Toledo, Ohio - The script has been flipped. The Toledo Mud Hens (Detroit Tigers) were the lone IL team playing below .300 baseball and owned a league-worst .220 team batting average when the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (Triple-A/New York Yankees) RailRiders arrived at Fifth Third Field on Monday. Dave Miley's team was the best in the minors on the road at the time to boot. On Thursday night, the Mud Hens beat the RailRiders for a third straight day, 4-1. The RailRiders' season-worst fifth straight loss dropped them to just a game above .500 at 20-19. The Mud Hens' season-best fourth consecutive victory lifted their record to 14-28.
SWB starter Chien-Ming Wang (2-3) was hit often and hard, allowing a dozen hits over 6.2 innings for his third loss. That said, the RailRiders had abundant opportunities, but left a dozen men on base and went 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position.
The Mud Hens plated single tallies in the second, third, fourth and seventh, all against Wang. Brad Davis' sacrifice fly made it 1-0 in the second. Back-to-back doubles by Argenis Diaz and Ramon Cabrera made it 2-0 an inning later while Jordan Lennerton's RBI singles in the fifth and seventh rounded out the scoring.
The RailRiders' lone run came on a first-pitch homer by Melky Mesa, his fifth of the year, leading off the seventh inning. The run-scoring threat was just beginning though, as hits by Jeff Farnham and Corban Joseph chased starter Derek Hankins (1-2). Brayan Villareal entered and struck out Brennan Boesch, but walked Zoilo Almonte to load the bases. Alas, Ronnier Mustelier grounded out to short to leave the bases loaded.
Three clean baserunners on two singles and a walk amounted to no runs in the eighth. With two on and nobody out, Mesa grounded a ball to former SWB regular Kevin Russo. The third baseman hit his bag for one and made a great throw to Gustavo Nunez at second. But Thomas Neal's slide forced Nunez to lose the ball on the transfer for a unique 5-4 fielder's-choice double play. Without that slide, Neal's third disruptive submarine of the series, it appeared Toledo had a chance at turning a triple play.
In the ninth, closer Bruce Rondon hit Joseph with a pitch to begin the inning. But three straight outs followed as the hard-throwing closer bolted down his team-leading eighth save in nine tries.
Right-hander Graham Stoneburner (2-2, 3.00) is scheduled to start Friday's series finale. Toledo's originally scheduled starter, southpaw Casey Crosby, was scratched due to soreness. In his place, usual reliever Luke Putkonen (1-0, 1.89) will make his first start of the season. He is no stranger to the starting bump, with 84 career nods entering 2013. But he has thrown just 21.2 innings this year between Toledo and Detroit.
First pitch is scheduled for 7 p.m. with pregame coverage starting at 6:30 p.m. on NEPA Sports Radio - The GAME, Northeast PA's largest sports radio network: 100.7 FM, 1340 WYCK-AM, 1400 WICK-AM, 1440 WCDL-AM and 106.7 FM. The Voice of the RailRiders, John Sadak, will be on the call.
OFF THE RAILS:
Toledo entered the series at a league-worst 11-28 (.282) overall, while the RailRiders boasted the best road record in minor league baseball at 12-2 (.857).
The Mud Hens entered the series hitting a league-worst .220 while averaging 3.26 runs/game. They have plated 26 runs through three games (8.7/game) on the series while hitting .390 (41-for-105) including 13 extra-base hits.
Brennan Boesch physically joined the team for the first time and went 0-for-5 with a strikeout in his RailRiders' debut. He was assigned No. 32.
Another RailRider is on his way to the show. Recently-converted reliever Dellin Betances was recalled by the Yankees before the game. Brett Marshall, who made his Major League debut on Wednesday night, was optioned back in a corresponding move.
Vidal Nuno will rejoin the RailRiders' rotation. He is scheduled to start Saturday's series opener in Columbus.
In addition to Toledo flirting with a triple play, the contest sported another unique twin killing. In the home third with men at the corners and one out, Toledo's leading run producer Danny Dorn grounded a ball to Dan Johnson at first base. After a quick survey of his options, Johnson stepped on first and fired a strike to Jeff Farnham at home plate. The catcher's swipe tag got a sliding Ramon Cabrera for an inning-ending 3-2 double play.
Farnham was a last-second addition to the starting lineup. Bobby Wilson was a late scratch from the original order.
Mark Montgomery recorded a strikeout in 1.1 innings of scoreless relief. The 22-year-old right-hander also stranded two inherited runners. In 12 appearances and 20 innings of work this season, the former Longwood University star has recorded 27 strikeouts (12.2 / 9 IP) and has held the IL to a .200 batting average.
- SWB RailRiders - All Aboard! -