For the fourth time in five years the York Revolution will be heading back to the Atlantic League playoffs come September. The Revs won at Lancaster, 2-0, Saturday night, to clinch the first-half Freedom Division title and secure a post-season berth.
The victory came behind one of the best performances of Alain Quijano's eight-year pro career. Starting on three days for the second time this week, the 31-year-old left-hander tossed eight innings of scoreless ball, holding the Barnstormers (38-30) to three hits with five strikeouts and no walks. He completed the eight frames on just 88 pitches, 66 of them for strikes. This came after Quijano's performance earlier this week, when he gave up just one earned run to Southern Maryland in eight innings of work Tuesday night.
Closer Rommie Lewis closed out the ninth in his typical fashion by first getting into trouble and then working out of it. Lewis put the lead-off batter on base then gave up a double to put runners on second and third with no outs. Lancaster's Gabe Jacobo grounded to York short stop Wilson Valdez, who came home with his throw to catcher Salvador Paniagua, who tagged lead runner Ben Francisco for the first out. With runners at first and second with one out, designated hitter Andrew Clark grounded to second baseman Ofilio Castro, who opted for the fielder's choice force out at second base to make it two outs with the tying runner at third base and the go-ahead run at first base. Lewis then struck out Brock Kjeldgaard for the final out.
Lewis has put at least one runner on base in 19 of his 30 appearances this season. But he got the job done again Saturday night to pick up his 17th save of the year. He's just five saves away from tying the club's single-season saves mark (22) and on pace to snap the career saves record (31).
EARLY LEAD: The Revs (41-28) scored their two runs in the first two innings. York lead-off batter Justin Greene, the league-leader in batting average, led off the game with a single and later came around to score on Chad Tracy's two-out RBI single in the top of the first inning.
In the top of the second inning, Greene beat out a two-out infield single to allow Travis Garcia to score from third base, giving York the two-run advantage.
Both runs came off Lancaster starter Cory Wade, a 31-year-old former major leaguer in his first season in the Atlantic League. Wade (2-2) went five innings, surrendering the pair of runs on six hits with one strikeout and no walks. Barnstormers' relievers Shunsuke Watanabe and Ross Peeples combined to hold York scoreless over the final four innings.
QUIJANO DOMINANT AGAIN: On the other side, Quijano (7-4) put up 1-2-3 frames in five of his eight innings pitched as he improved his ERA to 3.48 in his 15th start of the year. He has allowed three earned runs or fewer in six of his last seven starts.
His outing Saturday will go down as one of the best in Revs' history. It's quite an accomplishment for a guy who has never received an affiliated contract in his career, having worked up his way through the independent scene before making his way to the Atlantic League this season with York. Quijano had said Wednesday this season will be his last if he does not get picked up by a major league organization.
The gamble by Revs' manager Mark Mason to toss his four starters on three days rest this week paid off, too. Down to four starters after Chris Cody left for Taiwan last week, Mason opted to send his remaining starters to the mound on three days rest over the final seven games of the first half. York won the first three Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday behind solid efforts from starters Jorge Martinez, Quijano and Corey Thurman, then lost Thursday when starter Logan Williamson got knocked around and lost again Friday with Martinez on the hill. This marks the first time Mason, in his second year as the Revs' skipper, has led York to playoffs as the York manager.
Saturday marked Quijano's third time this season he has started on short rest. But hasn't been a problem for him. The lefty has a 1.26 ERA in his three starts on short rest this season (21.1 innings pitched, three earned runs).
By winning Saturday, York avoided a potential winner-take-all match-up in Lancaster on Sunday. Had the Barnstormers won Saturday night, then Sunday's game between the clubs would've decided the first-half division. York's first-half crown is just the second in club history (2010), as three of the four previous Revs' playoff berths have come by winning the second half. It's the club's fifth post-season appearance all-time.
York will finish off the first half Sunday in Lancaster before returning home Monday to host first-half Liberty Division winner Somerset at 6:30 p.m. in the first game of the second half.