BUFFALO, N.Y. – Veteran lefty Jeff Francis (6-3) tossed eight dominant innings and IL MVP candidate Matt Hague hit a towering tie-breaking home run as the SWB RailRiders fell to the Buffalo Bisons (Toronto Blue Jays) on Saturday night, 3-1.
Home runs made for all of the game’s scores. Dalton Pompey hammered Eric Wooten’s first pitch to him in the third inning for a two-out solo shot to left and a 1-0 Buffalo advantage. An inning later, big league rehabber Dustin Ackley added his own two-out thunder with an opposite-way blast to right off of Francis for a 1-1 draw.
That would all change in the sixth. Reliever Caleb Cotham (2-2) jumped ahead of Jon Berti 0-2 before losing him to a walk. On Cotham’s next pitch, Hague mashed an impressive homer to left, his 11th of the year, for the 3-1 score.
That lead held up in large part due to Francis. He allowed just two clean base runners and retired the final 13 he faced.
He was lifted after eight innings and 80 pitches (55 strikes) in favor of Ryan Tepera. Catcher Juan Graterol reached on an Andy Burns fielding error in the ninth, but Tepera rebounded by inducing a fly to foul left from Ben Gamel and a groundout to second by Rob Refsnyder for his third save. Gamel’s out saw Pompey slam into the wall while making the grab.
The series continues at 1:05 p.m. on Sunday afternoon. SWB looks to southpaw Chris Capuano (1-1, 1.93) against right-hander Chad Jenkins (8-4, 2.93).
The RailRiders will host “Mariano Rivera Day” on Thursday, Sept. 3 against the Bisons with an appearance by the Yankees’ legendary closer himself. For more information please call (570) 969-BALL (2255) or visit swbrailriders.com.
OFF THE RAILS:
The RailRiders’ fastest nine-inning game of the season lasted just 1:49.
SWB went a collective 2-for-29 (.069) with no walks and six strikeouts.
Eric Wooten allowed one run over five innings. He gave up five hits, no walks and struck out four on 56 pitches (39 strikes).
Andrew Bailey struck out one in a perfect eighth inning. In nine outings and 12.1 innings with SWB he has struck out 13 and walked three.
Caleb Cotham had allowed just one home run in the minors before Hague’s game-winning blow. It came on April 28 in a loss at New Hampshire, the Blue Jays’ Double-A affiliate. That was also a tie-breaking blast, a seventh-inning shot by former SWB and New York Yankee Melky Mesa. Cotham’s Trenton club would lose the game, 7-5.
Mesa hit a walk-off homer against the RailRiders on July 10 at Buffalo. He also connected on a two-out, two-run walk-off homer in SWB’s most recent playoff win, the Game 3 triumph over Pawtucket on Sept. 7, 2012.
Jeff Francis had lost three straight starts entering Saturday night with a 7.71 ERA and .356 batting average against over that time. He improved to 2-0 in two starts against SWB with one run allowed in 15 innings (0.60 ERA). The RailRiders have hit just .125 against Francis.