Bollinger keeps RailRiders alive

Yanks left-hander strikes out six over 5 2/3 scoreless innings

Ryan Bollinger gave up one run on four hits over 11 1/3 innings in two postseason appearances. (Andy Grosh/

By Bob Sutton / Special to | September 14, 2018 10:36 PM

MOOSIC, Pa. -- Ryan Bollinger has pitched around the world, but he might not have had a more meaningful appearance on the mound than Friday night.

He helped keep the season alive for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre with 5 2/3 scoreless innings in Game 4 of the Governors' Cup Finals as the RailRiders beat Durham, 5-2, at PNC Field to force a winner-take-all showdown in the best-of-5 series.

Video: Bollinger picks up his sixth K for the RailRiders

"That's what everybody plays for is to pitch in a big-time game to keep us alive," Bollinger said. "That was a huge moment."

Bollinger, 27, wasn't in an affiliated league from 2014-17. Last year, the left-hander pitched in Germany and Australia before latching on with the Yankees organization.

"Working my way back in a unique way," he said.

So for a player who was drafted as a first baseman in 2009, he stuck with it and has found rewards.

Gameday box score

Bollinger had a pair of stints with the big club this year but did not appear in a Major League game. While he said the callups are the most rewarding part of his professional career, being on the mound when his team faced elimination was as good as it gets on the field. Perhaps it opened eyes for another shot at the Majors.

"Hopefully soon," he said. "When you play baseball, that's the ultimate goal."

Most of his work this year came with Double-A Trenton. Friday was just his fifth outing with the RailRiders, and two of those came in April.

"This was a Game 5 for us -- we had to win," Scranton/Wilkes-Barre manager Bobby Mitchell said. "He came out sharp. You could see it in the first inning [with fastball command]. He's so competitive, like all the guys out there. It looked like he took it upon himself to really raise his level."

Bollinger gave up three hits and a walk while striking out six.

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"He's just deceptive and has a sneaky fastball," Durham manager Jared Sandberg said. "The fastball is on you."

Bollinger struck out the last two batters he faced after giving up a leadoff double to Rob Refsnyder in the sixth, fanning Austin Meadows and Joe McCarthy. Raynel Espinal punched out Brandon Snyder to end the inning.

"That's why Bollinger's job was so good," Mitchell said. "He kept lefties at bay for the most part. He just ran out of gas."

Gio Urshela launched a first-inning home run off Bulls starter Zach Lee, who hadn't pitched since the regular-season finale on Sept. 3.

The big blow was Mike Ford's three-run blast in the fifth, coming one batter after Urshela was intentionally walked. It was his second long ball of the series after hitting only three in August.

After scoring in only two innings across the first three games of the series, the RailRiders tallied in three of the first five frames Friday.

MiLB include

The Bulls got on the board in the seventh on Kean Wong's two-out single. But with two runners on, Refsnyder's fly ball to deep right field was hauled in by Zack Zehner.

Durham brought the potential tying run to in the eighth following an RBI single by Rays No. 13 prospect Nathaniel Lowe, but Joe Harvey came out of the RailRiders bullpen and retired Micah Johnson on a fielder's choice and Jake Cronenworth on a fly ball to left. Harvey worked around a leadoff single in the ninth for the save.

Game 5 is set Saturday at 4:05 p.m. ET, with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre playing at home as the visiting team due to Hurricane Florence. Domingo German will pitch for the RailRiders and Kyle Bird will start for Durham on what's being described as a bullpen day.

Bob Sutton is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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