Porcupine Points – August 29
TIGHTROPE WALKING: The RailRiders’ only deficit on Wednesday night was a 1-0 margin that lasted for the opening half-inning. But a dominant showing by Lehigh Valley’s bullpen, which retired 13 in a row from late in the seventh until the start of the 12th, put victory in significant peril for a squad that has struggled to manufacture runs. Then came that 12th, an extra-base hit, and some good fortune. Prospect catcher J.R. Murphy notched his third hit of the night, all for extra bases, when his double snapped the string at 13 straight set down. A Justin Friend (5-4) wild pitch gave him third and a Steve Lerud passed ball opened the door for Murphy to score as the RailRiders and Matt Daley (2-2) won, 5-4.
COTHAM CITY: Starter Caleb Cotham settled for a no-decision, but tossed another outstanding game. Two of the three runs he allowed went unearned thanks to his own errant pickoff tries. But with last night’s five frames, Cotham has made six August starts going 3-0 with a 1.25 ERA in the process. He entered the month 3-5 with a 6.75 mark.
IRONRAIL TROPHY: On June 13, the RailRiders and IronPigs announced that they will be playing for the “IronRail Trophy” on an annual basis. The 16-game series between the RailRiders and IronPigs will decide the winner. The losing team’s GM 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. The 2013 series currently favors the ‘Pigs, 7-6. SWB owns a 54-39 lead in the all-time series dating back to Lehigh Valley’s inaugural 2008 season. Lehigh Valley has only once won a season series against SWB, and did so by the slimmest of margins when it went 9-7 against NEPA’s team in 2010. The two clubs split the season series in 2012. In the event of 8-8 ties, the club that wins the final regular-season meeting will also claim the IronRail Trophy.
PLAYER PARADE: Last night, catcher Jose Gil became the 71st different RailRider this season. There have been 37 position players and 34 pitchers in the RailRiders colors in 2013. Last season, Norfolk set the IL record by using 75 different players, surpassing the 74 used by the 2003 Louisville Bats. The Tides also tied an IL record by using 25 different starting pitchers, and 15 different pitchers registered a save. Norfolk made 228 roster moves during the course of its 144-game season, and the Tides had just two players – outfielder Jamie Hoffmann and reliever Oscar Villarreal – remain active with the club throughout the year. By comparison, the RailRiders have seen 184 roster moves thus far, 19 different starting pitchers, and 14 different pitchers have registered a save. That does not include any moves that might be made today after press time of these notes. Only three men – Dan Johnson, Jim Miller and Bobby Wilson have been active RailRiders from Opening Day to date without interruption.
OFF THE RAILS: Last night’s win gave the RailRiders consecutive successes against divisional competition for the first time since sweeping a July 13 twinbill at Buffalo in the final series before the All-Star break…The team went 24 straight divisional games without consecutive wins…SWB spoiled a bases-loaded, one-out opportunity in a scoreless sixth last night…With its 0-for-2 bases-loaded performance last night, the team has hit just .171 with the bases full, by far the worst such contact clip in the IL…The next-worst number belongs to Toledo (.236)…Randy Ruiz picked up an RBI with his fifth-inning fielder’s choice, but went 0-for-5 to extend his hitless streak to 17 at-bats…Ronnier Mustelier has crushed Lehigh Valley pitching…With last night’s 3-for-6 performance that included a pair of doubles, he has hit .429 (15-for-35)/.459/.629/1.088 against the ‘Pigs…Before the game, the Yankees placed Melky Mesa on the RailRiders’ DL, retroactive to Aug. 26…Mesa has not played since Aug. 22…The corresponding move added Gil, an SWB player in 2011 and 2012…Gil had been a Yankees’ farmhand from his start in pro ball in 2004-2012, but spent this season split between Double-A and Triple-A on Baltimore’s farm, along with a stint in the independent ranks with the Lincoln (Neb.) Saltdogs before he joined Double-A Trenton to add catching depth…Nine of SWB’s 16 extra-inning games have come from July 20 to date with 24 innings above and beyond scheduled play during that time.