It looked like both Lehigh Valley and Reading would be done-in by three-run home runs on Sunday night, but both came back to pick up wins that guarantee them at least a share of the final playoff spot up for grabs for each team.
In Syracuse, a three-run shot by Jesus Valdez put the Chiefs up 4-1 in the bottom of the fifth. For Reading, it was Binghamton's Allan Dykstra - no relation to Lenny Dykstra - who hit a three-run blast and cutting Reading's lead to 4-3 before an RBI single from Kai Gronauer in the seventh would tie the game 4-4.. From there though, both teams went to battle and finished the night with wins.
For Lehigh Valley, an RBI single by Kevin Frandsen and a wild pitch by the Chiefs' Jeff Mandel helped the 'Pigs close the gap to 4-3 in the top of the seventh. An inning later, Scott Podsednik led off with a double, but was caught in a rundown on a groundball hit by Freddy Galvis. Podsednik stayed in the rundown long enough to enable Galvis to reach second. With two outs in the inning, Domonic Brown, who had been sidelined for most of the week due to flu-like symptoms, came on to pinch-hit and drew a walk to put runners on first and second. Rich Thompson then doubled to drive in Galvis and Pete Orr singled to bring home Brown and give the IronPigs a 6-4 lead.
Singles by Brandon Moss and Erik Kratz opened the ninth and one out later, Cody Overbeck was intentionally walked to load the bases. Galvis came to the plate as the only player in the 'Pigs lineup without a hit, but he managed to hit a groundball to first baseman Jeff Frazier that allowed Moss to score, giving Lehigh Valley an insurance run and making it a 7-4 game. Joe Savery, who came on to pitch the bottom of the eighth, hit for himself and grounded out to end the inning, but was able to put down Syracuse in the ninth to preserve the win for the IronPigs.
Savery picked up his second save of the season and the win went to Ryan Feierabend (10-8), who pitched a scoreless seventh inning. Mandel (4-4) took the loss for Syracuse.
While all of that was happening, Reading went to work to break their 4-4 tie with Binghamton.
With one out in the top of the ninth, Tim Kennelly hit his third home run of the season for the R-Phils to put them on top 5-4. B.J. Rosenberg (5-7), who got the final out of the eighth inning, pitched a scoreless ninth to pick up the win. Rosenberg came on with a runner on first and two outs in the eighth and got Eric Campbell to fly out to Kennelly in left. Kennelly had just come on as part of a double-switch, when Rosenberg relieved Jacob Diekman. Austin Hyatt started and went 6 1/3 innings, giving up four earned runs. Binghamton's Ricky Brooks (2-8) surrendered the home run to Kennelly and took the loss.
Earlier in the game, Brent Clevlen hit his fifth home run of the season to give Reading a 1-0 lead in the second. An inning later, the R-Phils loaded the bases with nobody out. A single by Ozzie Chavez drove in one run and a ground out by Carlos Rivero plated another. Clevlen then drew a walk to load the bases and Matt Rizzotti worked a walk to force home Reading's fourth run of the game as they took a 4-0 lead.
In Sunday's games, Lehigh Valley will have Nate Bump (4-9, 5.09) going against Brad Myers (6-4, 3.46) for Syracuse. Reading sends Tyson Brummett (3-8, 4.62) up against Binghamton's Jeurys Familia (4-3, 3.38) in the season finale.
Should Lehigh Valley and Gwinnett tie for the wild card in the International League, there would be a one-game playoff hosted by the 'Pigs on Tuesday. The winner of that game would host Pawtucket for the first two games of the best-of-five semi-final series starting on Wednesday. Games three through five - if necessary - would be played in Pawtucket. All this guarantees at least one more game for Lehigh Valley at Coca-Cola Park.
As for Reading, a tie for second in the Eastern Division and the final spot in the playoffs would mean Reading would travel to New Britain for a one-game playoff on Tuesday and then open the Division Championship in New Hampshire on Wednesday, should they beat New Britain.
It should be noted that rain is expected in both Syracuse and Binghamton on Monday. Should either - or both - games be rained out, there would be no make-up dates and both teams would gain their respective spots in the post-season. Reading's first pitch is scheduled for 1:05, while Lehigh Valley and Syracuse get underway at 2:05.