Lynch, Omaha stymie RailRiders
May 13—MOOSIC — Unlike the previous game, Omaha's pitchers didn't pile up the strikeouts against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre's hitters Friday night.
Having a big league rehabber on the mound, however, helped to make up for it.
Southpaw Daniel Lynch allowed two runs in five innings, Omaha's bullpen didn't allow a hit the rest of the way and the RailRiders' last-gasp rally in the ninth came up just short in a 3-2 loss to the Storm Chasers at PNC Field.
After Ben Rortvedt won a lefty-on-lefty battle against Lynch with a home run the opposite way into the visitors bullpen leading off the fifth, the RailRiders (16-21) managed just three base runners the rest of the way, each one reaching on a walk. Two came with two outs in the ninth inning. Jamie Westbrook then sent a drive to deep right center off closer Nick Wittgren, but center fielder Drew Waters managed to run it down to end the game.
They cut down their strikeouts from 15 on Thursday to eight on Friday, but six came over the final four innings.
"Didn't see the same aggressiveness and energy and thump as we've seen, but there's going to be phases over the course of the season where that happens," RailRiders manager Shelley Duncan said. "To make the adjustment from yesterday to today was really good. They did a good job handling the strike zone. Lynch is tough."
Lynch, who is working his way back from a rotator cuff strain he suffered in spring training, allowed three singles outside of Rortvedt's homer, walked one and struck out two. He averaged a bit better than 93 mph on his fastball, but when it's paired with a lanky, 6-foot-6 frame, it got on RailRiders hitters quickly.
"His fastball, when it's up in the zone, is hard to lay off because he's got a high release," Duncan said. "Makes it tricky. I've seen him do what he did to our lineup today to a lot of really good hitters. ... I'm happy our guys got to see that and learn from it."
Omaha plated two runs in the first inning on three hits against starter Randy Vásquez, and added another run in the third off a double from Tyler Gentry. After the RailRiders warmed up the bullpen early just in case his pitch count got out of hand, Vásquez finished on a roll. He retired the final 12 batters he faced — stranding two in the third inning — and struck out the side on just 10 pitches in the fifth inning.
"He had that one long inning, and it just looked like he got a little consumed with the running game," Duncan said. "But he put that beside him and pitched out there with a little bit of anger and fire. We saw some of his most electric stuff of the season."
Westbrook singled in a run off Lynch in the second inning to get the RailRiders within 2-1, and Rortvedt's first home run of the season got the deficit back to one at 3-2 in the fifth.
"My first AB, I ended up seeing a couple pitches while I started to get more comfortable with him," Rortvedt said. "It's just being able to start on time and then just making good contact. He's going to provide the power at that point."
Rortvedt, who also walked twice, got his OPS up to .848 after seven games with the RailRiders.
Omaha called on Wittgren to close it out for a second consecutive game and, after they tagged him with a blown save Thursday, they didn't make it easy on him. He got two quick outs, then Jesús Bastidas and Rortvedt worked walks. Rortvedt's included a successful challenge that turned a 1-1 count into a 2-0 one.
Westbrook got a 1-1 slider and squared it up — he hit it 98.8 mph and it sailed 368 feet, a drive that under the warmer conditions at the start of the game might have flirted with the fence — but Waters chased it down to end the game.
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