Porcupine Points – August 27

ELIMINATION DAY: There are tough losses, and then there’s what happened to the RailRiders on Monday night at McCoy Stadium. Corey Patterson bombed a first-inning solo homer to stake his team to a 1-0 lead. In the bottom of the frame, RailRiders starter Brett Marshall allowed a leadoff hit that made contact with Addison Maruszak’s glove at second base. Marshall then retired 17 in a row en route to seven scoreless innings of two-hit ball. In that time, he struck out a career-high-tying nine and put his team in prime position to win. Then came the ninth. Following a perfect eighth, lefty reliever Cesar Cabral loaded the bases with nobody out. Jim Miller was then given the nearly impossible task of solving that jammed riddle. He gave up a run on a Ryan Lavarnway sac fly that advanced both lead runners and set the stage for Mark Hamilton. The PawSox cleanup man delivered.  He lashed a single to right that scored Jackie Bradley, Jr. and handed the RailRiders both a walk-off loss and the formal death of their playoff aspirations.

THE BIG PICTURE: Sunday’s setback officially eliminated the RailRiders from repeating as IL North champs. Last night’s loss meant not only no chance at a wild-card berth, but coupled with Syracuse’s 15-5 domination of Rochester, it also dropped the RailRiders into sixth place. SWB had not sat in last by itself since starting the year 1-5. The franchise has not finished in last since 1998. The team had only missed the playoffs once (2011) since becoming a Yankees farm club in 2007. The 2011 team still finished with a winning record (73-69) in third place. Pawtucket has won eight of nine and 14 of 16 to own the North by 3.5 games. Rochester has dropped six straight and ownership of the wild-card lead thanks to Norfolk’s 13-1 pounding of Gwinnett.

BEST WEEK EVER: 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. And for his efforts from Aug. 15-21, he was named the IL’s Batter of the Week on Monday. Last night he went 0-for-4 with a strikeout to snap the league’s then-top active hitting streak at 13 games. He had multiple knocks in six of seven at the close of his run. Over his longer string of success, he hit .458 (22-for-48) with six doubles, five RBIs and seven walks (.527 OBP). That made for Triple-A’s second-best average in that time (Alex Presley, Indianapolis, .500). During his streak, his average soared by 37 points (.233-.270) and his on-base percentage shot up 45 points (.273-.318).

SHUT OUT STARS: Earlier today, the IL announced its year-end All-Star squad and superlatives. No RailRiders made the squad that was highlighted by former indy baller Chris Colabello of Rochester who claimed both MVP and Rookie of the Year honors. In his second season after seven years in the indy ranks, the first baseman leads the league in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging. Durham’s J.D. Martin, who leads the league and has set a franchise single-season record for wins, took Most Valuable Pitching accolades. Martin’s skipper, former SWB player Charlie Montoyo, was named the IL’s Manager of the Year. His Bulls boast Triple-A’s best record entering today. The rest of the squad: C Tony Sanchez, Indianapolis; 2B Cesar Hernandez, Lehigh Valley; SS Zach Walters, Syracuse; 3B Cody Asche, Lehigh Valley; OF Nick Castellanos, Toledo; OF Billy Hamilton, Louisville; OF Joey Terdoslavich, Gwinnett; DH Mauro Gomez, Buffalo; Reliever Jairo Ascencio, Norfolk; and UTIL Vince Belnome, Durham.

OFF THE RAILS: The RailRiders, who lead the IL with 124 home runs, have slammed 17 home runs during their seven games at McCoy Stadium…Thirteen of the dingers have come in their three wins…Last night’s loss cemented a losing season for the RailRiders…Even if they win out, the best they can do is finish at 71-73…Brett Marshall‘s career-high-tying nine strikeouts came one year to the day from the last time he turned the trick…That transpired in a team 3-2 win for Double-A Trenton at Akron (Cleveland Indians)…Former RailRider Thomas Neal notched a pinch-hit single that game for Akron and Davis Stoneburner, brother of today’s SWB starter Graham, doubled off of Marshall…Trenton’s starting lineup included six 2013 RailRiders: Adonis Garcia, J.R. Murphy, Zoilo Almonte, Luke Murton, Addison Maruszak and Kevin MahoneyMark Montgomery got the win while Ryan Pope logged a save.

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