RSSInside The RailCats
WICHITA, Kan. | Lawrence-Dumont Stadium, home of the Wichita Wingnuts, is an interesting case in extremes.
Built in 1934, the stadium surface is all turf, with the only dirt on the pitcher's mound. The basepaths have been painted brown to appear as dirt, so it has the facade of a baseball diamond, but the balls take a ping pong-like bounce off the surface because it's practically concrete underneath.
The walls are shorter in height than what you'd see at U.S. Steel Yard. It's 385 to a curve in right and left fields, and 400 to straight-away center. There are power alleys at about the right-center and left-center marks, which reaches about 375, so if the ball takes a good hop, it isn't playable off the wall, it'll simply jump over.
Beyond the batter's eye is downtown Wichita, tall buildings, hotels and a downtown area.
The Wingnuts are taking their batting practice until 5:15, with the RailCats on the field until 6 p.m.
GARY | The RailCats front office staff removed the tarp from the field at 4:30, but with maintenance to be done, this will likely either erase or severely delay batting practice.
The RailCats teed off on the Wichita pitching staff last night, taking all the BP they needed with 17 hits, three of them for extra bases.
Every 'Cats batter to the plate either scored a run or had a hit off off the Wichita staff.
GARY | The RailCats open against a Wichita team that hasn't allowed a postseason run since losing in the American Association Championship Series in three games to Winnipeg last season.
The RailCats, meanwhile, haven't been shutout since the playoffs opener to Fargo-Moorhead, a pitchers' duel in which the RedHawks scored both runs in the eighth inning.
Prior to that, the RailCats hadn't recorded a shutout since July 25 against Sioux City.
GARY | The RailCats have won six game fours in 10 chances, only once to clinch a series.
Facing Jake Laber, the fifth-year Fargo-Moorhead pitcher, his 0-1 record against the RailCats this season is not indicative of his control against the club.
The lefty faces left-handed hitters well and the RailCat put five in today's starting lineup. Laber has a .263 opponent batting average against left-handed hitters versus a .300 opponent average of right-handed hitters. He's walked just three lefties to 34 righties.
"He's a little bit like Morgan Coombs in that you'll see his track record this season that for every start he had that maybe wasn't his best, he followed up with a great one," RailCats manager Greg Tagert said before the game. "Sometimes familiarity can work both ways. Does it help you? It helps you if the guy isn't any good. But in this case we've got our work cut out for us tonight."
Morgan Coombs faced Fargo-Moorhead once this season, allowing nine runs in 4 2/3 innings, an eventual RailCats win.
GARY | The RailCats are 1-3 in games three they've played against Fargo-Moorhead, winning the first (and only) in 2005.
Only in 2006 did the RailCats and RedHawks not play Game 3 in Gary, because despite winning home-field advantage, Fargo-Moorhead prefers to open postseason series at home.
The RailCats left North Dakota with a 1-1 series tie, having lost the first game 2-0 and then won the second 11-2. In four previous postseason matchups, the RailCats scored double-digit runs against F-M only one other time: a 12-4 win in Game 4 in 2005.
The RailCats have only lost in the first round of the playoffs once: against Fargo-Moorhead in 2010.
The 'Cats are 4-1 in playoff series when they've lost the first game, the only loss to Fargo-Moorhead in 2010.
GARY | The RailCats coaching staff has opted to rest many of its starters today, only as many as possible with a 23-man roster.
Missing from the lineup is leadoff man Adam Klein and triples record-setter Mike Massaro.
Several players are playing out of position, which only makes the lineup card that much more interesting.
To save the suspense, tonight's lineup...
El Paso Diablos (38-61)
GARY | The RailCats have already made a change to their rotation now that they are playoff bound: today's starting pitcher.
Tim Verthein, who was picked up on Aug. 23 when the team could add a 23rd player, will start today's game in lieu of Morgan Coombs. Instead, Coombs is set to start Monday's 1:10 p.m. game.
Saturday night, Tagert said that he would look at all opportunities to rest players and pitchers in preparation for the postseason. Alain Quijano is set to start Game 1 on Wednesday.
El Paso Diablos (38-60)
GARY | The RailCats head into their final weekend of the regular season needing to win one game to reach the playoffs.
