Saturday, July 12, 2014

The Week Ahead

July 21. 2013 3:45AM

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The next seven days will probably be welcomed by the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, as they just fact two opponents as opposed to the week before the All-Star break when they saw four different teams in a 12-day stretch. They start with four against Toledo at PNC Field then head off to Louisville to begin a four-game road trip.

Toledo Mud Hens

SWB welcomes the top affiliate of the Detroit Tigers to PNC Field starting Monday. The Mud Hens began the weekend with the worst record in the International League, 16 games under the .500 mark. That might not matter too much.

When the teams met in May, the RailRiders were four games over .500 and the Mud Hens had the worst record in the league at that point as well. But Toledo took three out of four in Ohio. The RailRiders had to pull out an extra-inning victory in the last game of the series or they would’ve been swept. Toledo outscored Scranton/Wilkes-Barre 29-18 in the four games. The gap in runs in the series is due to a 10-2 win by the Mud Hens in the first game.

At home, the RailRiders have been playing much better after a horrendous start to the season at PNC Field. They entered Friday having won nine of their last 12 games at the stadium, which bodes well for the series with Toledo.

If you’re a Tigers fan, it’s a good chance to get out to PNC Field and see some of your team’s top prospects. Outfielders Nick Castellanos and Avisail Garcia, who are ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the organization by Baseball America, have been playing well this season for the Mud Hens. Castellanos, 21, entered the weekend hitting .283 with 12 home runs, 49 RBI and a .354 on base percentage this season. Garcia, who made his Major League debut earlier this season for Detroit, is also 22-years-old. He’s played in just 21 games for the Mud Hens this season due to his time with the Tigers. But he’s made the most of his time in Toledo, batting .436 with three home runs.

A familiar face for SWB fans makes his return to Moosic in former SWB Yankee Kevin Russo, who played for the Yankees organization from 2006-12. The utility player is batting just .209 for Toledo this season.

Louisville Bats

The week starts and ends with the RailRiders seeing the Triple-A affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds. Today, the teams lock up ending their four-game series at PNC Field.

Once the homestand concludes and Toledo leaves town, the RailRiders head to Louisville for a four-game set starting Friday, as the teams will have their eight season-series matchups in a matter of 12 days.

In the first two games prior to Saturday, the games were split. SWB took the first game via shutout before losing by one run on Friday night. As shown on Friday, with one of the game’s top prospects, Billy Hamilton, in the lineup, the Bats are a different team. The speedster is a game-changer and makes pitchers and catchers do things different whether he’s on the bases or at the plate.

Hamilton, who stole a Minor League Baseball record 155 bases last season, has swiped 54 bags this season. He’s a two-time Futures Game participant and represented the International League in the Triple-A All-Star Game last week.

Don’t forget about slugger Mike Hessman, who is the active career leader in all of the minors with 405 professional home runs. He’s popped 380 bombs in the minor leagues, 14 in the Major Leagues and six in Japan.

A few former SWB Yankees are currently with the Bats in relievers Kanekoa Texeira and Kevin Whelan. Whelan was an I.L. All-Star in 2011 as the team’s closer, when he saved 23 and was second in the league in the category. He has five saves this season for Louisville and began Saturday with a 4.46 ERA. He saw time in the series Thursday and was hit hard, giving up four runs on four hits and two walks in just 2-3 of an inning.

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