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.
"It's a cliche to say don't worry about the records -- the Sioux City club and the Sioux Falls club -- they come in here having played three hard-fought games in Fargo," Tagert said Monday. "They took two of three from Wichita a few weeks ago, took three of four from us. They're a good hitting club, very sound, the best defensive club in the league. They pitch well and anytime you pitch well you give your team a chance, so it's going to be a tough four-game set at home."
The RailCats won Monday answering a two-run top of the sixth inning with a three-run bottom of the sixth. The 'Cats committed two errors (leading to an unearned run) and Sioux City had none to keep their overall fielding percentage at 98.0, with 45 errors in 62 games. Conversely, the RailCats fielding percentage is among the lower third in the league, at .972 with 63 errors in 62 games.
Sioux City Explorers
CF Eliezer Mesa
SS Leugim Barroso
LF Yusuke Inoguchi
DH Austin Gallagher
RF Peter Barrows
1B Luke Murton
3B Bryan Pounds
C Alberto Espinosa
2B Eddie Young
RHP Dan Jurik (1-7, 4.72 ERA)
LF Adam Klein
RF Mike Massaro
DH Cristian Guerrero
C Craig Maddox
1B Christian Vitters
3B Brian Kolb
CF Drew Martinez
SS Zac Mitchell
2B Danny Pulfer
RHP Billy Spottiswood (2-1, 4.58 ERA)
Eliezer Mesa singles with a bloop into shallow right on the first pitch he sees. Leugim Barroso singles down the first-base line to move Mesa to second. On the first pitch to Yusuke Inoguchi, Barroso steals second. Inoguchi pops out foul to first base. Austin Gallagher pops out high nearly in front of home plate. Peter Barrows strikes out swinging. Xs had two in scoring position with none out and failed to score. Fans of 2012 RailCats know the feeling. Mid 1st inning: Explorers 0, RailCats 0
Adam Klein grounds out to third. Mike Massaro looks at a third strike. Cristian Guerrero pops out to center. End 1st inning: RailCats 0, Explorers 0
Luke Murton grounds out to short. Before the start of the game, Murton was goofing around with RailCats mascot Rascal. Bryan Pounds and Alberto Espinosa pop out to Mike Massaro in right. Mid 2nd inning: RailCats 0, Explorers 0
Craig Maddox strikes out swinging. Christian Vitters grounds out to the pitcher. Brian Kolb walks after fouling off an additional three pitches. Drew Martinez strikes out. End 2nd inning: RailCats 0, Explorers 0
Eddie Young grounds out to second base. Eliezer Mesa grounds out to short. The ball hit by Leugim Barroso hits off the pitcher, then bounces awkwardly off second base and into the waiting glove of Zac Mitchell, who throws to first for the out. Mid 3rd inning: RailCats 0, Explorers 0
Zac Mitchell singles, then steals second. Danny Pulfer lays down a sac bunt to move Mitchell to third base. Adam Klein is walked. Mike Massaro tries a bunt that goes straight to first base and Mitchell is thrown out at home. Massaro is on first on the fielder's choice. Cristian Guerrero singles to score Klein, then reached second on an error throw from right field. Craig Maddox pops out to second. End 3rd inning: RailCats 1, Explorers 0
Yusuke Inoguchi flies out to right. Austin Gallagher singles and Peter Barrows. After allowing the first two on, the RailCats retired 10 straight, then allowed another two on. Luke Murton grounds into a double play. Mid 4th inning: RailCats 1, Explorers 0
Christian Vitters grounds out to second and Brian Kolb and Drew Martinez fly out. End 4th inning: RailCats 1, Explorers 0
Bryan Pounds opens with a double. Alberto Espinosa and Eddie Young ground out to second, Eliezer Mesa strikes out looking. Mid 5th inning: RailCats 1, Explorers 0
Zac Mitchell grounds out to second. Danny Pulfer singles to give the 'Cats their third hit and sixth base runner. Adam Klein pops out foul behind the plate. Mike MAssaro flies out to right field. End 5th inning: RailCats 1, Explorers 0
Leugim Barroso flies out to right. Yusuke Inoguchi grounds out to third base. Austin Gallagher singles, he's 2-for-3 and the only Explorers batter with multiple hits. Peter Barrows flies out to left field. Mid 6th inning: RailCats 1, Explorers 0
Cristian Guerrero doubles with a moving pop fly into right. The RailCats leave him there with a line out by Craig Maddox, a fly ball by Christian Vitters and a strikeout by Brian Kolb. End 6th inning: RailCats 1, Explorers 0
