Durham, N.C. - The SWB RailRiders (Triple-A/New York Yankees) saw a seventh-inning grand slam prove pivotal in a 6-3 loss to the host Durham Bulls (Tampa Bay Rays) on Saturday night in a battle of the IL's two best teams. The RailRiders (76-43) lost for just the second time in nine games, both overall and on the road, while the Bulls (73-46) posted their IL-best 41st home win.
Starter Brady Lail set the tone for SWB with one of his most dominant starts this season. He gave up just one run on four hits over six frames. He struck out four and walked none on 84 pitches (53 strikes).
Ji-Man Choi gave the RailRiders a lead with his 13th Triple-A home run of the year, a two-out solo shot to right in the fifth. Jake Hager's two-out single plated Taylor Featherston in the home half of the inning to forge a 1-1 deadlock.
In the top of the sixth, Donovan Solano homered over the blue monster wall in left-center for a 2-1 SWB edge. Later that same inning, Billy McKinney 's run-scoring single made for a 3-1 advantage.
Durham would respond. Tyler Jones entered the game to start the seventh and saw the first four hitters he faced reach and score. Featherston capped off the surge with a grand slam that gave Durham the lead for good. In the eighth, Patrick Leonard added a solo shot off the Bull sign in left field.
Reliever Andrew Kittredge (6-1) tossed two scoreless innings for the win. Diego Castillo worked around a McKinney base hit in a scoreless ninth for his fourth save. Jones (6-4) suffered the loss and his fifth blown save.
The four-game series concludes at 5:05 p.m. on Sunday evening. SWB is slated to start IL All-Star Caleb Smith (9-1, 2.39) against right-hander Brent Honeywell (11-7, 3.74). The RailRiders return home on Tuesday, Aug. 15 to host the Gwinnett Braves (Atlanta Braves) at 7:05 p.m. The Two Dollar Tuesday sports $2 lawn tickets and $2 tallboys, available every Tuesday during the 2017 season. For tickets or more information, please call 570-969-BALL (2255) or visit swbrailriders.com.
OFF THE RAILS:
Billy McKinney posted a 2-for-4 night with an RBI. He has hit .336 as a RailRider this season.
The RailRiders played error-free baseball for the 11th time in 12 games.
Jake Cave went 2-for-4, lifting his Triple-A average to .352.
The RailRiders need to go 16-6 over their final 22 games to break the franchise's single-season wins record of 91 set by the 2002 Red Barons and tied by the 2016 RailRiders. If this year's club reaches 90 victories, it would break the single-season franchise record for winning percentage set by last year's team (91-52, .636).
Four Durham pitchers combined to post 13 strikeouts. The RailRiders have struck out 44 times through three games on the series.
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This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.