Now, first to two wins, wins.
The RailRiders walked out of Durham with a split in the first two games of the best-of-five Governors’ Cup championship series after Domingo German’s dominant seven innings in Game 2. The next three games are back at PNC Field.
German was the main storyline, but here are a few other notes from Wednesday:
- The plays happened early, but Jonathan Diaz helped set the tone on defense. In the first inning, Diaz secured a 1-2-3 inning for German by running to his right, backhanding a grounder from Willy Adames and making the long throw to first for the final out of the inning.
The bigger play came the next inning. Durham was threatening to tie the game with a runner on third — Jake Bauers, whose double was the only hit German allowed. Daniel Robertson flirted with a base hit by sending a bouncing ball to the hole between short and third. Third baseman Miguel Andujar made a dive, but it was well out of his reach. Luckily, it was still in range for Diaz, who went into a slide to glove the ball, then popped up quickly to fire a strong through across the diamond for the final out of the inning.
“That got the momentum back to our side,” RailRiders manager Al Pedrique said. “He made a nice two plays. He saved one run on one of those backhand plays .They were tough, both of them. He did a great job at shortstop.”
- How good has Donovan Solano been for the RailRiders this postseason? The veteran hitter went 2 for 3 with one run, one RBI and two walks Wednesday. He’s now 10 for 23 in the postseason, only going hitless in Game 4 of the semifinal series against Lehigh Valley. He’s also drawn five walks and has a double. In Game 2 against Durham, he was a one-man pitch count wrecking crew. He worked a seven-pitch walk in the first inning against Durham starter Yonny Chirinos. He drove in the team’s second run with this at-bat against big league rehabber Xavier Cedeno:
Six foul balls, then a single for a big insurance run. For his finale, Solano worked an eight-pitch walk off former big leaguer Johnny Venters in the ninth inning.
“Once you know you’ve got your best hitter in the lineup at the plate in that situation, you’ll feel good about the situation … the guy will come through,” Pedrique said. “Obviously, they’re big at-bats. … In this situation, you want to have him, you want to have Andujar (up). And Solano fouled off a couple tough pitches. Again, I said it all along last year, this year again: He’s a professional hitter.”
- Big spot for one of the newest arms in the RailRiders bullpen. Anyelo Gomez was the first out of the bullpen, working the eighth inning after German exited the game. The RailRiders could’ve gone to their proven late-game tandem of Jonathan Holder and Nick Rumbelow, but if Gomez could get through the eighth, one of Holder or Rumbelow would be fresh for Game 3. Gomez got through the inning. First, Robertson flied out to right. Then, Justin Williams hit a chopper behind the mound toward second base. Gomez tried to make the play, but tripped and fell, drawing his coaches and trainer out to the mound. Was Gomez OK? Well, the one warmup pitch he threw registered 95 mph on the stadium gun. He struck out Justin O’Conner on four pitches, with him looking at a 97-mph fastball for strike three. Johnny Field then battled him for seven pitches, but Gomez won by getting Field to swing over a nasty 87-mph changeup.
“I like to use him in those situations because he’s showed he has the makeup,” Pedrique said of the 24-year-old reliever. “He’s nice and calm on the mound. He’s not afraid to challenge the hitters. He’s not afraid to throw his breaking ball in fastball counts or when he’s behind in the count. We’ve been really impressed with his performance, the way he handled himself on the field in key situations and he showed it tonight.”
- The RailRiders took batting practice on the field Wednesday after not doing so before Game 1 on Tuesday. I headed out to the top of the big blue wall in left field to watch. What a cool vantage point, and man, do these guys have power. Cito Culver hit one over the bull and a couple to a roof that guards a bar. Eddy Rodriguez hit a couple into the restaurant out there. But Garrett Cooper might’ve put on the best display. Here’s a rough estimate of where three of his most impressive shots hit:
PNC Field has a nice backdrop, with the rocks and trees on the mountainside. But there’s something about a ballpark that’s tucked in between buildings. Or a ballpark that has a target in the outfield. And, think of the change from a kid to a pro. When you’re young, hitting a building (likely, your house) is not great. Windows break. But when these guys pepper that building out there, with each drive off those balconies or that tin roof causing a loud “BANG!” it’s awesome.
“It’s definitely different,” Cooper said. “You like to see where your home runs land in batting practice. This is a nice park. Never been here. Never been to North Carolina.”
- The RailRiders have posted shutouts in five of their last eight road playoff games. Here’s the headliners:
- Game 1, 2016 semis, at Lehigh Valley — Jordan Montgomery goes seven scoreless, allows three hits, three walks and strikes out five.
- Game 2, 2016 semis, at Lehigh Valley — Phil Coke goes seven innings, allows three hits, strikes out seven.
- Game 3, 2016 finals, at Gwinnett — Brady Lail allows three hits, Ks five in 6.1 innings.
- Game 4, 2016 finals, at Gwinnett — Daniel Camarena allows fives hits, walks one and strikes out four in 5.1 innings.
- Game 2, 2017 finals, at Durham — German allows one hit in seven innings, walks three and strikes out eight.