The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders extended their season-high 7 game winning streak Saturday afternoon against the Buffalo Bisons at Coca-Cola Field.
Johnny Barbato took the mound for Scranton, making his first start since 2013 when he was in High Single-A ball as a member of the San Diego Padres organization. He pitched two innings, allowed three hits, one walk and one earned run.
The lone Buffalo run was scored in the bottom of the second inning. Domonic Brown laced a Barbato fastball to right-center field for a ground rule, lead-off double. Melky Mesa followed with a first-pitch line-drive RBI double to give Buffalo their first lead of the series. The trouble continued for Barbato as he fell behind 2-0 to the next batter Casey Kotchman. After throwing a get-me-over curveball, Kotchman sent a 2-1 fastball into center field for the Bisons third straight hit. Following a mound visit from the RailRiders pitching coach, Wilkin Castillo lined out on a soft line drive to second basemen Donovan Solano. Barbato then fell behind to the number nine hitter Jio Mier. The struggling starting pitcher received some help from top prospect Aaron Judge, as a 2-1 pitch was sent out to right field. After making the catch for the second out of the inning, Judge fired home a bullet to nab Mesa at the plate and complete an inning-ending double play.
Scranton immediately answered the Bisons run the following half inning. Cesar Puello led off the top of the 3rd with a bunt single. Pete Kozma drove in his 17th run of the season as he singled in the next at-bat on a ground ball to center field, tying up the contest.
The game remained 1-1, until the top of the 8th inning. Ike Davis hit a leadoff single as he sent a ground ball through the right side of the infield. Following a 1-4 fielder’s choice, Pete Kozma struck out swinging on a high fastball from Bisons starter Chris Leroux. With Jonathan Diaz batting, Puello stole second base, then advanced to third on a throwing error by Buffalo catcher Wilkin Castillo. Ben Gamel followed a Jonathan Diaz walk, by slapping a two-out line drive to left field for an RBI single. The Bisons then made a pitching change, bringing in 2016 International League All-Star Dustin Antolin. Donovan Solano welcomed Antolin into the game by ripping an RBI single into left field. On the play, Solano advanced to third base and Gamel scored on an errant throw by short stop Jio Mier. After falling behind 0-2, Aaron Judge worked back to draw a walk. Gary Sanchez quickly fell behind 0-2 to Antolin as well. After working the count back to 2-2, Sanchez gave the RailRiders a 5-1 lead by punching a fastball into right field for an RBI single.
Bison starter Chris Leroux finished the game with a line score that does not indicate just how well he pitched. Leroux pitched 7.2 innings, gave up six hits, walked one, and struck out seven. The former Yankee retired 13 straight batters at one point and gave the Bisons six quality innings of work.
Diego Moreno and Tyler Webb combined to pitch seven innings of scoreless baseball. Moreno (4-1, 5.20 ERA) entered the game in the bottom of the third and fired five shutout, three-hit innings. Webb struck out two over the 8th and the 9th innings, sealing the game for Scranton. He faced just one over the minimum in today’s relief appearance.
Today’s victory was Scranton’s 20th in its past 25 games. The RailRiders own an 8-1 record on their current 3 city, 10 game road trip. The team looks to complete its second consecutive series sweep tomorrow against Buffalo with first pitch scheduled for 6:05 pm. Scranton will send out right-hander Kyle Haynes (2-3 4.91 ERA) to face the ambidextrous Pat Venditte.