Lehigh Valley Wins IL Wild Card

After three seasons of futility, the Lehigh Valley IronPigs finished the season 80-64 to win the International League Wild Card. The franchise will host their first ever playoff game Wednesday at Coca-Cola Park.

The IronPigs may have found their offense in the final game of the regular season. The game was cut short by rain with the IronPigs batting in the top of the sixth, but at that point, they had already picked up 11 hits and had the bases loaded with just one out in the inning and Erik Kratz at the plate. Kratz already had two hits and driven in two runs in the game. After sitting through the mandatory 45 minute rain delay, Lehigh Valley was deemed the winning team with the score 4-1. The win gave the IronPigs the wild card spot in the International League playoffs, which will open at Coca-Cola Park Wednesday night.

Starter Nate Bump (5-9) allowed just one earned run over five innings of work and has now allowed just that lone earned run over his last 11 2/3 innings of work to finish the regular season. The only blemish on the day for Bump was when he gave up a two-out single to Chris Curran in the bottom of the third to drive in Corey Brown, who had doubled to open up the inning. That run tied the game at one after Lehigh Valley had just put up a run in the top of the third when Rich Thompson singled and stole second to open the inning and later scored on an RBI single from Brandon Moss to put the 'Pigs up 1-0.

Thompson finished the day 2-for-4 with two runs scored and three stolen bases to put his league leading total at 48 for the year. Thompson stole seven bases over the final three games of the season and stole three bases in a game three times this season for Lehigh Valley.

Lehigh Valley would go up 3-1 in the fifth when Kevin Frandsen roped a one out single and Brandon Moss followed with a base hit to right. On the play, Frandsen was trying to take third and the throw from Jesus Valdez was dropped by third baseman Tug Hulett, who then interfered with Frandsen attempting to advance to home. Hulett ended up also being charged with an interference error and Frandsen scored the 'Pigs second run of the game while Moss went to second. Kratz then delivered his 19th double of the season to plate Moss.

Lehigh Valley was poised to completely break the game open in the sixth when the rains came to cause the delay. It was Bump who actually started things off with a base hit and then went to third on Thompson's single putting runners on the corners with nobody out. Thompson quickly stole second ahead of a ground ball by Pete Orr, who was caught too far off the third base bag and thrown out. Orr and Thompson pulled off a double-steal and Frandsen drew a walk to load the bases. Moss stepped to the plate and also drew a walk to force home a run and put Lehigh Valley up 4-1. As Kratz came to the plate Syracuse manager Randy Knorr approached the umpires and suggested that perhaps the game should go into a rain delay for the protection of the players, who had played most of the game in a slow rain that had picked up measurably in the sixth inning. The umpires concurred, but the Syracuse ground crew covered only the mound and home plate area and did not put the full tarp on the infield. After the mandatory 45 minute delay, the umpires officially called the game, resulting in an IronPigs win.

The IronPigs came into the game one-game ahead of Gwinnett for the wild card and needed either a win or a Gwinnett loss to take the wild card. Both games faced the potential for rain throughout the day and Gwinnett's game started two hours late because of a delay. The G-Braves and Charlotte did eventually get underway, but the game was eventually called in the third inning. Because of league rules, had either game been rained out, the IronPigs would have been awarded the wild card based on the two teams' won-loss records.

International League rules call for the North Division winner - Pawtucket - to play their opening series against the wild card, with the best-of-five series opening in the wild card city for two games prior to returning to Pawtucket for any remaining games that would be necessary. That means that the IronPigs will host games one and two of the series starting on Wednesday night at Coca-Cola Park. Dave Bush (1-2, 3.91 with Lehigh Valley) will likely get the start in Game One, with Brian Bass (8-10, 3.81) the favorite to start in Game Two.


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