Porcupine Points – August 24
EL CAPITÁN: Derek Jeter walked and scored while looking much smoother defensively. His presence led to a capacity crowd of 10,000 fans and the RailRiders delivered for their throng under the mountain with a 4-1 defeat of the PawSox. The Yankees captain has now gone 3-for-15 (.200) with five walks (.400 OBP) in six games as a RailRider. He finished last night 0-for-3 with a walk, a strikeout and a groundball double play. He alertly darted home for a run on a Brock Huntzinger wild pitch in the seventh inning.
HIGHLIGHT MOMENTS: J.R. Murphy drove in two, but pitching stole the show. Caleb Cotham tossed 6.1 shutout innings to run his record to 6-5. Since the All-Star break, he is 4-0 with a 1.83 ERA.
BULLISH ‘PEN: Behind Cotham, Dellin Betances and Jim Miller brought SWB one out short of its league-best 13th shutout. Both men have dominated since rough beginnings to the year. Betances had a 6.00 ERA as a starter, but has owned the IL since moving to the bullpen in early May. In that role, he is 4-2 with four saves in as many tries and a 1.46 ERA. He has struck out 75 men in 55.1 innings (12.2/9 IP) while holding the league to a .165 average as a reliever. Last night he was charged with an IL run for the first time since June 16 at Lehigh Valley. Miller, who had an ERA over 40 following two tough appearances against Pawtucket to begin the year, has dominated since (2.02 ERA, .206 BAA). Last night, he earned his team-leading sixth save. He ranks third among IL relievers with 13.2K/9 IP and has held lefties to a .153 average with 49 strikeouts in 98 at-bats. Lefties hit .136 against him in the big leagues last season with Oakland.
THE FIX IS IN: The RailRiders posted their fourth full capacity crowd of 10,000 and their 23rd fixed-seat sellout of the season last night. Six of the fixed-seat sellouts have come with Jeter in the lineup for a cumulative paid crowd of 57,265 (9,544/game). PNC Field has 7,115 fixed seats. When factoring in the NEPA Honda Homer Zone (lawn seats) and standing-room maximums, capacity for the first-year facility is 10,000. Thursday night’s crowd brought the franchise’s season-long attendance figure over 400,000 for the first time since 2008.
A TRUE MUSTY: Ronnier Mustelier, SWB’s lone entrant into MiLB’s annual Moniker Madness contest for the best name in minor league baseball, has also been the team’s best bat of late. Last night he went 2-for-4 with a double and a run scored. He has hit safely in 11 straight games and has multiple knocks in each of his last six. Over his longer string of success, he has hit .475 (19-for-40) with five doubles, five RBIs and six walks (.543 OBP). That makes for Triple-A’s top OBP and second-best average in that time (Alex Presley, Indianapolis, .500). During his streak, his average has soared by 34 points (.233-.267) and his on-base percentage has shot up 41 points (.273-.314).
STANDINGS SNAPSHOT: Thanks to some out-of-town help, last night’s win kept the RailRiders’ elimination number in both the division and wild-card chase at three. Rochester blew a 6-1 ninth-inning lead as Lucas May hit a game-tying grand slam and Travis Snider’s sac fly plated Presley as the go-ahead tally in a 7-6 Indianapolis win. The Red Wings have lost three in a row while Indy trimmed its magic number to one in the IL West. Last night also saw Syracuse crush Charlotte, 8-1, to stay even with the RailRiders in the IL North’s cellar. The RailRiders have not sat in sixth by their lonesome since starting the year 1-5. Pawtucket has won five of six and 11 of 13 to own first in the North by a half-game.
OFF THE RAILS: The RailRiders, who lead the IL with 122 home runs, have not homered in a season-high five straight games…Jeremy Hazelbaker continued his season-long success against SWB pitching…He went 2-for-4 with a double and a run scored…He has hit .381 (16-for-42)/.409/.690/1.100 with six extra-base hits and nine RBIs in 10 games against the RailRiders…He has hit .252 against every other IL team…Last night’s game needed just 2:31 from first pitch to final out…The only shorter meeting between these two clubs this season – the July 1 contest at McCoy won by Pawtucket, 1-0…Steven Wright tossed a complete game that day…That game, which went 2:27, included a 22-minute rain delay at the start…David Huff was the tough-luck loser that day thanks to an unearned run.