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Pulfer is Danny on the spot for RailCats

Railcat's Danny Pulfer is congratulated his run tying up game with Saltdogs 5 bottom 7th Steel Yard Gary Sunday May

Railcat's Danny Pulfer is congratulated on his run tying up the game with the Saltdogs at 5 in the bottom of the 7th at the Steel Yard in Gary on Sunday May 19, 2013. | Jim Karczewski~for Sun-Times Media

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Updated: June 21, 2013 6:34AM



GARY — Greg Tagert doesn’t want to be shorthanded and Danny Pulfer doesn’t want to see a teammate go down.

But both situations come up during the course of a minor-league season and when they do, the RailCats like to have a safety net.

That’s Pulfer’s role right now and he’s cool with it. On Sunday, he started again with Brian Kolb out and scored the winning run on an error in the bottom of the ninth as Gary edged Lincoln 6-5 before an announced crowd of 2,031 at the Steel Yard.

That gave the RailCats a split of their season-opening four-game series with the Saltdogs, a glass half-full or half-empty situation depending on your point of view.

“It’s big to get a win today after two tough games,” said Pulfer, who walked five times and scored three runs Sunday. “After battling back and coming out of the first game with a win there, we came back flat the next day, grinded the third day and grinded again today.

“That team’s going to make us work all season. I have a feeling it’s going to be us and them at the top (of the American Association’s Central Division) at the end of it.”

Tagert can’t help thinking about the ones that have already gotten away, but starting 1-3 at home would have been a particularly bad omen.

“As a manager I’m going to look back at this series and be wondering — if we’d played the way we did opening night, I’m not so sure we’d be 4-0,” he said. “But we’d have certainly got an extra game.”

Things happen, though, like Kolb jamming a finger on the shin guard of Lincoln’s catcher on opening night. Tagert doesn’t believe the injury is serious, though he said x-rays are scheduled for Monday “just to be sure.”

In the meantime, Pulfer is filling in.

“I want to make sure that 10th guy or 11th guy on the bench is as good as the guy he’s replacing,” Tagert said.

“I don’t mind it,” Pulfer said of his jack-of-all-trades role. “It’s been the story of my career since I got out of college. I played third base in college my first year. I was pretty much second base from then on out.

“In pro ball, I kind of bounced around a bit. I’m comfortable anywhere on the infield, even behind the dish.”

He’ll take his playing time when it comes here.

“We’ve got a ton of talent on the infield,” Pulfer said. “Any guy out there’s going to be solid defensively. A few hiccups in the first series; we’ll get through that.”

The RailCats’ sixth error of the season, by Pulfer on a two-out grounder in the first, allowed the Saltdogs to score their sixth unearned run of the series. But Gary staked starter Will Krout to a 4-2 lead through six innings, an advantage that could have been bigger had they not failed to score after loading the bases with none out in the fifth.

Lincoln got the first two runners on against Krout (6 innings, 5 runs, 4 earned, 7 hits, 5 strikeouts) in the seventh. After No. 9 hitter Jeremy Mayo twice failed to get a bunt down, he lofted a three-run homer over the left-field wall for a 5-4 Saltdogs lead. Dennis Raben had hit his third homer of the series for the Saltdogs leading off the fourth.

Tagert wondered aloud afterward if he’d left Krout in too long. But, he noted, “quite frankly, this bullpen is spent.”

The RailCats tied it 5-5 in the bottom of the seventh when Chase Tucker legged out a two-out infield single to score Pulfer.

Then in the ninth, Gary again capitalized on the wildness of Lincoln’s pitchers, who walked eight, hit three batters and threw four wild pitches Sunday.

Conor Spink (0-1) walked Liddle and Pulfer and hit Drew Martinez — who had squared around to bunt — to load the bases with none out. Zac Mitchell struck out and Tucker hit into a forceout at the plate before Adam Klein hit a bouncer up the middle that shortstop Brad Payne mishandled, allowing Pulfer to score.

Clay Zavada (1-0) pitched a scoreless top of the ninth, fanning two, for the win.



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