’Riders happy with season
SWB fell short of forcing a Game 5 in the Governors’ Cup finals.
MOOSIC — Navy blue Yankees equipment bags occupied much of the free space in the RailRiders clubhouse Friday night.
Players packed them for their trips home, cleaning out their lockers like kids on the last day of school.
Minutes earlier, the Durham Bulls clinched the Governors’ Cup championship, knocking off the RailRiders in four games and ending SWB’s bid to repeat as champs.
The mood in the clubhouse wasn’t one of disappointment. It wasn’t silent. Players held their heads high, shook hands and said their goodbyes.
There was a sense of accomplishment; a sense of a season well done, even if the result wasn’t what they wanted. Repeating was always an uphill climb. Only Columbus (2010-11, 1991-92), Toledo (2005-06) and Durham (2002-03) have accomplished the feat since the SWB franchise began in 1989.
This RailRiders still posted the league’s best record in the regular season at 86-55. The offense led the league in runs per game, batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage — the first time that’s been done since 2004 — and hit more home runs than any other SWB team in the Yankees era. The pitchers became the first group in franchise history to strike out more than 1,200 in one season and led the league in ERA and WHIP.
“I just told them, ‘I’m just going to go home feeling good about this team,’ ” said RailRiders manager Al Pedrique, who took home his second straight Manager of the Year award this season. “The chemistry, the heart, especially what they showed (Friday night). And I’m sure the whole organization saw our game and they’re going to be proud of this group because they never quit.
“The one thing I liked the most is how they welcomed everybody that came in from Tampa’s club, from Trenton’s club, they welcomed those guys like they were part of the team, like they were with us from the beginning, April 6.”
After Friday’s game, third baseman Miguel Andujar and reliever Jonathan Holder were called back up to New York.
Andujar played one game for the Yankees earlier this year and made an immediate impact, going 3 for 4 in his big league debut June 28 against the Chicago White Sox. But he still needed time to develop, and New York sent him back to Triple-A the next day.
“I feel good,” Andujar said through an interpreter. “Since the beginning of the season, I’ve been working to go to the next step, and now I’m going to the next step, which is New York. So, I’m excited about it and can’t wait to get there.”
Hanging ’em up
Eddy Rodriguez called this season the “chance of a lifetime.”
With fellow catcher Kyle Higashioka missing most of the season with injuries, the 31-year-old Rodriguez stepped into an everyday role with the RailRiders and played in 83 games, his most since 2013, and tied for the second most in a professional career that started in 2006.
Now, that career is “99 percent” done.
“There’s still an outside chance (to continue playing),” said Rodriguez, one of the team’s leaders. “I have several things that I’m working on, where things should work out nicely. (If) there’s a crazy opportunity, where things work out for me and some crazy team comes and offers me something I can’t not take ... but aside from that, this should be my last season.”
He won’t head into retirement alone. Jonathan Diaz, Rodriguez’s childhood friend and RailRiders teammate, confirmed Friday was the last game of his career, too.
Diaz, 32, reached base four times in Game 4, working a key walk in his final plate appearance.
Railriders’ Jonathan Diaz tries to tag out Durham’s Willy Adames after he over ran second base on Friday.