Despite some major subtractions during the stretch drive, the Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders never stopped shutting down the competition.
The Yankees affiliate clinched its second straight International League North Division title Thursday -- the 11th in its history -- with a 6-1 win over the Buffalo Bisons at Coca-Cola Field.
The circuit's top pitching staff with a 3.00 team ERA delivered once again. Starter Phil Coke (5-3) surrendered a run on seven hits and a pair of walks while fanning six over six frames. Tyler Webb and Johnny Barbato combined on three scoreless innings of relief, running the RailRiders relievers' streak of shutout frames to 20.
Despite using 21 different starting pitchers over the course of the season, the staff set a franchise record with a Minor League-high 24 shutouts, shattering the previous mark of 16 set in 2009.
"I have to give a lot of credit to the pitching staff. The pitching coach, Tommy Phelps, has done such a great job of teaching the kids how to perform and how to keep the game plan throughout the game," Scranton/Wilkes-Barre manager Al Pedrique said. "The pitching staff has done a great job of keeping us in close games and giving us an opportunity to come back and win games with our big offense."
The RailRiders offense saw similar turnover. In the last month alone, three of the top four hitters -- No. 4 Yankees prospect Aaron Judge, No. 5 Gary Sanchez and outfielder Tyler Austin -- were promoted to the big leagues. On Wednesday, leadoff man and IL MVP Ben Gamel was dealt to Seattle.
Rather than harm the club, however, Pedrique said the departures seemed to inspire other players to step up. No. 23 Yankees prospect Mason Williams -- back from shoulder surgery that caused him to miss much of the season -- hit .328 in August. Veteran infielder Donovan Solano leads the league with 158 hits while his team-leading 66 RBIs have helped fill the run-producing roles vacated by Austin and Sanchez.
The result for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (87-52) has been the second-most wins in franchise history, a total that matches the Phillies' Double-A affiliate Reading for most in the Minors.
"It wasn't easy to lose Gary Sanchez, Aaron Judge and Tyler Austin," Pedrique said. "But the way we continued to play the game and win games was amazing. The guys never stopped believing in themselves, working as a team and doing the little things to contribute and be able to compete each day."
In other clinchings action:
Pacific Coast League
Although Tacoma locked up the Pacific North Division with Reno's 3-1 loss to Sacramento earlier in the night, the Rainiers fought their way to a 2-1 win over the Grizzlies in 14 innings early Friday morning. Ryan Strausborger plated James Ramsey with the winning run. Box score
Bakersfield clinched the North Division with a 5-1 win over San Jose. The division crown was scored 10 days after the announcement that the Mariners' Class A Advanced affiliate will cease operations at the end of the 2016 season. Game story
Clinton held on to edge Burlington, 5-4, which allowed the LumberKings to clinch the Western Division's second-half crown since Cedar Rapids also dropped a 4-1 decision to Wisconsin. Clinton already had claimed the division's first-half title. Box score
New York-Penn League
Hudson Valley defeated visiting Vermont, 3-2, to wrap up the New York-Penn League McNamara Division. The Renegades sport the circuit's top pitching staff with a 2.55 combined ERA led by league ERA leader Travis Ott (1.06). Box score
Eugene added the South Division second-half title to its first-half crown after a 4-0 blanking of Tri-City was followed by Hillsboro's 5-2 loss to Spokane. The Emeralds lead all short-season affiliates with 53 combined wins. Box score