East Penn Press

Sunday, January 21, 2018

IronPigs end season in playoffs

Thursday, September 14, 2017 by CHUCK HIXSON Special to the Press in Sports

After a six-game winning streak put the Lehigh Valley IronPigs into the playoffs, a seventh straight win gave them a 1-0 lead in their best-of-five divisional series against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Unfortunately, that wase their last win of the season as the RailRiders went on to take the next three games to advance to the Governor’s Cup Finals in the International League.

The Pigs weren’t helped by what a video replay showed to be a bad call in game four of the series.

Hector Gomez led off the seventh inning with Lehigh Valley trailing 1-0. He laced a double to start things. After Dylan Cozens struck out, Nick Rickles hit a flyball to right field for the second out, and Gomez tagged off of second to advance to third. The RailRiders challenged the play, saying that Gomez left early and umpire Ryan Clark called him out to end the inning.

Gomez and manager Dusty Wathan argued vehemently, but the call stood as none of the other umpires chose to step in and overturn the call.

It wasn’t the first time this season that Lehigh Valley has had a run-in with Clark. He ejected Rhys Hoskins early in the season for arguing a called third strike and more recently he ejected Wathan for arguing balls and strikes.

Minor League Baseball does not use instant replay on disputed calls, but video of the play clearly showed that Gomez didn’t leave early and should not have been called out on the play.

The good news for Lehigh Valley was that starter Jacob Waguespack, making his Triple-A debut, pitched an absolute gem. The 23-year-old Waguespack allowed just three hits and two walks over seven innings. Waguespack opened the season with Clearwater and moved up to Double-A Reading where he made six starts and one relief appearance.

Because Lehigh Valley had three pitchers shut down due to innings limitations that the Phillies had placed on them, Waguespack got a chance to start for the ‘Pigs and came through in great shape.

Meanwhile, the Phillies also wonder if they found another piece for their major league rotation in 2018 with the signing of Henderson Alvarez to a minor league deal. Alvarez, who was an all-star with the Marlins before undergoing two shoulder surgeries, was pitching in independent baseball when the Phillies signed him, somewhat out of desperation to add an extra arm.

Alvarez pitched well for Lehigh Valley and may find himself getting a couple of starts with the Phillies now that the IronPigs season is over. Alvarez was 2-0 with a 2.84 ERA in three starts with Lehigh Valley.

Having the Phillies raid their collection of top talent hurt the IronPigs in attendance, and so did a couple of other factors. For the first time in their 10 seasons, Lehigh Valley didn’t break the 600,000 mark in attendance, finishing the year with 555,146 fans coming to games. The minor league schedule was cut by two games down to 142 games in 2017 and the IronPigs actually only had 65 home dates this seasondue to double-headers that were necessary because of rainouts.

Without the rainouts, the average of 8,551 fans per game would have still put the IronPigs over the 600,000 mark if they were to have had all 71 scheduled home games.

Lehigh Valley still finished fourth in the league in attendance.