Porcupine Points – August 15
OPPORTUNITY LOST: On a surprisingly cool August evening at PNC Field, everything was there for victory. All-Star starter Chris Bootcheck composed a symphonic start of seven scoreless innings. The offense grabbed the lead in the very first inning. And a capable bullpen bridged the way to one of the RailRiders’ top relievers in the ninth. But Mike Zagurski was tagged with a pair of runs in that ninth, one with two outs despite a play at the plate, and two more in the 10th as the Charlotte Knights roared back to defeat the RailRiders, 4-2.
FALLING FROM AHEAD: The RailRiders’ 12th loss in 16 games was just their second of the season when leading after eight innings. Only first-place Rochester (54-0) and last-place Syracuse (36-1) have fewer losses in such circumstances in the IL. SWB has led at some point in 29 of its 66 setbacks on the season.
UNLUCKY NO. 13: The RailRiders’ 13th extra-inning game of the season saw them fall to 6-7 in free baseball. Seven of those longer-than-scheduled affairs have come since July 12 over a span of 31 games.
ROSTER MOVES: Earlier today, the New York Yankees purchased David Huff‘s contract and optioned Dellin Betances back to the RailRiders. Huff is expected to join the Yankees bullpen after starting all but one of his 13 outings with SWB. He departs with losses in three straight starts, but has endured a tough-luck campaign. He went 1-6-1 despite a 3.84 ERA. He pitched once in relief for the Yankees back on May 26 at Tampa Bay. Betances made his lone appearance for the big club on Tuesday night against the Angels, logging a pair of outs in the Yanks’ 14-7 win. He threw one pitch before a 26-minute rain delay disrupted his appearance. Since shifting to SWB’s bullpen in May, Betances owns a 1.48 Triple-A ERA and a .169 batting average against. He departed SWB without allowing a run since June 16 against Lehigh Valley, a span of 17 outings and 30 innings.
BACK ON TRACK: Dan Johnson delivered two hits last night and an RBI. He entered the game in an 0-for-10 funk on the homestand and 3-for-19 over his prior six games. Despite the rough go of late, the former Charlotte Knight has enjoyed his best month of the season, hitting .319/.418/.617/1.035.
PITCHING POINTS: Bootcheck fired seven innings for the fourth time this season, tying him with now-Buffalo Bisons right-hander Chien-Ming Wang for the most such starts on the season. He fell short of securing his team-leading 10th win, but continued his shutout string against the Knights. He has tossed 13 scoreless innings against Charlotte, allowing just five hits (.116 BAA). Matt Daley maintained the donut with a perfect eighth inning for his fourth hold. He has only allowed an earned run in four of his 23 appearances with the RailRiders and has not allowed one in eight outings and 9.2 innings since taking his lone loss against Louisville on July 20.
THE MELK MAN: Melky Mesa led the International League last week with 12 hits, three homers, 11 RBIs and seven runs scored en route to Batter of the Week honors on Monday. He also finished second in the loop with both a .429 batting average and a .857 slugging percentage. He collected multiple hits five times in the week, including each game from Thursday through Sunday. It marked his first assembly of four straight multi-hit performances since a Sept. 2-4, 2011 run that included a doubleheader with Double-A Trenton. Last night, he enjoyed another multi-hit performance as he went 2-for-5. In 10 games since rejoining the team earlier this month, Mesa has hit .333 (14-for-42)/.364/.619/.983 with six extra-base hits and 12 RBIs in just 10 games.
GOING GONZO: Alberto Gonzalez hit his first Triple-A home run of the season, a fifth-inning solo shot off of Jason Berken. He already had one in the bigs, an April 14 solo job for the Cubs against the Giants.