MOOSIC — The way the last few nights went, Bobby Mitchell didn’t rule it out.
Walk-off walk Wednesday.
Walk-off single Thursday.
Hits in big spots Friday.
Down three runs with two outs in the bottom of the eighth is a big ask though, the RailRiders manager knows, even if the bases were loaded and the team’s top hitter was at the plate.
After a final homestand packed with playoff-push magic, the RailRiders came up empty Saturday.
Pawtucket reliever Fransisco Rodriguez Jr. stranded the bases loaded, rehabbing big leaguer Rafael Devers clubbed a two-run homer and the Red Sox blanked the RailRiders, 3-0, in front of a sold-out PNC Field in the regular-season home finale.
The loss cost the RailRiders’ the top spot in the race for International League wild card.
Toledo (72-65) held off Columbus, 1-0, to take sole possession of first place in the IL West. Indianapolis (72-66) beat Louisville, 5-2, to tie the RailRiders (71-65) and Columbus (72-66) for the wild card.
“100 percent,” RailRiders starting pitcher Nestor Cortes said about whether team is still confident in its playoff chances. “I think we’re still in the driver’s seat.”
Cortes looked to be on the way to turning in another solid outing by a RailRiders starter, striking out six over the first four innings.
A poorly timed walk would doom him.
Dan Butler led off the fifth with a double, then Aneury Tavarez reached on a bunt single to put runners at the corners with no outs.
The RailRiders elected to play the infield back, looking for a double play while conceding a run. The plan worked, as Cortes got Cole Sturgeon to roll over on a pitch, and second baseman L.J. Mazzilli and shortstop Gio Urshela turned an easy double. Butler scored and Pawtucket led, 1-0.
“We get out of there with one run, it’s a whole different ballgame,” Mitchell said.
Only Cortes followed with a five-pitch walk of leadoff hitter Mike Miller, bringing Devers to the plate.
Cortes left a cutter over the plate, and the talented young Red Sox star clubbed a two-run homer.
“It was super tough,” Cortes said. “That point, after the double play, I’m like all right, 1-0, it’s not a big deficit. But then after the walk, really hurt me, and then the homer to Devers put us in a hole.”
The RailRiders couldn’t get going on offense.
Pawtucket starter Josh D. Smith allowed three hits over four innings. Travis Lakins surrendered one hit in two innings and Rodriguez struck out three in two innings.
“It’s tough because you see a guy once or twice out of the pen the whole series,” RailRiders right fielder Ryan McBroom said. “So, you’re seeing a new guy, every single time, with new stuff and most of the time, it’s electric. And you’ve basically got to go in and just grind and do what you can to help your team win.”
McBroom, who won one game with a walk-off walk and tied another with a ninth-inning single on the homestand, would come up in the RailRiders’ last best chance. Mazzilli walked, Devyn Bolasky reached on an error and Urshela walked, loading the bases with two outs.
“I was just honestly going in and just competing,” McBroom said. “I was looking for a pitch I could drive. I got one, I wasn’t able to do it. So, that’s just the way it went tonight.”
He fell behind in the count on a close strike two call, then Rodriguez struck him out swinging.
“That’s just, sometimes, the way the game goes,” McBroom said. “The season is as long as it is and you come in every single day trying to compete. Things aren’t always going to go your way. The arms on their side did a really good job keeping us quiet offensively. That’s pretty much it.”
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