Luke Murton grounds out to third. Bryan Pounds doubles and Alberto Espinosa singles. Eddie Young flies out to center and Eliezer Mesa grounds out to third. Again the Xs have runners in scoring position and leave them. Mid 7th inning: RailCats 1, Explorers 0
Drew Martinez is walked. Zac Mitchell sacrifices him to second base. Danny Pulfer strikes out swinging. Adam Klein walks. Mike Massaro flies out to center field. End 7th inning: RailCats 1, Explorers 0
Leugim Barroso singles and Yusuke Inoguchi sacrifices him to second. That'll chase Spottiswood. Estevan Uriegas relieves Spottiswood, who is in line for the win. Austin Gallagher grounds out to short, and that's it for Uriegas. Ian Durham replaces Uriegas. Peter Barrows grounds out to short. Mid 8th inning: RailCats 1, Explorers 0
Chris Bodishbaugh is the new Explorers pitcher. Cristian Guerrero hits his second double of the game. This is his first game back at No. 3 in the batting order and he has three hits and an RBI. He's replaced on the basepath by Nick Liles. Craig Maddox grounds out to third. Christian Vitters is walked. Liles takes third on a wild pitch. Kolb hits a bouncing grounder in front of the plate, it's fielded and Liles is thrown out at home. Drew Martinez opens with an 0-2 count and patiently allows it to go full before flying out to left field. End 8th inning: RailCats 1, Explorers 0
Marco Gonzalez in to close for the RailCats. Luke Murton leads off with a single into left and Sam Juda will run for him. Bryan Pounds strikes out swinging. Alberto Espinosa grounds out to short, Juda is on second. Juda takes third on a wild pitch. Eddie Young grounds to first to end the game. FINAL: RailCats 1, Explorers 0
AFTER THE GAME
Billy Spottiswood: "I'm starting to feel a lot better. I had a couple bad outings in a row, but I hadn't been a starter consistently since college and now I'm starting to feel like I'm able to pump the zone. It's nice to be able to have a defense that will let me do that and let them hit the ball and force them to hit the ball, instead of trying to strike guys out, that helps a lot.
"I have a routine now. Before I didn't have a routine, I was a bullpen guy most of my professional career. Before coming here, I only had three professional starts. I talked to some of the other guys, like (Alain Quijano) about the things he does to prepare for a game. I don't know what time I'm supposed to be out there, time differences and I'm able to do that now and I have a routine going."
Greg Tagert: For the three years that's similar to a lot of the games we've played against the Explorers. Big hit by Cristian after Mike tried to make something happen with the drag bunt, they made a nice play and Cristian comes up with the big hit. Obviously pitching on both sides. Their guy Jurik was good as he has been all year. Billy Spottiswood is continuing to grow as a starting pitcher. He's a veteran guy and I don't want to use the term 'grow,' obviously his experience helps in the capacity that he's taking on a starting role and he's taken it on with a lot of competitiveness and a desire to do well. You match that up with a pretty good pitcher to start with and he was pretty good tonight. Maybe a little too much drama in the eighth and ninth, that's good for the fans, but if we'd had that clean 1-2-3 inning in the ninth I'd prefer Marco to do that, instead of putting a runner on third. Marco has done that for us two nights in a row here and Marco has played just about every role for us in the last three years and he's saved the ballgame for us the last two nights.
"Big outs by Uriegas, and I hope everyone will remember that play Mitchell made in the eighth to throw out Barrows after Durham came in."
"I had a feeling about (Cristian) and more not second-guessing my first decision of the year which was to put him up to three so we could get him as many at bats as possible. He's been scuffling a little bit so it was nice to see. He got the big double in the eighth when we needed a run and we didn't quite get it done, but we need to do some things offensively. ... We'll see how it goes over the next three or four games.
"It was a tough night for the offensive players to get something going with that wind blowing in. It was a Steel Yard night reminiscent of some of those games in May and June games you see out here."