted to put the ball in play — and that’s exactly what he did. He found the gap between the right and center fielders and made the Bisons (7-10) pay.
Frazier finished 2-for-4 with a home run, a run scored and two RBI.
“I’m just trying to win the game, man,” Frazier said of his decisive at-bat. “It feels good. It’s not like I’m coming down here and raking right now. I mean, I’m just glad to get that second hit. Hopefully it can carry that momentum over tomorrow.”
It’s been a tumultuous couple of months for Frazier, who suffered a concussion early in spring training and just started playing in games last week. Frazier is just now starting to get his timing back on the plate and in the field.
The outfielder had a solid day in right field on Wednesday after having an adventurous outing in left on Tuesday.
“I’m just happy that we got a win,” said Frazier, who was taken off of the seven-day concussion disabled list and placed on the RailRiders active roster. “It feels good to come up Day 2 and bounce back like I did after last night. I’m just happy to be here, man. Those two months sucked. It’s just good to be back in the clubhouse with the guys.
“I took that questionable route in the first ball hit to me yesterday. That was just the first-game jitters, I guess. I felt pretty good. Right field’s a pretty comfortable spot for me. You know, left’s growing on me a little bit more. Just trying to get better every day.”
The RailRiders (12-13) were able to score a couple of early runs thanks to a pair of solo shots from Frazier and Mazzilli to combine with a strong outing from Brody Koerner, who pitched 6.2 shutout innings.
The 24-year-old righty only gave up a pair of hits and a walk and struck out three. He even retired the Bisons in order on five separate occasions.
Koerner was set up for the win before Mazzilli’s ninth-inning error.
“I thought my fastball command was pretty good, and I threw a lot of two seams away and it worked out pretty well. We played really good defense behind me,” Koerner said. “It’s just trying to make one pitch at a time, and it just worked out to be that way. It’s always nice when you have clean innings and get our guys back in the box to hit, especially on a warmer day — to not have the guys stand out in the sun all game long.”
Hale joining Yankees
After Jordan Montgomery left Tuesday’s game against the Astros early due to elbow tightness, RailRiders starter David Hale got the call that he’d be joining the New York Yankees in Houston. Hale signed a minor-league contract with the organization on Tuesday and was set to make his first start back with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Friday, but instead he’ll be in line to make his Yankees debut the next time he takes the mound.
RailRiders manager Bobby Mitchell didn’t think there would be a corresponding move for the Triple-A club. At least not yet.
Montgomery was placed on the 10-day DL with an elbow strain on Wednesday, while Jacoby Ellsbury (hip) was moved to the 60-day DL to clear a spot on the Yankees’ 25-man roster for Hale.
“He got here last night and left this morning. Good for him,” Mitchell said.
RailRiders 3, Buffalo 2
E: Mazzilli (1); PO: Gomez; LOB: Bisons 5, RailRiders 5; 2B: Higashioka (5); HR: Frazier (1), Mazzilli (2).
Buffalo`000`000`002 — 2
RailRiders`011`000`001 — 3
Smith (L, 0-1)`0.1`2`1`1`1`0
Gomez (H, 1)`1.1`2`0`0`0`1
Carroll (BS, 1)`0.2`1`2`1`1`0
Espinal (W, 1-0)`0.1`0`0`0`0`0
WP: Smith, Carroll.
Umpires: Sean Barber, HP; Ryan Wills, 1B; Scott Costello, 2B; Alex Tosi, 3B.
Time: 2:36; Attendance: 5,563.
Reach DJ Eberle at 570-991-6398 or on Twitter @ByDJEberle