Any of the next three against El Paso will do, but the sooner the better from the standpoint of the front office, which can start selling tickets for the postseason as soon as it's official.
The RailCats were in a similar situation in 2011, when their magic number was 1 in a wild card race against St. Paul, and the 'Cats lost three straight to the Saints in the final three games to end with a magic number of 1.
Winnipeg hosts Fargo-Moorhead, needing to win all three games against the RedHawks to play the RedHawks in the first round.
The fight in the South is even more interesting. Amarillo, Laredo and Grand Prairie all have the same winning percentage heading into the final week of the season and none play each other. Amarillo holds the tie breaker in all scenarios, except if Grand Prairie and Laredo finish with the same record, in which case Grand Prairie holds the tie breaker.
GARY | The RailCats made a move before the 12:10 p.m. game, releasing Taylor Sewitt and moving Danny Pulfer off of the disabled list.
Sewitt, a reliever, pitched 3 2/3 innings Wednesday, allowing 12 hits, nine runs, walking six, striking out two and throwing a season-high 113 pitches.
Sewitt was signed out of spring training and threw in 36 games this season, second most out of the RailCats bullpen. He had a 5.03 ERA.
Pulfer broke his finger and had been on the disabled list since July 27,
The RailCats and Wingnuts will be battling the rain today, as the game will have to be played, no matter how late the rain stays.
GARY | The RailCats enter today's game with a magic number of 9 (total games in the season, plus 1, minus RailCats wins, minus opponents' losses) and two teams behind them in the wild card race.
With a Lincoln loss and a Winnipeg win on Tuesday, the RailCats hold a 2 1/2 game lead in the wild card race and the Saltdogs and Goldeyes are tied for second.
The RailCats don't face either team the remainder of the season, and neither team plays each other. Each team must face their own division's leader as Winnipeg ends the regular season against the North Division's No. 1 Fargo-Moorhead and the Saltdogs play the Central's No. 1 Wichita next week.
The 'Cats, meanwhile, end their season against St. Paul, Kansas City and El Paso. As much as any game can go any direction, the RailCats have a combined 18-5 record against those three teams this season.
Before that, the 'Cats have another two games against Wichita, whose magic number is two. The RailCats are 7-4 against the Wingnuts this season, guaranteed to finish with a winning record against the league's best team.
GARY | It's almost 5 p.m., are your tickets in pocket ready for the RailCats game?
The 'Cats start a double header as part of a makeup game originally scheduled in Wichita last week. The bonus for the RailCats is that they are the home team in both games, so the Wingnuts effectively gave up the benefit of the last at-bat when they called the second rain game last Thursday.
Reliever Matt Jernstad will start Game 1 and the move to bring in Joe Zeller hasn't been completed yet. The American Association roster expansion comes Thursday, so he could -- theoretically -- be added as late as Thursday without the need to drop a player from the current roster.
HOWEVER, the RailCats haven't named a starter for Wednesday, and Alain Quijano is still day-to-day after taking a line drive to the hand Friday. He threw a bullpen today.
Game 1 Lineup:
GARY | The RailCats will face Sioux City for the final game in the weekend series and last game in the home season series against the Canaries.
The 'Cats are 1-8 against Sioux City this season and haven't lost every game to one team at home since 2005 when they were swept at U.S. Steel Yard by Fargo-Moorhead in the regular season.
Before the game, the franchise honored former RailCats Mike Rohde and Chris Carrara, who are in attendance and received crystal awards for their service to the team from owner Pat Salvi. The production booth played their walk-up music.
Sunday also marks the return of hitting coach Mick Curran, who managed the Medicine Hat Mavericks in the Western Collegiate Baseball League. The Mavericks broke a league record for wins, then lost in the championship series.
GARY | With Friday's loss, the RailCats hold at the top of the wild card standings shrunk.
Entering the weekend series against Sioux Falls -- a non-Division team with no hope of a postseason -- the RailCats were 2 1/2 games ahead of Lincoln in the wild card standings.
Lincoln beat Rockland 3-2 on Friday while the RailCats fell 12-5 to Sioux Falls, a 36-49 team that is 7-1 against the 'Cats this season.
Before the game, manager Greg Tagert said that the outlook for last night's starter, Alain Quijano, is good. Quijano told his manager that he feels better, the swelling is starting to diminish and he hopes to make a start next week.
