Knowing that everything had to go their way to make the playoffs, the York Revolution players, at the very least, were going to go down swinging.
York (38-27) erupted for 10 runs in the first five innings in Wednesday's game, cruising to a 10-3 win over the Long Island Ducks in front of 1,788 fans at Santander Stadium. For the next 30 minutes, that was enough to keep the Revs' playoff dreams alive.
But, even the victory wasn't enough to keep those dreams alive for another night. The Lancaster Barnstormers rallied for four runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to upend the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs, clinching the second-half Atlantic League Freedom Division title and eliminating the Revs from postseason contention.
"I'm proud of the guys and I'm proud of the effort they put in this half," York manager Mark Mason said. "We were much better this half and we were better because we pitched better, hit better, fielded the ball better and we had less injuries."
During the entire second half, the Revs were trying to track down Lancaster. A simple two-game lead early in the second half of the season for the Barnstormers eventually ballooned up to five games, but for the most part it hovered around three or four games.
When the Revs look back at their failed attempt to claim the second-half crown, they'll likely point at the head-to-head meetings with Lancaster as the difference. York only won five of the 13 meetings between the two in-state rivals, which proved to be the difference between the impending offseason and a third straight playoff berth.
"We stayed healthy, played better and it really was a lot of fun," Mason said about his team's second-half playoff push.
Desperate team: In Wednesday's game, the Revs played like a desperate team, never taking an out for granted. All 10 runs they scored came with two outs in an inning.
York broke the game wide open with six runs in the bottom of the second, giving starter Rommie Lewis a 6-0 cushion early in the game. But, Lewis gave three of them right back in the top of the third, but it wasn't a product of bad pitching. Lewis very easily could've escaped the inning with no runs, but two balls that got lost in the lights by outfielders Nick Ferdinand and James Simmons allowed the three runs to cross.
"They just lost them. It was a tough sky," Lewis said. "There's always a window where it's a tough sky and it could've happened to anybody. I hold no ill will toward them because I can't play outfield."
After that, Lewis settled in, allowing three hits over the course of the next five innings to earn his 10th win of the year. His final line came in at eight innings pitched, allowing three runs, all earned, on nine hits, with a walk and eight strikeouts. Reliever Tony Pena pitched a perfect top of the ninth to seal the win.
Once Lewis escaped the third, the Revs' offense picked up right where it left off. York pushed across three more runs with two outs in the bottom of the third and then another two-out run in the bottom of the fifth.
"We've all done it where, you think you'll get the next guy and then the next thing you know, it's a six spot," Mason said about his team's big second inning.
In the game, five Revs hitters had multi-hit games, led by Simmons' 3-for-4 night. He also drove in two runs, as did Eric Patterson and Wilson Valdez.
Final series: Now, with its fate determined, York has one final four-game home series remaining against the Somerset Patriots. That could potentially turn into a five-game series if the two sides decide to make up a rained-out game, but it wouldn't have any bearing on either team's playoff fates, with Somerset already in the playoffs.
The first game of that series is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. on Friday at Santander Stadium.
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at email@example.com; follow on Twitter @P_Strohecker