Porcupine Points – August 4
PICKET FENCE: Single scores in five of the game’s first six innings let Lehigh Valley leap out to a 5-0 lead en route to a 5-1 loss for the RailRiders last night.
DAN THE MAN: The lone SWB score came courtesy of a Dan Johnson home run, his team-leading 18th of the year. It came on a 3-for-3 night with a walk to boot. Johnson suffered through a 6-for-57 (.105) slump from July 9-26 that lowered his average by 23 points (.253-.232). Since then, he has gone 13-for-32 (.406) over his last eight games with six extra-base hits and six RBIs. He has hit safely in six straight including homers in each of his last two. The team’s leader in taters and RBIs (58) has the IL’s second-highest walk total (74), one that places him in the top 10 of all the minors (T-9th).
FALLING BEHIND: With Rochester’s stunning surprise of Syracuse last night, the RailRiders have lost more ground. The Red Wings answered a five-spot with the same in the 10th thanks to a Chris Clement two-out game-tying grand slam en route to a 7-6 win in 12 innings. SWB stands 7.0 games out in the IL North and in fifth place. The club has not been more than 7.0 games back since it turned a 14.5-game deficit on June 28 into a 5.0-game hole on July 14. Three of the five teams in front of the RailRiders in the wild-card chase claimed victory last night, as did the two teams just 1.0 and 2.0 games back of them.
GREEK GOD: Adonis Garcia went 0-for-4 with a strikeout and a groundball double play as the team’s three-hole hitter last night, snapping the team’s then-longest active hitting streak at nine games. It marks just the third time in 23 games with SWB that the Cuban defector has gone hitless.
C.C.: Southpaw Cesar Cabral joined the team from Double-A Trenton yesterday and enjoyed a sensational Triple-A debut. He retired all four batters he faced, whiffing three of them, and delivering strikes with 10 of his 15 pitches. An international free agent signee by Boston in July 2005, he was twice taken in the Rule 5 draft (Tampa Bay, 2010; Kansas City, 2011). The Royals traded him to the Yankees for cash, but after challenging for a bullpen spot with the Yanks, he missed last season with injury (stress fracture/left elbow). Cabral had hurled at two levels this season, working in relief for Advanced-A Tampa (5G, 0-0-0/0, 2.75) and Double-A Trenton (15G, 1-0-0/1, 5.49).
DEMEL DOMINATION: Before Cabral closed things out, Sam Demel bridged the way with one of his better showings of the season. Demel struck out the first four he faced during 1.2 innings of his own perfect baseball. He was also in the zone exceedingly often, firing 13 of his 17 pitches for a strike.
IRONRAIL TROPHY: On June 13, the RailRiders and IronPigs announced that they will be playing for the “IronRail Trophy”. The 16-game series between the RailRiders and IronPigs will decide the winner. The loser will sing in a fat lady costume on the winner’s field, and a feast will be paid for by the losing team as well. The trophy will be held by the winning team, displayed for all to see. Last night tipped the 2013 series to the ‘Pigs, 4-3. Scranton/Wilkes-Barre owns a 51-36 lead in the all-time series dating back to Lehigh Valley’s inaugural 2008 season. The two clubs split the season series in 2012. In the event of future 8-8 ties, the club that wins the final regular-season meeting will also claim the IronRail Trophy.
THE MELK MAN: Earlier today, Melky Mesa reported to SWB after being optioned down by the Yankees. He saw time in five games during his recent stay with the Bombers, he hit .385 (5-for-13) with two doubles, an RBI and two runs scored. He has not played for the RailRiders since July 19 versus Louisville. Today, he is set to lead off for the sixth time this season. He has an OBP of .304 as the leadoff man, but just .277 overall thanks to seven total walks.