Jul. 20—MOOSIC — Momentum looked like it might be shifting Scranton/Wilkes-Barre’s way.
Even though the RailRiders had just wasted a bases-loaded opportunity in the seventh inning, they were within two runs of Worcester and the offense was starting to click after a slow start — a start that, within the first five innings, included two double plays and the second triple play turned against the team in club history.
Then, the Red Sox blew it open, and they didn’t have to swing their bats too much to get it done.
RailRiders reliever DJ Snelten struggled to throw strikes in the eighth inning, and it led to Worcester scoring six runs on just two hits to pull away from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in an 11-5 win Wednesday at PNC Field.
After Ronaldo Hernández led off the eighth inning with a broken-bat single off Snelten, who had just come into the game, the next five batters reached base despite not one taking a single swing. Daniel Palka was hit in the top of his helmet by a 97.2-mph fastball, then Snelten walked the final four hitters he faced on just 18 pitches. Three of the free passes forced in runs and Worcester led, 8-3, before the RailRiders could get Michael Gomez warmed up to come into the game.
“You go into the inning down two in the game, and then there’s a point in the game where you’re really hoping that he just — you’re not worried about the score anymore, you’re just hoping he can start throwing strikes and stay and finish the inning somehow,” RailRiders manager Shelley Duncan said. “You’re pulling for him because you don’t want to see any pitcher go through that.”
Snelten left with the bases loaded and no outs, and all three runners eventually came around to score. Ceddanne Rafaela, Boston’s No. 2 prospect, ripped a two-run single off Gomez — part of his 3-for-5, four-RBI night — and a sixth run scored when Bobby Dalbec grounded into a double play.
Snelten, a big southpaw who’s had some dominant outings this season thanks to an upper-90s fastball, saw more than a run-and-a-half added to his season ERA, which now stands at 7.57. The fastball velocity was still there, as he averaged 96.5 mph on 19 heaters, but just three went for strikes.
“It’s hard because he’s worked his tail off all season long and he’s had a couple years off,” said Duncan, noting that, because of injuries, this is the 31-year-old Snelten’s first year pitching since 2019. “And sometimes we see these glimpses of an unhittable pitcher and sometimes we see a guy that struggles mightily to find the zone. Today was one of those days.”
Early on, it looked like it might be one of those days for the rest of the RailRiders, too.
Worcester starter Kyle Barraclough, a veteran reliever who pitched out of the SWB bullpen in 2021, faced one batter more than the minimum over the first five innings, although not without some help from his defense. Hernández threw out the rehabbing Greg Allen trying to swipe second for the first out of the game, then two batters later, Carlos Narvaez banged into a double play. Andrés Chaparro walked to start the second, only for Jake Lamb to bounce into another twin killing.
The low point came in the fifth inning, when the RailRiders had two on and nobody out. Michael Hermosillo scorched the first pitch he saw 102.1 mph, but it was on a hop to Dalbec at third. He stepped on the base, fired to second and Nick Sogard made a quick turn to first baseman Stephen Scott to complete the second triple play against a Scranton/Wilkes-Barre team. Syracuse turned the first one in 2019 off a Mike Tauchman lineout.
Things started to go up from there for the RailRiders offense, which trailed, 5-0, heading to the bottom of the sixth. Dalbec knocked in runs in the first and third off starter Tanner Tully, and Rafaela added a two-run double in the fourth.
Jesús Bastidas and Wilmer Difo started the sixth with singles off Barraclough, then Allen cranked a three-run home run the opposite way into the bullpens to get the RailRiders within two. Duncan joked he didn’t know Allen had that kind of pop in him — 101.7 mph off the bat and it went 382 feet.
“Sometimes, you surprise yourself, surprise your manager, surprise your teammates,” Allen said with a grin. “No, I was just happy to put a good swing on the ball and get some runs on the board.”
Allen finished the night 1 for 5, playing a full game for the first time during this rehab assignment for a right hip flexor strain.
“Good to get to nine innings obviously,” he said. “Got some balls on defense, stolen base attempt, five at-bats — overall, again, just good to get through nine.”
After Deivi García retired the heart of the Worcester lineup in order in the top of the seventh, the RailRiders loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the inning. Reliever Andres Nuñez worked out of his own trouble, fanning Difo and getting Allen to ground out.
With Worcester ahead, 11-3, after the six-run outburst, Everson Pereira, Narvaez and Chaparro rocketed singles off Ryan Fernandez to start the bottom of the eighth, loading the bases with no outs. Lamb walked to force in a run and another scored on Jamie Westbrook’s groundout, but that was as much as the RailRiders would squeeze out of the last-gasp rally.
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