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Baby Bombers Playoff Blog: Sept. 7

Late-inning heroics push Scranton, Trenton to victory
09/07/2012 10:05 PM ET
By Lou DiPietro
Day 3 of the MiLB postseason was the best one yet for the Baby Bombers, with a pair of late rallies leading to wins that helped Scranton stave off elimination and moved Trenton one step closer to a title.

SCRANTON: With his team down to its final out of the season, SWB Yankees center fielder Melky Mesa blasted a walk-off two-run homer off Pedro Beato to lead Scranton to a dramatic 4-3 victory over the Pawtucket Red Sox and keep their championship hopes alive for at least one more day.

For eight innings, Scranton did next to nothing offensively; they went down 1-2-3 in the first inning, and after Luke Murton drew a leadoff walk and Mesa followed with a single to open the second, PawSox starter Billy Buckner retired the final 16 batters he faced. SWB starter Mike O’Connor also pitched well, allowing just two runs on three hits over six innings while striking out five, but until the very end it appeared that the back-to-back homers he allowed to Bryce Brentz and Mike Rivera in the second inning would be all the offense the PawSox would need.

Pawtucket scored what looked like an insurance run in the eighth off the relief combo of Manny Delcarmen and Ryota Igarashi (W, 1-0), but the offense would be all Yankees from there. Gustavo Molina hit a solo homer off Brock Huntzinger in the bottom of the frame to cut SWB’s deficit to 3-1, and that set the stage for the ninth inning heroics.

Instead of going to Jose de la Torre, who closed out Games 1 and 2, PawSox skipper Arnie Beyeler called on Tony Pena Jr. to get the final three outs. Kevin Russo promptly greeted him with a double, and after a Corban Joseph groundout moved Russo to third, Ronnier Mustelier plated him with a single to cut the deficit to 3-2.

Beyeler then removed Pena and called on ex-Met Pedro Beato, who promptly got Luke Murton to pop out for the second out. But with Pawtucket within one out of their first-ever post-season sweep, it was Mesa – a 2012 Eastern League All-Star who hit 23 homers between Double-A and Triple-A this year – who would not let his team go quietly into the good night, blasting a 2-0 offering from Beato (BS, 1; L, 0-1) over the left field fence to give the Baby Bombers the stunning walk-off victory.

Pawtucket now leads the best-of-five series 2-1, and the pitching matchup for Saturday’s Game 4 is quite an interesting one. The Yankees will go with 25-year-old lefty Vidal Nuno, who will be making his Triple-A debut after going 10-6 with a 2.54 ERA between Class-A Tampa and Trenton this season, while the PawSox will counter with veteran righty Nelson Figueroa (12-5, 3.89 overall) – who, ironically, began the season with Scranton but was picked up by Pawtucket in July after the Yankees released him.

TRENTON: A late-inning rally pushed Trenton past Reading for the second consecutive night, and the Thunder’s 3-1 win over the Phillies gave them a 2-1 lead in their best-of-five series.

Trenton got on the board in the bottom of the first, as Zoilo Almonte’s RBI double gave the Thunder a quick 1-0 lead, but Reading tied the game thanks to Cody Asche’s two-out RBI double in the third. The teams traded zeroes for the next four-plus innings, but with two on and two out in the bottom of the eighth, David Adams and Almonte lashed back-to-back RBI singles to give Trenton the 3-1 lead they would not relinquish.

All told, Thunder pitching allowed just five hits to the R-Phils, with starter Mikey O’Brien giving up the lone run on two hits in five innings. Tom Kahnle pitched the sixth and seventh, and after Lee Hyde (W, 1-0) got out of a jam in the eighth, Mark Montgomery (S, 1) came on to nail it down for Trenton.

Offensively, Almonte (2-4, 2 RBI) was the star, and first baseman Tyler Austin, who hit .322 with 17 homers and 80 RBI at four stops in the system this summer, went 1-for-3 and scored the game-winning run in his Thunder postseason debut.

The victory moves the Thunder to within one win of a trip to the Eastern League Championship Series, and Game 4 is set for Saturday at 7:05 p.m. in Trenton. The Baby Bombers will send lefty Nik Turley, who made his Trenton debut on Monday after going 9-5 with a 2.89 ERA in 21 starts at Class-A Tampa this summer, to the mound to try to close out the series, while the R-Phils will counter with fellow southpaw Adam Morgan – who was 4-1 with a 3.53 ERA in six starts for Reading after going 4-10 with a 3.29 ERA in 20 starts at Class-A Clearwater.

Follow Lou DiPietro on Twitter: @LouDiPietroYES

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