MOOSIC – Since 2006, Chris Bootcheck has primarily been a reliever when he’s pitched in either the minors or the major leagues.
Entering this season, since that time he only started seven games for eight different teams. With his performances so far this season with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, some of those teams may think they missed out on the 34-year-old.
For the third straight start, Bootcheck kept hitters in line leading the RailRiders to a 8-1 victory on Monday at PNC Field.
Bootcheck threw seven innings, his longest outing since he pitched for Durham against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in June of 2011. Over the seven innings, he allowed five hits, one run and two walks while fanning five. He entered the game on an 11-inning scoreless streak in two previous starts.
The streak ended in the bottom of the fifth with two outs when Jeff Kobernus drove in Micah Owings on a single. Bootcheck’s scoreless showing ended at 14 2/3 innings as that was the only run the Chiefs got in the game. He was cruising until there were two outs in the inning when he gave up two hits and a walk.
Bootcheck’s first trouble of the night was in the second as he allowed consecutive two-out hits and runners were on second and third. But he fanned Owings on four pitches to end the threat as his ERA rose to 0.50 for the season.
“He really knows how to pitch,” RailRiders manager Dave Miley said. “He pitches his game and gave up a couple walks, but you can’t beat the outcome.”
The starter was helped by the RailRiders offense, which banged out nine hits.
After former SWB Yankee Ross Ohlendorf got through the Riders offense once and two innings without any damage, they weren’t going to let it happen again. Scranton/Wilkes-Barre scored four in the third, sending eight batters to the plate. Thomas Neal – who extended his team-leading RBI total to 14 in the game – came through with a run-scoring double for the game’s first run a 1-0 lead. The next batter, Zoilo Almonte, clubbed a two-run double for a 3-0 lead. Austin Romine added an RBI-single with one out for a 4-0 lead.
Bootcheck, who was an all-star closer last year for Toledo, said he’s back in the swing of starting.
“The workload is a lot different. But I think the gratification after a good outing is a lot better maybe for me as a starter the way I feel because a lot of time you can kind of sneak in as a reliever and get three outs and not really feel good about yourself.”
Once the Chiefs trimmed the lead in the top of the fifth, RailRiders first baseman Dan Johnson got the run right back on an RBI-single for a 5-1 lead.
The game was put out of reach in the bottom of the sixth as Scranton/Wilkes-Barre scored three more runs. Neal again came through with an RBI-double after Gil Velazquez drove in a run with single.
Neal, who is batting .351 this season, came around to score the final run of the game when he helped Velazquez score on the play after being hung in between second and third. Chiefs third baseman Carlos Rivero threw the ball into right field, allowing the runner to score.
Neal has hit in the bottom of the order on most nights, but moved up to second Monday and continued to produce. He said he likes hitting second.
“It’s fun because I’ve always felt I’m the type of player that hits a lot of line drives,” said Neal, who is hitting .409 with runners in scoring position this season. “I’m one of those guys that gets on base and keeps the line moving. To me, it’s a spot I enjoy because I can get on base and let the next guy drive me in and let it be a whole team effort.”