RailCats blow lead, allow Lemurs to clinch division in Gary
By Mike Clark Post-Tribune correspondent September 2, 2012 8:06PM
Updated: October 4, 2012 6:22AM
GARY — The Steel Yard has been the scene of several playoff-clinching celebrations over the years, and many involved the home team. But the trend has shifted.
Last year, the St. Paul Saints not only prevented the RailCats from winning an American Association division title, they won the league’s wildcard on Gary’s home field in the final series of the season.
On Sunday, it happened again as the Laredo Lemurs came from four runs down to beat the RailCats 6-5 before an announced crowd of 4,910 and clinch the South Division crown.
Now the only thing on the line for either team in today’s 7:10 p.m. season finale is RailCats manager Greg Tagert’s streak of consecutive seasons without a losing record. Gary (49-50) must win to avoid giving Tagert a losing record for the first time in his 17 years of managing in the Frontier League, Northern League and American Association.
Sunday’s loss “really encapsulates our season,” Tagert said, noting a variety of issues.
“Solid starting pitching, but not quite the kind that can win that game,” Tagert said. “Will (Krout) ran out of gas a little bit. The bullpen good, but not shutdown good ... and an offense that is not quite potent enough to add on some runs.”
The RailCats built a 5-1 lead through four innings, getting a break when Laredo left fielder John Allen lost Eric Suttle’s routine fly in the sun for a two-run single in the first. Craig Maddox drove in runs with a single in the first and a groundout in the third, and Adam Klein hit a sacrifice fly in the fourth.
Laredo started its comeback with a disputed two-run homer by Jimmy Mojica in the fifth. His towering shot easily cleared the screen and came to rest across 4th Avenue, but Tagert questioned — unsuccessfully — whether it was a fair ball.
The Lemurs made it 5-4 in the sixth and then scored the tying and go-ahead runs in the ninth off Gary closer Marco Gonzalez (4-3). Laredo closer Mike Benacka walked the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth with one out before striking out Mike Massaro and Brian Kolb to end the game.
It added up to another frustrating afternoon in a season full of them for the RailCats.
“We’re just not good enough and it gets exposed against better teams,” Tagert said. “It (shows) just how far we have to go to be at that level.”
The task, which essentially starts as soon as today’s game is over, is to beef up the roster.
“We’ve got to surround our good players with more talent,” Tagert said. “We’re just a little short right now.”