The Lehigh Valley IronPigs, with a come-from-behind, extra inning 6-5 win last night in Allentown, have taken a 1-0 lead in their best-of-5 International League Governor’s Cup semifinal playoff series vs their eastern PA rivals, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders (AAA, New York Yankees).
The team has been streaking for the last week. After an August swoon, the Pigs won their last 6 games of the season and clinched a wild card berth with a win on the very last day of the season. The last series of the year was against these very same RailRiders, including a doubleheader sweep on Sunday, and a nail biter win on Monday to clinch. As avid baseball fans know, sometimes it is not always the best team that wins a playoff series, but often the one that is streaking at the right time.
To put into perspective the difference between the minor leagues and the big leagues, consider this: the Phillies minor league system exists for one reason, and that reason is to develop players for the Phillies. As such, the IronPigs have been fleeced this season by the big club – they have lost for all or parts of their season players such as Brock Staasi, Jorge Alfaro, Nick Williams, Mark Leiter, Ben Lively, Cam Perkins, most of their bullpen, and most recently, the International League MVP Rhys Hoskins and top-ranked prospect J.P. Crawford. Crawford was promoted to the big leagues right after the Pigs clincher on Monday, depriving them of their starting shortstop as well as their best hitter on the eve of the playoff series.
Last night’s lineup consisted of players promoted from AA Reading in time for this series, including their starting pitcher Drew Anderson, and their third baseman, Mitch Walding. After falling behind 5-1 in the 4th inning, the Pigs answered with a 4-run 5th inning, holding the game scoreless until they finally broke through with a single run in the 12th.
From a player development point of view, one can see the Phillies rebuilding plan play out on a nightly basis in the minor leagues. Players ticketed for AA are getting AAA experience in a playoff atmosphere, and the future of the Phillies are at the major league level taking swings vs big league pitching.
It’s going to be at least one season until there is a playoff atmosphere at Citizen’s Bank Park. If you want to get a taste of some playoff baseball, and get a look at the future of the Phillies, plenty of tickets are available for the upcoming games.
The IronPigs playoff schedule is as follows:
- 7:05pm, September 8: Game 2 at Coca-Cola Park in Allentown, PA
- 6:35pm, September 9: Game 3 at PNC Field in Moosic, PA
- 1:05pm, September 10: Game 4 (if necessary), Moosic, PA
- Time TBD, September 11: Game 5 (if necessary), Moosic, PA
Photo credit: Jason Phillips
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