MOOSIC – With the possible winning run on second and one of the hottest hitters in the International League at the plate in the bottom of the ninth inning, it looked like the RailRiders were about to pull out a come-from-behind victory.
But even the best hitters don’t get a hit every time.
Jose Pirela, who is second in the league in batting average hitting .330, flied out to center against former Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees closer Kevin Whelan to end the game with a 5-4 Toledo victory on Sunday afternoon at PNC Field.
Whelan, who saved 25 games in parts of three seasons for SWB from 2009-11, allowed a lead off single to Zelous Wheeler in the ninth, then a one-out single to Kyle Roller. After Corban Joseph flied out when pinch-hitting for Russ Canzler, Carmen Angelini (3 for 4) doubled to score Wheeler and advance pinch-runner Antoan Richardson to third. It was a bloop double so there wasn’t a chance the speedy Richardson would have scored. That brought up Pirela, the reigning I.L. Batter of the Week, but Whelan is a closer for a reason and picked up his ninth save of the season.
“He put a great swing on it. He did what he was supposed to do, hit the ball hard,” Angelini said about Pirela’s last at-bat. “Guy just caught it, made a good play. If that ball that Pirela hits finds the gap we win the game.”
The RailRiders, who entered with 24 wins when scoring first this season, scored the first run of the game on Sunday when Wheeler made the Mud Hens pay for a dropped foul pop by first baseman Jordan Lennerton leading off the second inning. On the next pitch, Wheeler blasted his sixth homer of the season onto the walkway in left field for a 1-0 lead. Wheeler ( 3 for 3, 3 RBI) added a two-run double in the sixth to cut Toledo’s lead to 5-3.
“We started off slow and picked it up at the end,” Wheeler said. “We need to play an overall better game from start to end. But overall we did alright.”
RailRiders starter Zach Nuding started off the game with three scoreless innings, but he ran into trouble in the fourth.
Toledo scored three runs against Nuding in the frame, sending eight batters to the plate. First, James McCann hit a solo homer to tie the score at 1-1. That was the start of four consecutive extra-base hits by the Mud Hens as Jordan Lennerton and Wade Gaynor each plated runs on doubles while putting their team up 3-1.
In the fifth, after the Mud Hens scored another run on a run-scoring single by McCann (4 for 5, 3 RBI), they then loaded the bases with no outs against reliever Jairo Heredia, who tossed two innings allowing two runs, four hits and four walks.
Francisco Cervelli, who played two games with Tampa prior to Sunday and went 0 for 6, was assigned to the RailRiders on Sunday for his rehab assignment. The catcher finished the game 1 for 3 before being lifted in the eighth and was replaced by Francisco Arcia defensively. He is expected to catch again tonight for the RailRiders and is scheduled to play at DH or possibly first base for the team again on Tuesday before heading to Double-A Trenton.
With Mark Teixeira, out of the New York Yankees lineup Sunday with a sore wrist and an injury concern to some, Cervelli could be a backup option at first for the Yankees. But currently being on the 60-day disabled list, he can’t be activated by New York until June 13. Cervelli said he didn’t know if the plan was for him to get some reps at the position before being activated.
“I’m getting stronger and I was seeing the ball better today,” said Cervelli, who is returning from a hamstring injury. “This week is going to be very good for me because I have to get ready to get there.”