MANCHESTER, N.H., Sept. 1 – As the Eastern League season comes to a close, the Hartford Yard Goats find themselves in the middle of a pennant race in the final weekend of the year.
No, the Yard Goats aren’t going to the playoffs in their third season in Hartford. But they will have a say in who wins the EL’s Eastern Division.
Roberto Ramos and Omar Carrizales hit home runs while Frank Duncan and three Yard Goat relievers combined to pitch a shutout as Hartford won their fourth straight game with a 3-0 Eastern League victory over the Manchester Fisher Cats at Delta Dental Stadium Saturday night.
With the win, Hartford (64-69) knocked New Hampshire (75-61) out of first place in the Eastern Division for the first time since July 14. With two games left in the 2018 campaign, the Trenton Thunder (77-59), the New York Yankees’ Double A affiliate, now own a one-game lead. Both Trenton and New Hampshire (Toronto Blue Jays) have clinched playoff berths.
Ramos, who was promoted to Hartford in late June, hit his team-leading 14th home run of the season to give the Yard Goats a 2-0 lead in the fourth inning. Yard Goats outfielder Sam Hilliard, who led off the fourth inning with a single, also scored on the blast. It Ramos 31st home run of the season when you include his playing time with Lancaster, the Single A affiliate of the Colorado Rockies.
Hartford starting pitcher Frank Duncan (3-4) allowed just three singles over the first four innings and threw six innings of scoreless baseball. He worked around two baserunners in the fifth and sixth innings and got help of two double plays.
Brian Moran pitched a scoreless seventh with two strikeouts and Logan Cozart (team-leading 15th hold) pitched around a pair of singles in the eighth inning and struck out the Eastern League’s top hitter Harold Ramirez with runners at second and third. Mitch Horacek hurled a scoreless ninth for his second save.
It was just the fourth win of the season for Hartford against New Hampshire but the second in a row. The Fisher Cats, who were once the New Haven Ravens before leaving for the Granite State 15 years ago in 2003, are 16-4 against the Yard Goats this season.
The series continues Sunday with a 1:35 p.m. start and concludes on Monday with another 1:35 p.m.
The Yard Goats are also tied with Reading for third place with two games remaining.
Manager of the Year
Earlier on Saturday, Fisher Cats manager John Schneider, 38, was selected as the 2018 Eastern League Manager of the Year for helping lead the Cats to their first postseason berth since 2011.
Eastern League MVP and Rookie of the Year
New Hampshire’s Cavan Biggio was named the Eastern League’s MVP and Rookie of the Year in voting by league managers and media.
In his Double-A debut Biggio is hitting .256 (112-for-438) with 23 doubles, five triples, 26 home runs, 98 RBIs, 80 runs scored, and 20 stolen bases in 129 games for the Fisher Cats this season while helping lead the team to their first playoff berth since the 2011 season.
The 6’1″, 203 lb. slugger has appeared in 66 games at second base, 34 games at third base, 21 games at first base, and two games in right field this year. The 23-year old currently leads the Eastern League in home runs (26), walks (99) and slugging percentage (.509). He is also ranked among the leaders in RBIs (98-2nd), runs scored (80-2nd), extra-base hits (54-2nd) and stolen bases (20-tied 8th).
Cavan, who is the son of Hall of Famer Craig Biggio, was selected by the Toronto Blue Jays in the fifth round of the 2016 draft out after hitting .311 with 43 runs scored and 28 RBIs during his junior season at Notre Dame.
Altoona first baseman Will Craig finished as the runner up in the voting for the MVP award and New Hampshire third baseman Vladimir Guerrero, Jr., finished in third place.
In the Rookie of the Year voting, New Hampshire shortstop Bo Bichette finished in second place and New Hampshire third baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. finished in third place.