GARY | Of the three-game trip the RailCats had scheduled in Wichita Tuesday through Thursday, the team played one day.
It was a double-header that turned into a win-loss day for the 'Cats.
The 10-5 win that ultimately capped the five-game trip through Lincoln and Wichita is the momentum that Gary brings to a six day home stretch.
The final day that was rained out in Wichita will be made up in Gary on Tuesday with a double header slated for 5:10 p.m.
However, the 'Cats finished that stretch with a 1-4 record that included two one-run losses.
GARY | The RailCats end their home stand as the interns end their jobs.
The RailCats internship program gives college students a chance to learn about the front office techniques of a minor league baseball team, and many participate or administer the mid-inning games that are played on the field.
The 'Cats, meanwhile, are hoping to win their third-straight series after Kansas City created a tie with a 4-1 win Tuesday.
Against Ethan Cole, Gary's heavy hitters should have an easier time connecting with the ball. Cole holds a 5.33 ERA and is 0-5 in four starts. He has allowed 72 hits and walked 12 in 54 innings.
The RailCats have made two games in two days involving the pitching staff. Today marks the release of James Adkins, who went five innings allowing six hits and four runs yesterday, for the addition of lefty Chuck Fontana.
GARY | The RailCats five wins in a row include victories against three different teams -- Sioux City, St. Paul and Kansas City -- who hold a collective record of 31 games below .500.
The T-Bones lead the league in home runs with 85, the RailCats are last with 15 (including yesterday's bomb by Cristian Guerrero, his first since June 7).
The RailCats released right-handed pitcher Osvaldo Rodriguez -- officially placing him on irrevocable waivers -- and activated Reid Fronk before the game. Fronk was acquired on July 31, but immediately placed on the inactive list, where he'd spent most of the year with El Paso.
Also, the 'Cats placed Ari Ronick on the inactive list, retroactive to July 22.
GARY | The RailCats have a chance for a second home sweep of St. Paul with a win Sunday afternoon.
The 'Cats swept the Saints June 20-23 to open an 11-game home stand that ended the month.
This wont' be the last time the RailCats see the Saints this season, though St. Paul isn't a divisional foe. The 'Cats travel to Minnesota to start their final road trip of the season Aug. 23-25. The RailCats dropped two of three in St. Paul on July 26-28.
The Saints made a move before the game, activating starter Drew Gay and placing Mike Koons on the disabled list.
The RailCats plan to start Billy Spottiswood, whose 4-1 record includes consecutive wins against Sioux City in back-to-back starts. His three no decisions have eventually led to two wins and a loss to the RailCats' record.
GARY | After concluding Friday's win over St. Paul at 12:10 Saturday morning, RailCats had an early call to the field Saturday afternoon.
The 'Cats were already stretching and hitting at 2 p.m. Normal batting practice for a 6 p.m. start is 3:30 p.m., and the RailCats were hitting a simulated game while Reid Fronk took at-bats.
Manager Greg Tagert said Friday that Fronk will take several swings in simulated games over the weekend in the hopes to activate him Monday or Tuesday. He said his activation will likely come at the expense of someone on the pitching staff. The RailCats don't have any space on the disabled list, with Ari Ronick out with a quad strain and Danny Pulfer out with a broken finger.
St. Paul Saints (37-34)
GARY | We'll start with an FYI that the game will begin later because of the dwarf wrestling event preceding the game.
Game time is estimated around 7:35 to 7:40, in case you're planning your evening.
Also, the tarp is on the field to start batting practice thanks to a rain that rolled in around 3:55 p.m. That has mostly washed out all of batting practice.
The RailCats are a month away from the end of the season and cling to a 2 1/2 game lead on the wildcard slot in front of Laredo.
6:45 p.m.: Here's the deal with the late start -- the wrestling pit is set up for the dwarf wrestling, but the wrestlers haven't begun. A heavy rain drenched the covers on the wrestling mat, and the game won't start until the wrestlers have wrestled. The tarp is still on the field as the rain comes lightly.
A play from Tuesday's RailCats game against Sioux City was deemed worth enough to put rookie Zac Mitchell on SportsCenter.
In the third inning of the 1-0 game, a ball hit by Leugim Barroso heads up the middle of the field looking to be a sure hit. Then it bounces off second base and into the waiting glove of Mitchell, who makes the throw to first to tag Barroso.
