Hawks Talk: RiverHawks watching final playoff slip away

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By Joe McGehee

Staff Writer

After losing 8-3 against the Florence Freedom in Florence, Ky., Sunday, Aug. 23, the Rockford RiverHawks were 8 1/2 games in back of West Division-leading Windy City and eight games out of the final Frontier League playoff berth with only 13 games remaining on the schedule. Sunday’s loss completed a three-game sweep at the hands of the Freedom, and was Rockford’s fifth-consecutive loss after winning the first game of last week’s road trip in Washington, Pa., against the Washington Wild Things.

As of press time, the RiverHawks had dropped eight of their last 12 games, and were seemingly limping to the finish line of the 2009 season with a record of 40-43.The RiverHawks’ lackluster play since the All-Star break has threatened to end their 2009 playoff hopes early. And, with just 13 games remaining on the schedule, Rockford’s playoff hopes are looking more bleak than at any point in the season.

Rockford began a three-game road series with the Washington Wild Things Tuesday, Aug. 18, with a 6-2 victory, which would prove to be their last victory during their brief eastern swing through the Frontier League. However, this victory did witness Jason James 12th home run of 2009, and his 32nd career blast, which tied the all-time RiverHawks’ record of 32, also held by former RiverHawk Rich Austin.

The RiverHawks then lost the two remaining games with the Wild Things before traveling to Florence and being swept in three games by the Freedom. Losing five out of six games against teams with sub-.500 records does not usually bolster a team’s playoff aspirations. As the season winds to an end, the RiverHawks will need to rediscover the secret to their pre-All-Star break success if they hope to play deeper into September.

The RiverHawks return to Road Ranger Stadium Tuesday, Aug. 25, to start a six-game homestand against the River City Rascals and the Southern Illinois Miners, both of which are in the thick of the 2009 playoff hunt.

Simply put, it is make-or-break time for Rockford’s 2009 season. The final grains of sand are slipping through the glass on the 2009 season, and the RiverHawks will have to play nearly flawless baseball to advance to the playoffs.

Luckily, Rockford will play its next six games against teams ahead of them in the playoff standings. Six straight victories, a little good luck, could push them right back into the hunt. But, each loss for the RiverHawks now seems much like another nail in the coffin of their final Frontier League season.

Player news

The RiverHawks picked up right-hander Mikael Ryder from Chico of the independent Golden League in exchange for a player to be named later. They activated lefty Matt Enderle from the 14-day disabled list.

Ryder, a rookie, had a 5-1 record and a 3.27 earned-run average in 20 games, six as a starter, with the Heat. Ryder struck out 60 and walked seven in 77 innings.

The RiverHawks sent infielder Javier Brown and lefty reliever George Rasiarmos to the DL. Brown, acquired earlier this month in a trade with Evansville, has a clavical injury. Rasiarmos has left forearm tendonitis.

The RiverHawks released pitchers Tanner Watson and John Muller, first baseman Todd Martin and outfielder Brandon Romans from the DL. Watson, Muller and Martin were due to become free agents at the end of the season. Watson and Muller were all-stars this season. Watson, a 27-game winner in portions of four Frontier League seasons, the best in team history and the Frontier League’s active leader, has a partial tear in his rotator cuff. Muller had shoulder nerve impingement, then was hospitalized because of a blood infection. Martin has a partially-torn ligament in his right wrist. Romans has a strained calf muscle.

from the Aug. 26-Sept. 1, 2009 issue

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