Porcupine Points – August 30
ABOUT LAST NIGHT: After a a 78-minute rain delay pushed back the start of the final home game at PNC Field, the RailRider offense proved to be unphased by the game-time rain, as they pounced on Lehigh Valley with a four-run first inning that was the result of three home runs. J.R. Murphy began the homer parade with his second round tripper in as many games, and Ronnier Mustelier followed with a home run that sailed over the left-field bullpens. With Brent Lillibridge aboard at first base, Neil Medchill capped the inning with his first home run at the Triple-A level. The offense went quiet until the eighth inning, when they added five more runs. Two walks and a hit batter aided run-scoring singles by Jose Gil and Bobby Wilson. The eighth-inning burst gave the game its final margin of 9-2 in favor of SWB.
FINALLY DOUBLE-DIGITS: All-Star right-hander Chris Bootcheck earned his ninth win of the season on July 13, his final start before tossing two scoreless frames in the Triple-A Mid-Summer showcase. He proceeded to make seven starts without a victory, until last night. Bootcheck was lifted with two outs in the top of the sixth, and his bullpen held the lead to ensure his 10th triumph in his final scheduled start of the campaign. Bootcheck last posted double-digit wins in 2004 when he was with the Triple-A Salt Lake City Bees in the Angels system. That year he won 11 contests, and hurled 163.1 innings.
BACK-TO-BACK JACKS: Murphy and Mustelier combined to go back-to-back last night in the bottom of the first. It marked the fifth time this season that two RailRiders have hit consecutive home runs. Murphy was a part of the last occurrence on Aug. 13, when he and Corey Patterson both homered at PNC Field against the Charlotte Knights.
NO MORE DAN THE MAN: SWB’s leader in home runs and runs batted in, Dan Johnson, was granted his release from the New York Yankees organization prior to the start of yesterday’s game. Johnson was signed by the Baltimore Orioles earlier today, and is expected to join Triple-A Norfolk with an eye on making the September roster for the Orioles. Johnson blasted 21 home runs and drove in 69 while posting a .379 on-base percentage.
SECOND WIND: On Aug. 19, it appeared fatigue was beginning to set in for prospect catcher J.R. Murphy. His batting average had dropped to .259, its lowest point with significant at-bats since he was promoted to SWB on June 13. Since that 0-4 performance against Lehigh Valley, he has hit safely in seven of the past eight games (11-32, 2HR, 5RBI, 6R). His batting average now stands at .271 with the RailRiders, and he’s combined to hit 12 home runs between SWB and Double-A Trenton. Murphy played as the DH for just the second time with SWB last night.
SURGING TOWARDS THE BIGS: With another scoreless performance last night, right-hander Jim Miller brought his earned run average below two since his rough pair of outings to begin the season. Miller has posted an ERA of 1.97 since April 7, and has a strikeout rate of 13.5 per nine innings. Miller spent most of last season in the bigs with Oakland, and may very well be on his way to another big league stint. Miller has not allowed an earned run out of the ‘pen since July 26 when the RailRiders were in Louisville.
OFF THE RAILS: The RailRiders have now won three games in a row against divisional competition. Prior to the recent success, they hadn’t won consecutive games against divisional foes 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…Ronnier Mustelier has crushed Lehigh Valley pitching…While he only went 1-4 last night, that included a solo home run in the first inning., He has hit .410 (16-for-39)/.452/.627/1.119 against the ‘Pigs.