AUGUST 16th PAWTUCKET (69-57) vs. SCRANTON/WB (70-56) @ McCoy 7:05 pm
Pawtucket Red Sox RHP Tony Pena, Jr. (1-9, 5.38)
Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees LHP Justin Thomas (1-1, 3.38)
Back to Regular Programming (Kind Of) – The 2nd-place Pawtucket Red Sox and the 1st-place Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees play game four of their 5-game series at McCoy Stadium tonight at 7:05 pm following a strange doubleheader last evening in Pawtucket. In G1 last night Scranton/WB rallied as the “home” team for a 5-1 win. In G2 the PawSox were the home team and that fact came in handy when the game was called due to rain after 4½-innings with Pawtucket ahead (and winners) 5-2. The PawSox have thus won 2 of the first 3 games in this important 5-game set that continues tonight and concludes tomorrow night with the Yankees the “home” team again in both games.
High Five – The PawSox came into this 5-game series trailing the Yanks by 2-games in the IL North. The Sox cut that deficit to 1-game with a 9-7 victory in the series opener Tuesday night. The doubleheader split last night kept the teams separated by that 1-game margin. These two rivals will still meet 6 more times (including tonight) over their final 18 games of the regular-season including a season-ending 4-game set here at McCoy over the wrap-around Labor Day weekend from August 31 – September 3 that may have huge post-season implications.
Playoff Preview? – The International League’s four-team postseason playoffs begin three weeks from last night. If things ended right now then Pawtucket would be the IL Wild Card and Scranton/WB would be the IL North Champ. As such, the teams would meet in the Governors’ Cup semi-finals which would begin with Games 1 & 2 on September 5 & 6 at McCoy Stadium. Scranton/WB would be the home team for the final three games from September 7-9 with those games played at Frontier Field in Rochester, NY (the final two games if necessary). Of course, neither club is guaranteed anything in this tight playoff race with 18 games remaining. The wild card race has LehighValley -2 GB of the PawSox, and Columbus & Rochester both -4½ GB in the chase for the wild card. The other playoff semi-final series appears all but set as it should be IL West Champ Indianapolis vs. IL South Champ Charlotte as both clubs have 10-game leads in their division.
Postseason Hopes – Pawtucket is trying to capture back-to-back IL North regular-season titles for the first time in franchise-history. Pawtucket’s largest 1st-place lead of the season was +5-games from June 15-17. Their largest deficit of the season was -3 GB from July 3, 5 & 6 as well as April 15 & 16. The PawSox last earned the IL Wild Card playoff berth in 2008 when they lost in the 1st round of the playoffs to IL North Champion Scranton/WB. Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, meanwhile, is bidding for their 6th IL North title in the last 7 years. They won five straight North Division crowns from 2006-2010 before the PawSox broke that streak last season.
Vagabonds - The Yankees have played on the road all season during the year-long renovation of PNC Stadium in Moosic, PA. (The original IL schedule had this series slated to be played at Scranton/WB before being rearranged to accommodate the construction crews). And the Yankees have the lead in the division despite the majority of Scranton/Wilkes-Barre’s “home” games being held in Rochester in 2012 with others in Syracuse, LehighValley, Batavia, NY, Buffalo, and Pawtucket this week.
Head to Head - The PawSox, Scranton/WB, and LehighValley all have 18 games remaining in the regular-season. The Sox have 10 at home – although the next 2 they are the “away” team – and 8 actual road games) as they bid to defend their IL North title from 2011. Head-to-head match-ups between the three top teams in the division will go a long way in determining who emerges with a playoff spot(s) as the PawSox face Scranton/WB 6 more times (2 more this week and a 4-game set to end the regular-season from August 31 – September 3). Furthermore, the Yankees and IronPigs will play 5 more games against each other during a stretch from August 25-30 with all 5 games in Allentown, PA (the first 3 with Lehigh as the home team and the last 2 with Scranton/WB as the home team).