RailCats radio broadcaster and media relations guru Jon Mozes popped a video of the play on YouTube and tweeted that it should be a part of SportsCenter's plays of the week. As the series was closing down on Thursday night, he received an email from ESPN granting the request.
Mitchell's throw was deemed worthy of the No. 4 spot, and can be found late in Friday morning's broadcast, during the :50 to :55 block.
Or you can watch it on YouTube, right where ESPN found it.
GARY | To open the season, the RailCats failed in three early chances to sweep a series, including one at home against Wichita.
Since then, the 'Cats swept two straight at home against St. Paul and Kansas City, but June 27 was their last series sweep.
Against Sioux City, the RailCats have a chance to reach home sweep No. 3 and maintain a 3 1/2 game lead in the wild card race.
GARY | The RailCats have won 15 games by a single run and eight games in the last at-bat. Of those 15, four have come against Sioux City.
RailCats Alain Quijano, who is slated to take the mound against the Explorers on Wednesday, has finished with a decision in each of his last six starts including a win on July 3 against Sioux City.
Quijano has not allowed a run to the Explorers in two previous starts this season. He made 13 starts as a member of the Sioux City club last season before he was traded to Grand Prairie. His 3.32 ERA with the Explorers was best on the pitching staff in 2012.
The RailCats' ace leads the league in games started with 14 and wins with eight. His 90 1/3 innings pitched is fifth in the league.
GARY | Today's game notes from the RailCats media relations department note that if the postseason began today, the team would own the wildcard and enter the playoffs for the first time since 2010.
Not that any team is ready to discuss playoffs with nearly a third of the season yet to be played. In the last week the 'Cats have dropped from second overall in the league to third and fallen further behind in a quest to win the division (something they haven't done since joining the American Association).
The RailCats are the beneficiaries of a tough matchup to the west this week as league leader (and Central Division topper) Wichita hosts Southern Division No. 2 Amarillo). The WingNuts fell to the Sox on Monday, which when combined with the RailCats' win against Sioux City gives the 'Cats a game back in the division race (from 6 1/2 down to 5 1/2 down).
Now comes the catch, the Sox are 2 1/2 games behind the RailCats for the wildcard spot. So as much as the RailCats need Amarillo to beat Wichita, they also need to keep winning to fight back the threat from the Sox.
Manager Greg Tagert said that despite Sioux City's record -- a second-to-last-in-the-league 24-38 -- the Explorers are among the best defensive teams (leading the league in fielding) and shouldn't be overlooked by the RailCats.
GARY | The RailCats beamed after their road trip to open August that they returned 5-3 when it could easily have been 4-4 or 3-5.
Today, they'll open a four-game homestand on the ugly end of seen games away from U.S. Steel Yard. The RailCats were 2-5 in two strolls through Lincoln and Sioux Falls.
The 'Cats have fallen from two games behind Wichita for first in the Central Division on July 11 to six-and-a-half back in 11 games.
Today's starter, Stephen Hiscock, was activated prior to the game after spending almost two months on the inactive list. Hiscock's last game was May 27 against Sioux City -- today's opponent -- a six-inning no decision in which he allowed seven hits and two earned runs.
He was placed on the inactive list on May 28 with a sore shoulder. He spent most of his time there with reliever Estevan Uriegas, who was activated Sunday as starter Will Krout was released.
GARY | The importance of today's RailCats game vs. Fargo-Moorhead can't be understated.
The RailCats are a half-game ahead of the RedHawks in the overall standings, and fell to four games behind Wichita in the Central Division with consecutive losses Friday and Saturday.
Lincoln, which is three games behind the RailCats in third place in the division, will host the 'Cats for three games beginning Monday.
For a game of such impact and import, James Adkins is taking a spot start in the rotation while Morgan Coombs is out with shingles. Adkins was 1-1 in three starts in Grand Prairie to start the season, and last started for the RailCats in a 5-4 win against St. Paul on June 21.
GARY | The RailCats have won five straight and 11 of their last 12 at home.
This four-game home stand is the only time that Fargo-Moorhead, a former Northern League foe, will be in town all season. The 'Cats hold a 3-1 advantage so far this season.
