MOOSIC — When they opened the door to their bullpen, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders found a lot of relief.
But in the end, Rob Refsnyder made them sigh.
Refsnyder launched a two-out, three-run home run in the bottom of the ninth inning Friday, lifting the RailRiders to a dramatic 7-6 victory over Buffalo at PNC Field.
The winning rally came when Carmen Angelini laced a two-out triple into the right field corner.
Then RailRiders All-Star Jose Pirela was hit by a pitch, bringing up Refsnyder. He rose to the moment by driving a towering fly just over the left-center field wall, sending the RailRiders first sold-out crowd into celebration as the fireworks show went off on Independence Day.
The Bisons didn’t wait as long to start igniting their own fireworks.
They took a 2-0 lead on RBI singles by former RailRider Dan Johnson and former Phillies catcher Erik Kratz in the first inning, then increased that to 4-0 when Alderidge blasted a two-run homer in the second.
And when the RailRiders threatened to make a game of it by scoring two runs on three consecutive doubles in the second inning, Schimpf answered with a rocket over the right field wall to produce the team’s final run in the third inning.
The RailRiders ran into big trouble from the start.
Struggling starter Joel De La Cruz, who fell to 2-6, uncorked two wild pitches to two different batters in the first inning - allowing two runners to advance into scoring position. And both were able to score on singles.
What’s more, RailRiders right fielder Adonis Garcia had all kinds of early trouble in the outfield. He failed to pick up Johnson’s soft single, allowing Aldridge to score without a throw in the opening inning. And in the second, Garcia seemed to lose a liner by Schimpf in the sun, making a futile stab at a shot that eluded Garcia for a double. That played big when Aldridge later blasted a two-out bomb onto the right field grass later in the frame.
It was enough to make RailRiders manager Dave Miley lose his cool. And if the play on the field didn’t do it, Schimpf’s blast in the third inning made the International League Hall of Fame manager boil over.
The shot hugged the right field line and actually landed in the outfield seats on the foul side of the pole, but umpires ruled it crossed in fair territory for a solo home run.
That enraged Miley, who argued about the call for an extended period and was ejected for his trouble.
The trouble subsided for the RailRiders when they started bringing in relievers from their bullpen.
Switch-pitcher Pat Venditte surrendered two hits, but worked two scoreless innings in the fifth and sixth. Then Danny Burawa was fabulous during his dynamic effort in the seventh and eighth innings.
Burawa faced seven batters, walked one, and struck out six of them to a new season-high in strikeouts by a RailRiders reliever.
That gave the RailRiders a puncher’s chance.
They tried to punch back by stringing together hits in the second and eighth inning.
Consecutive doubles by Kyle Roller, Scott Sizemore and John Ryan Murphy produced two runs for the RailRiders in the second inning, pulling Scranton/Wilkes-Barre within 4-2.
And Roller ripped his second double of the night to score Refsnyder in the eighth, then scored himself when red-hot Sizemore slammed an RBI single as the RailRiders crept within 5-4.
But RailRiders reliever Jose Ramirez, just demoted from the parent Yankees, uncorked a bases-loaded wild pitch to send pinch runner Jonathan Diaz scurrying home with a two-run Buffalo lead in the top of the ninth.
That only set up the dramatics for Refsnyder, whose winning blast brought the RailRiders bench to home plate in celebration.