IronPigs to open playoffs against familiar foe
At one point, it looked like the IronPigs may be opening the International League playoffs in a distant city like Columbus, Ohio or Indianapolis, Indiana.
Instead, they’ll be sticking much closer to home against a familiar postseason rival, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. Scranton went on a bit of a late season tear, winning five of their last six games to make up some ground and grab a wild card spot.
The bad news for Lehigh Valley is they’ve faced Scranton in the first round of the playoffs in each of the past two seasons and saw their playoff run end then and there. In fact, the RailRiders have won six of seven postseason games the two teams played in the past two seasons. Perhaps the third time will be the charm.
During the regular season, the RailRiders won 11 of the 20 games between the two teams, including splitting a four-game series at Coca-Cola Park in late August. The rosters for both teams have undergone changes since that series, with the big league rosters expanding to 40 players and the Triple-A teams losing some key players.
The IronPigs lost outfielders Aaron Altherr and Dylan Cozens, catcher Andrew Knapp and pitcher Yacksel Rios to the Phillies. They also played late season games with rehabbing major leaguers Jerad Eickhoff, Pedro Florimon, Edubray Ramos and Austin Davis, all of whom have been reinstated on the Philleis roster. Reliever Mark Leiter Jr. was claimed off waivers by Toronto and on Tuesday, the Phillies grabbed shortstop J.P. Crawford from the IronPigs roster.
Scranton/Wilkes-Barre lost lefty Stephen Tarpley and right-hander Luis Cessa along with shortstop Tyler Wade. Catcher Gary Sanchez had also been playing with the RailRiders on a major league rehab and was activated by the Yankees. Wade and Sanchez were thorns in the IronPigs side during their time with Scranton.
The first two games of the best-of-five series will be at PNC Field in Moosic before the teams travel down the turnpike for game three Friday night at Coca-Cola Park. Games four and five, if necessary, would also be at Lehigh Valley.
Enyel De Los Santos (10-5, 2.63) and Cole Irvin (14-4, 2.57) will pitch games one and two. De Los Santos will be opposed by Eric Swanson (3-2, 3.86) in game one, but Scranton hasn’t announced a game two starter yet. The Pigs rotation has Drew Anderson (9-4, 3.87) pitching Friday with Ranger Suarez (2-0, 2.74) Saturday and Tom Eshelman (2-13, 5.84) starting game five.
ELSEWHERE IN THE IL ... The Toledo MudHens, winners of the IL West, will face off against the Durham Bulls, the South Division champions in the other first round series. Like the IronPigs, the Bulls have home field advantage meaning they’ll open the series with two games in Toledo before returning to Durham for games three, four and five.
THREE OUT OF FOUR AIN’T BAD ... Of the four full-season teams in the Phillies minor league organization, three of them are in their respective league playoffs. The Reading Fightin’ Phils were the only team to see their season end on Monday. Clearwater beat the Daytona Tortugas 5-4 Tuesday night in the opener of the North Division series in the Florida State League. The South Atlantic League Northern Division series is a best-of-three series with Lakewood playing Kannapolis.