Baby Bombers 2018 playoff blog: SWB rail-riding on to the Governors' Cup Finals
The Baby Bombers Playoff Blog will continue for one more round, as the Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders are headed to their third straight Governors' Cup Finals.
TRIPLE-A: Scranton/Wilkes-Barre 7, Lehigh Valley 2 (10 innings)
The SWB RailRiders were one out away from having to go to a deciding Game 5 in their series with the IronPigs, but thanks to a late rally - really, a rally as late as possible - they are instead now three wins away from their second International League Championship in three years.
SWB actually took the first lead of the game in the third inning when the combo of a Francisco Diaz single, Mark Payton hit by pitch, a wild pitch and a soft Giovanny Urshela groundout made it 1-0. Lehigh Valley tied it in the fifth, though, with three straight two-out singles off Mike King and took a 2-1 lead on Danny Ortiz's solo homer off King in the sixth.
Come the ninth, though, some RailRiders magic took hold, starting when Zack Zehner lined a one-out single off Pedro Beato. Quintin Berry pinch-ran for Zehner, and after moving to second on a soft groundout by Bruce Caldwell, Berry used his legs to create the tying run. He took off for third on a pitch that Shane Robinson ended up grounding softly to shortstop, and never stopped running; Robinson beat Dean Anna's throw to first, and Berry then beat the relay throw home to tie the game at 2-2.
That brought the game to extras, and the RailRiders only needed one more frame to break out. A Payton walk, Rey Navarro single and Urshela walk loaded the bases with no one out and, despite the infield coming in, Ryan McBroom hit a soft enough ground ball to short that Anna's only play was to first, resulting in an RBI groundout that scored Payton and made it 3-2.
Mike Ford was then intentionally walked to re-load the bases, and after Berry struck out swinging for the second out, Caldwell hit the biggest home run of his career, smacking a salt-away grand slam to right to give the RailRiders a 7-2 lead. Robinson then lined out to short to end the inning, but SWB closer Joe Harvey made quick work of Lehigh Valley in the bottom of the tenth, getting - who else - Anna to fly out to Payton in left to close out the series.
At the plate, the RailRiders had just eight hits, the last of course being Caldwell's grand slam. Rey Navarro (2-for-5, run) was the only RailRider with a multi-hit game while Urshela (1-for-3, 2 BB), McBroom (1-for-4, BB), and Payton (0-for-3, BB, HBP) also found ways to reach base more than once.
On the mound, King started and went 6 2/3 innings, allowing two runs on seven hits with one walk and eight strikeouts. He departed with two on and two out in the seventh, but Raynel Espinal - the only player to be on the RailRiders' active roster for all 138 regular-season games - came on to get the final out, and ended up getting the win after throwing 2 1/3 innings of one-hit shutout ball. Harvey then closed it out with the 1-2-3 tenth
With the win, SWB wins the series three games to one, and the RailRiders now face Durham (Tampa Bay Rays affiliate) in the IL Governors' Cup Finals. That best-of-five series will begin on Tuesday, Sept. 11, with Games 1 and 2 on Tuesday and Wednesday at PNC Field; the series will then shift to Durham, with Game 3 on Thursday and Games 4 and 5 if necessary on Friday and Saturday.
The winner of that series will move on to play the champions of the Pacific Coast League in the Gildan Triple-A National Championship Game, which will be played on Sept. 18 in Columbus, Ohio.