After the two series road trip that ended with a sweep in Winnipeg on Tuesday, manager Greg Tagert said he hoped his team could score earlier rather than later, not that the late-game heroics aren't exciting.
The 'Cats have scored their most runs of the season in the first inning: 39 runs in 51 games. Their second highest grossing inning is the sixth, in which they've scored 38 runs.
Just as I'm writing this, the RailCats announced they've signed Washington Township product Josh Biggs to a contract as a left-handed reliever. Morgan Coombs will go on the DL with shingles, Tagert said.
GARY | The RailCats return to U.S. Steel Yard after a sweep of Winnipeg and having won five of their last eight games.
The 'Cats play just eight games at home in all of July: this four-game series against Fargo-Moorhead and four games against Sioux City on July 22-25.
The team is 17-9 at home this season and its current 12-games above .500 is a high mark for the season.
The 'Cats still sit in second place in the American Association's Central Division, two games back of Wichita. The Wingnuts and RailCats play for a final time this season Aug. 20-22 in Gary.
The RedHawks lead the North Division with a 30-21 record and are 6-4 in their last 10 games.
The contract of RailCats closer Clay Zavada was purchased by the San Diego Padres on Tuesday and he will report to their double-A affiliate in San Antonio, the team said in a release.
Zavada becomes the 21st RailCat to be picked up by an affiliated organization since 2002. He is the first to be signed by off the RailCats roster since left-handed pitcher Brad Furnish was signed by the Florida Marlins after the end of the 2010 season.
He is also the first signed mid-season since Edwin Walker was taken by the N.Y. Yankees in 2009.
Zavada pitched 49 games for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2009, and pitched in Double-A and Triple-A in the Arizona and St. Louis organizations from 2010-12.
At the time of his purchase, Zavada was tied for second in the league in wins with 6. In 16 1/3 innings, he allowed 10 hits, three runs, six walks and struck out 18. Clay allowed runs in only one appearance as a RailCat, on May 26 at Kansas City.
GARY | The RailCats conclude their 11-game marathon with a series finale against Winnipeg.
The 'Cats are 9-1 so far in the stretch, improving the team from third in the division to second, from four games behind Wichita to 2 1/2.
The defending American Association Champion Winnipeg Goldeyes are third in the North and split a double-header Saturday against the RailCats. Justin Garcia, today's starter, is among the best on the staff, with a 4-1 record and 3.18 ERA.
Billy Spottiswood, the RailCats starter, is making his second start with the team.
GARY | The RailCats welcome Winnipeg to U.S. Steel Yard for the final series of the 11-game home stand. Coming to town with the Goldeyes is former RailCat and Hammond High grad Mike Coles, who signed with the Canadian team on June 20.
The RailCats eight-game winning streak is closing in on the franchise high of nine straight, set twice in the last six years (July 15-24, 2011 and July 29-Aug. 6, 2008).
Winnipeg Goldeyes (20-18)
LF Mike Coles
GARY | If you're just rising from the haze of the Blackhawks Stanley Cup Championship win Monday night, remember that the RailCats game ended later.
The 'Cats finished after 11 p.m. thanks in part to a 73-minute rain delay, and in part to scoring 16 runs total in a 10-6 Gary win.
The RailCats had little time to sleep in Tuesday morning, up for a noon game against Kansas City.
Will Krout will be activated from the disabled list to start against the T-Bones. The corresponding move is forthcoming.
GARY | If the RailCats beat St. Paul today, it will be the first sweep of a series by the team this season.
The 'Cats have been swept once -- by Sioux Falls -- and have three times come within the final game of a series sweep.
With a Wichita loss in 11 innings Saturday night and a Lincoln win, the RailCats are in third place, three games away from the top of the American Association Central Division standings.
Today's lineup comes early:
St. Paul Saints (17-18)
GARY | The RailCats have already guaranteed they won't lose the four-game series against St. Paul.
Tonight's game is a fight to win or tie their fourth series after losing two in a row to start June.
The RailCats lost in Amarillo then were swept by Sioux Falls June 3-9 before tying against Quebec (the final game was rained out), beating Fargo twice in a three-game series and tying Wichita in a four-game series.
The RailCats didn't lose a series in the month of May, tying Lincoln to open the season with four games, then beating Wichita, Kasas City, Sioux City and El Paso in two of three games. Though the 'Cats have been swept in a series, they haven't swept a team yet this season.
