“But I’m not gonna let ’em catch me, no,
Not gonna let ’em catch the Midnight Rider.”
-Allman Brothers Band
After a Midnight Ride back from Louisville, Kentucky, the IronPigs are back in town for an early-week, three-game series with last place Syracuse. Beware Midnight Riders.
The far-west trip which took them to Indy for three and Louisville for four was a rousing success. Paced by excellent starting pitching, relentless hitting and solid relief, the IronPigs posted a 6-1 record on the roadie.
The excellent record is needed, though, as red-hot Scranton and Rochester continue to win as well, all atop the IL North standings. A clear delineation is forming with the bottom three.
The IronPigs are 20-games over .500 for the first time in their existence!
|Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders (NYY)||64||38||.627||–||–||28-22||36-16||31-21||7-3||W3|
|Lehigh Valley IronPigs (PHI)||61||41||.598||3.0||40||27-22||34-19||27-23||8-2||W2|
|Rochester Red Wings (MIN)||60||43||.583||4.5||38||32-23||28-20||30-26||7-3||L1|
|Buffalo Bisons (TOR)||52||50||.510||12.0||31||23-29||29-21||27-33||2-8||L5|
|Pawtucket Red Sox (BOS)||51||51||.500||13.0||29||25-25||26-26||24-28||4-6||L5|
|Syracuse Chiefs (WSH)||47||54||.465||16.5||27||29-25||18-29||23-31||4-6||W1|
While it’s easy to be nervous about these standings–one bad week and we could be left behind–it’s also important to remember that since the Wild Card will clearly come from this division, two out of three teams will make it. That’s pretty good odds, without even starting to consider roster moves and injuries and whatever else, which may impact any or all three teams.
Of course it’s important to take care of business versus last-place Syracuse tonight and the next two days, but a closer look at the schedule reveals that the ‘Pigs will play fellow division leaders Scranton and Rochester 13 times between Friday July 29 in Rochester and Thursday August 11 in Moosic, including a big home stand in the middle and an off-day. Those 13 games head-to-head over the trade deadline and amid August roster moves by all three teams, will likely go a long way towards deciding the division and the wild card. After that stretch, there are but two games at home with Scranton and two-home/three-away with Rochester to make up ground if the team should falter.
We’re anticipating some roster moves today, and will update when/if things become official. INF Andres Blanco suffered a lacerated and broken finger in yesterday’s game in Pittsburgh. Speculation is that Taylor Featherston will get the call to be the utility backup infielder in Philadelphia; he’s on the 40-man, can play SS, 3B, and 2B, and was not in the lineup for the IronPigs last night. Word out of Reading yesterday is that 2B Jesmuel Valentin will get the call to AAA Lehigh Valley today, along with the rehabbing OF Aaron Altherr. Second-level speculation has 2B prospect Scott Kingery moving from Clearwater to Reading and 2B Josh Tobias moving from Lakewood to Clearwater in the wake.
Who’s Hot/ Who’s Not
The entire team is hitting well, and leading the International League–or nearly–in batting, slugging, and on-base. The lineup is just getting the job done, so I won’t list players for fear of leaving someone out. Fair to point out Darin Ruf had two home runs yesterday, and Darnell Sweeney had a really solid game Saturday night. The one game they lost on the road trip was the one where neither JP Crawford nor Nick Williams started.
On the pitching front, the quality from the starting rotation is helping to carry this team. Newly minted starter Phil Klein battled Saturday night, but mostly kept Louisville off the board. Starter David Buchanan has had three superb starts in a row, including last night’s no-run gem. Jake Thompson has been amazing.
First Pitch 7:05PM; Gates 5:45PM; Club 5:30PM
Good seats still remain for tonight’s game.
Syracuse is back in town–AAA affiliate of the Washington Nationals. Their prospects have moved up and down from AA to the big club, and back to AAA somewhat peculiarly this season. We won’t see top-prospect Giolito or INF Trea Turner this series unless something unusual happens. However, old friend from Reading, OF Zach Collier, is with the team, after working his way up through AA Harrisburg.
RHP Jake Thompson (9-5, 2.29) takes the hill for the IronPigs, versus RHP Taylor Hill (4-8, 4.25)
- Pre-game autograph table: I believe Adam Morgan and Taylor Featherston were scheduled, but that will likely be different now.
- Christmas in July–no ugly jerseys as far as I know.
- Dollar Dog Night–$1 Hot Dogs all night long
- Toy Drive–Small, unused toys to be collected at each entrance gate, for a chance to win baseball memorabilia
- Santa Cap Giveaway–adults
Cap and Weather: I fear the cap-per-game streak may be over. I’ll see what I can find for tonight, but might just settle on comfortable at this juncture. Heat advisory for today, and chance of thunderstorms tonight–and we need it–but hopefully we can get this one in.
That over-night bus ride from Kentucky has got to be brutal. Syracuse was at home last night. Normally, I would be expecting a lack-luster and listless game from our Pigs tonight, but starting pitcher Jake Thompson–perhaps making his final minor league start–isn’t likely to let that happen. The dude is dialed in right now; I’d expect it to continue tonight. Bus ride or not. Last place opponent or not. Unless there’s some kind of unusual game plan, I don’t see anything getting in his way.
I should be happier with the 20-game high water and all that. I guess I’m just nervous that the pending roster shuffle will ruin things that are going so well. And, Rochester and Scranton just won’t go away–Scranton doing it with Judge on the DL, too! It has me on edge, and I missed a couple games last home stand that I didn’t expect to miss–anyway, nice to be playing important games in August for a change!
Playoff tickets and season ticket renewals are underway in Reading. Maybe not for general public, yet, but check into it if you’re interested. Also keep in mind, with Harford’s home stadium unusable, if the Yard Goats make the playoffs, they’ll play all 5 games at Reading! The Goats gave the Fightins all they could handle in Baseballtown this past weekend.
Back at it tomorrow, with the temps still in the ’90s–doubleheader if we get rained tonight. Wednesday is a day game, with evening in Reading–more than one guy will be going to both of those games!
See you at the park,
Featured image of Jack Thompson by Cheryl Pursell
PS: Cheryl Rocks! Check this out: