“Every guy in here believes we can catch these guys [SWB] and it starts tonight.”
-Cam Perkins, as told to Chuck Hixson of Phillies Baseball Insider
Well, it didn’t quite work out that way, Cam. Perhaps no one told the bull pen guys–or the fielders who forgot how to throw the ball in the 9th inning. The last three losses (at least), the pen failed to close the deal given a reasonable position by the starter. I’m thinking something might still change in that department, and we’ll discuss that below. And while Tony Vasquez had a reasonable start and put his team in a position to win, 91 pitches through 4 innings put undue pressure on said bullpen, you know?
The RailRiders took last night’s contest 5-3 in front of a full house at Coca Cola Park–and with it the 2016 IronRail trophy. For the third time in four years the IronPigs failed to vanquish the evil affiliate from the North. Only a playoff series win will heal my wounds.
The loss leaves the former Trolley Frogs with a commanding 5.0 game lead in the division, and coupled with a Rochester win, cuts the ‘Pigs Wild Card lead to 4.5 games. There are 14 games left. The ‘Pigs magic number is 10.
Bull Pen Confidence Ratings
- Luis Garcia 90% He can be a bit wild at times. The heater can be a bit straight. And, there are nights when he doesn’t appear to feel comfortable using the breaking pitch at all. But, he’s got the mentality to close out games, and he’s a horse: He closed out both ends of the double dip the other night in Syracuse. He also doesn’t seem to need to put two guys on base before he starts really pitching (*cough*Mujica*cough*).
- Elvis Araujo 80% He’s back in the building and the big lefty should be our set-up guy into the playoffs before heading back to the big club for the balance of September.
- James “Muscle” Russell 75% He’s been asked to do a lot for this team and answered the bell every time. In some cases, it may have made his numbers look a bit worse. But the veteran should provide long relief, a spot starter, and a second lefty into the playoffs.
- Patrick Schuster 67% After two clean starts he blew a game in Syracuse the other day. He’s another lefty and the new guy on the block after being claimed on waivers from Oakland. His stock is highly volatile at this juncture.
- Joely Rodriguez 60% He throws harder this season, and still gets a ton of ground balls. Still, I feel a little better about the three leftys in front of him.
- Colton Murray 55% He’s a “max effort” guy and that makes me nervous. Sometimes the stuff is “electric” and other times merely wild–and not always effectively wild. If he takes something off, he can get hit. He can go a couple innings if asked, though, and that does make him valuable into the playoffs. He seems to have a clunker every four outings or so. You could make a case for him to be much higher, perhaps as high as 70% and I know the parade of errors weren’t his fault last night. I’m just a bit jumpy on him right now.
- Hoby Milner 50% The side-winding lefty lives on the edge a bit. He can get guys out, but if they get to see too many pitches–rightys especially–he can also get hit around. He’s the fifth lefty on this list, and may be headed back to Reading, methinks, if maybe Jimmy Cordero looks like a candidate for a late AAA promotion? If they want to try Cordero in the bigs late this season some added AAA playoff pressure might be a stepping stone. Just thinking out loud. Also thinking we may not need five leftys.
- Dalier Hinojosa 45% Last season, he imploded on the mound for the PawSox and allowed the ‘Pigs to come back and win a game. A week later the Phillies picked him up. I haven’t felt right about him ever since. Hinojosa loosely translated is “remember to take your heart medication” in Cuban. I’d relegate him to mop up duty down the stretch and into the AAA playoffs. I’d also consider his 40-man spot to be available if needed. He’s probably a nice guy, but he gives me the yips.
First Pitch: 7:05PM Gates: 5:45PM Club: 5:30PM
Good seats still remain for this game; however, expect a significant walk-up given favorable weather.
RHP Ben Lively (8-5, 3.49) takes the mound for the IronPigs. The RailRiders, who burned two starters last night but forced us to deal with “Pig Killer” Dietrich Enns, will proceed with RHP Brady Lail (6-4, 4.91) tonight.
More on the pitching match-up:
Lively faced the RailMonkeys at home on 8/2 and held them scoreless over 8.0 innings. It was a somewhat watered-down lineup that evening, if I recall, but still a nice outing. Lively is 3-1, 2.39 in August and is better on the road (2-1, 1.82) versus at home (6-4, 4.03). He’s also sporting a 17.78 ERA with runners in scoring position, so limiting damage when runners are on (8.91) will be key against a still formidable Scranton lineup.
Lail last faced the IronPigs on 8/1 and got lit up for 5 runs over 5.1 innings. He has a 5.40 ERA on the road and a 5.71 ERA versus left-handed batters. He also has a 9.43 ERA so far in August.
For a team that was lights-out versus LHP early on, the ‘Pigs have faced a ton of them lately and not fared as well. The leftys in the lineup should get some pitches to hit tonight versus Lail, and the top-rated pitchers in my confidence ratings should be available to close things out if Lively can take care of his business. It might be “too little too late” for the IronRail, but I’m looking for an IronPigs win tonight.
- 2017 Magnet Schedule Giveaway (5,000; everyone)
75 and sunny at game time, but bring a sweatshirt tonight–it got downright chilly last night after the sun went down!
I’m feeling pretty good about things despite the loss to Scranton and the scuffling visit to Syracuse. I feel like this team is coming together despite evidence to the contrary. Perhaps I’m crazy or delusional, we’ll see. I’d think Featherston should be in the lineup tonight–perhaps in place of Valentin or Sweeney–and other leftys like Hunter, Asche, Williams, Stassi, and JP should get pitches to hit.
Link of the Day
RHP Alec Asher, we’ll recall, was injured shortly after joining the IronPigs from Reading. He came over as part of the Cole Hamels deal, but didn’t fare as well in AAA or the MLB late last season, and was subsequently banished to Reading to work on a couple of his pitches. Things went well, and he joined the ‘Pigs and had three super starts. Then he got hit with a liner and was put on the DL with a leg. Shortly thereafter, he was suspended for performance enhancing substances.
Due to the DL status, I wasn’t sure when his clock started for the suspension. In any case, we now know that he’ll be eligible to return to his prior level–AAA–on September 8. Today, he began his rehab with the GCL Phillies, and he can continue moving up the levels.
September 8 would be the second game of the opening playoff series–possibly at Coca Cola Park. I’m not sure if he’d be on turn for that start, but if things go well and he’s healthy, his rehab and re-activation could actually be more significant for AA Reading down the stretch and into the first round of the playoffs. We’ll see, and of course as I said it depends on health and performance. The Phillies, for their part, have expressed the desire to see him pitch possibly on the MLB level, through the end of the season.
Our friend Chuck Hixson has the details.
See you at the park,