Porcupine Points – July 21
GROUNDHOG DAY: The calendar definitely changed, but the day largely remained the same. Just like Friday night’s affair, Saturday’s concluded with a 2-1 loss for the RailRiders to the Louisville Bats, but this time in extra innings (10).
BONUS BASEBALL: The loss dropped the RailRiders into a tie for the IL’s worst record in free baseball. SWB fell to the same 2-5 mark that Louisville improved to on Saturday. The RailRiders’ longest extra-inning game of the season is currently in suspended limbo. The team is set to resume play at the start of the 12th inning when it next visits Syracuse on Aug. 6.
EXTRA, EXTRA!: Three of Louisville’s 11 base hits went for extra bases, and each of them made an impact. The Bats’ first run came when Denis Phipps connected on his first full-season triple since Aug. 18, 2011 at Indianapolis, and scored when Felix Perez blooped Huff’s next pitch into left-center. In the 10th, Mike Hessman hammered a double and after Phipps sacrificed, Perez delivered a ground-rule double.
ALL OR NOTHING: On the other side, the RailRiders’ lone run came on a homer for a second straight day when Randy Ruiz collected his 11th of the year in the bottom of the second. Ruiz has played in just 32 games, amassing 122 at-bats en route to his power number. If he had enough plate appearances (2.7/team game) to qualify among the IL leaders, Ruiz’s AB/HR ratio (11.1:1) would lead the loop.
ONE-RUN = NO FUN: The setback also lowered the RailRiders’ record in single-score affairs to a slim 11-18 (.379). Only the team’s next foe, Toledo (13-24, .351), has endured less frequent success with the slimmest of margins.
HUFF STUFF: After suffering his worst outing as a RailRider on July 12 and hitting the DL thereafter, southpaw David Huff rebounded in a big way last night. The former UCLA Bruin allowed just one run over six innings and struck out a season-high-tying seven. He threw 103 pitches (65 strikes) and retired seven of the final eight he faced.
NO. 13: In his third game during the Triple-A leg of his minor league rehab assignment, Alex Rodriguez went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. No. 13 had his best chance to help his current club in his final plate appearance. Louisville pitching had retired 13 in a row entering the eighth inning when Walter Ibarra worked a leadoff walk. An error and an out later, the RailRiders had Ibarra at third base with one out when Jose Diaz (2-4) emerged from the bullpen and got A-Rod to swing and miss at a payoff pitch. Rodriguez was originally scheduled to play third base, but was moved to the DH role before the game commenced. In 13 rehab games spread over stints at all four full-season levels, he has hit .200 (8-for-40) with two homers, eight RBIs and 12 strikeouts.
THE HOT CORNER: In the game of lineup musical chairs, usual first baseman Dan Johnson wound up getting the nod at third base for the third time with SWB. David Adams, who has seen most of his time this year in the minors and the bigs at third, remained at his more natural second base where he started for a fifth straight game. He had only started at second three times in his first 31 SWB games.
MILLER TIME: Right-hander Jim Miller fired two scoreless innings in bridging the way from Huff to the ninth inning. He has not allowed a run in seven of his last eight outings and has been outstanding since suffering two tough appearances against Pawtucket at the start of the season. Two games into 2013, he had an ERA of 40.50, a batting average against of .455 and had whiffed 4.5/9 IP. In 27 appearances and 44 innings since, he has posted a 2.45 ERA, a .221 contact clip against and has averaged 13.1 K/9 IP. His season-long K/9 IP rate (12.72) ranks third among IL relievers.