Reading clinches playoff spot

Playoff baseball is coming back to Baseballtown after Wednesday night’s 2-1 win over the Bowie Baysox. With their magic number down to one, the Fightin’ Phils knew a win or a Yard Goats loss would punch their tickets to the Eastern League postseason for the first time in three seasons. This time of year, pitching is the name of the game, and all three games in the final home series of the regular season have featured tremendous pitching. Phillies top pitching prospect Spencer Howard delivered his finest start at FirstEnergy Stadium, and Mickey Moniak’s 11th home run to lead off the sixth broke a 1-1 tie as the Fightin Phils prepare for their first-round matchup against the Thunder next week.

The Fightins didn’t get their first hit off left-hander Alex Wells until second baseman Jose Antequera led off the third with a flared single into right field. Henri Lartigue then hit a groundball which could have resulted in a double play, but the throw to first after the force out went awry, and Lartigue scampered to second with one out. With two outs, Moniak ripped a hard single that deflected off first baseman Ryan Ripken, and Reading had the game’s first run.

For awhile, that looked more than enough as Howard cruised through the Baysox lineup, allowing just a single and a walk while racking up five strikeouts over his first four innings. The visitors eventually tied it in the fifth, with a two-out rally keyed by back-to-back singles from Brett Cumberland and Ripken at the bottom of the lineup. Howard walked Cedric Mullins to load the bases, which proved to be costly when a wild pitch scored the tying run.

Wells was equally as effective, allowing just two singles and a walk surrendered over his first five innings. That all changed when on an 0-1 pitch, Moniak went deep to right to break the tie and drive in his 67th run to tie Darick Hall for the team lead.

Jeff Singer (7-0) came up huge after Howard exited, delivering 2 1/3 hitless innings of relief with four strikeouts to keep the R-Phils in front. In the ninth, Jakob Hernandez was called upon with regular closer Addison Russ unavailable after pitching in back-to-back games on Sunday and Monday. The left-hander earned his fifth save, with no drama or stress involved thanks to a 1-2-3 ninth to end the ballgame and start the celebration.

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