Last year, the team's record for series wins was five straight to open August. In all, the 'Cats won or tied 15 of 30 series in 2012.
GARY | The RailCats coaching staff had planned an undrafted seniors tryout day today that was ultimately delayed because of the rain.
The seniors are pounding in time before the RailCats take the field for their regularly scheduled 4:30 p.m. batting practice.
Greg Tagert has found a number of players that have ultimately made the roster from the undrafted seniors workout. Zac Mitchell and Chase Tucker, the starting infield, were players that were a part of last year's workout.
Hitters and pitchers are taking their shot for the roster with the tarp pulled back only halfway. The workout is not like the open tryout that the team holds at the beginning of the season. The coaching staff is looking for a particular skill set, so they limit players to pitching and hitting. They'll then take BP with the team to work on fielding skills.
This is also different because most of these players just ended their college seasons, so their pedigrees are known, unlike the open tryout where players who haven't played in several seasons can arrive to surprise the staff.
GARY | The RailCats have spent the last week on the road and have the comforts of U.S. Steel Yard for 11 straight games.
This is the longest homestand in team history and the eighth time the RailCats have hosted three consecutive series.
The 'Cats are also in the middle of 18 straight games in 17 days without a break.
The road trip didn't come without casualties. The 'Cats had to put starter Will Krout on the disabled list, retroactive to his June 18 start, a RailCats' win but a no decision for the righty. They've picked up reliever Boomer Potts in his place and James Adkins, a reliever with starter experience, will take Krout's spot in the rotation.
As reported in this blog on June 12, the team also signed Billy Spottiswood last week, a righty reliever. He pitched 4 2/3 on June 18 at Wichita, allowing six hits and two earned runs. He has one game as a starter, one of the day-night double-headers, and one as a reliever.
GARY | If you came here looking for a baseball game, it's starting a little late.
The American Association and Can-Am Leagues will do everything possible to get the game in. Even if it means starting at 10:15 p.m.
The rain started about 6:30 p.m. and the suite levels and press box were evacuated at around 6:45 p.m. After the first bursts of rain, fans were allowed back in the suites, but those under the concourse coverage were asked to stay out of the seating area.
The rain returned, and the big winds coming with it.
As of 8:45, the managers, umpires, head groundskeeper and RailCats general manager had met twice. They determined that a 10:15 p.m. start time was acceptable. The American Association and Can-Am Leagues waived the midnight curfew to allow the game to be played.
GARY | The RailCats aren't simply fighting the emotional toll that a losing streak can take, they're battling Mother Nature for another game.
The team opened batting practice to a rain storm Tuesday as the tarp was pulled onto the field just before their 4:30 p.m. start.
The 'Cats jumped ahead of the .500 mark with a win Monday night against four-time Can-Am League champion Quebec, behind a crashing double by Cristian Guerrero and a pitching gem from Morgan Coombs.
The win halted a four-game losing streak that stretched to a loss in Amarillo, and gives the RailCats two victories in their last eight games.
Quebec has lost four of its last six games, all of those to American Association teams.
GARY | The RailCats are welcoming dogs to U.S. Steel Yard with their annual Bark in the Park promotion.
Furry friends have a shade station, water stations and puppy pools around the park.
The team hopes to turn around its fate today and avoid falling to .500 for the first time since May 19.
After a 2-2 record in its first series of the year, the RailCats won four straight series, going 8-3 over that time. Since Monday, however, the week hasn't been kind. Losing two of three to Amarillo and four of their last five games gives the RailCats an 11-10 record while facing Sioux Falls, a team that entered the series 8-13.
GARY | The RailCats are entertaining an interesting lineup with injuries and illnesses.
The team made the official move this morning to put Stephen Hiscock on the inactive list with shoulder soreness and picked up left-handed reliever James Adkins.
A former first round pick by the Los Angeles Dodgers, Adkins pitched at the University of Tennessee and as high as Double-A Carolina with the Reds. He didn't pitch in 2012.
Leadoff man and left fielder Adam Klein is out of the lineup, sick at home with the flu. Klein is a gamer, so the stomach flu doesn't actually preclude him from dragging himself out of bed and coming in to try to enter in the late innings.
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