Joe Mantiply didn't find out he was starting on the mound until he got to Coca-Cola Field on Sunday morning.
After Saturday's Yankees-Red Sox game took 16 innings and a whopping five hours and 50 minutes to reach its conclusion, Scranton inevitably loss some arms. Its parent club used eight pitchers to throw 245 pitches at Fenway Park on Saturday, and the Yankees promoted Bryan Mitchell, Domingo German and Caleb Smith while sending down Ben Heller and Jonathan Holder as a result with a doubleheader Sunday and seven games in Minnesota and Seattle in the next seven days.
German was the scheduled starter for Sunday's game against Buffalo, but Mantiply, who hadn't pitched in 10 days, got the call in his place for only his fifth start in 22 Triple-A outings this season.
"Because there’s a lot of movement between here and New York ... guys are just aware that they have to be on top of their game and be prepared and ready because the phone call could come and it could be them next time," said Scranton defensive coach Doug Davis, who stood in for absent manager Al Pedrique on Sunday. "I think we all knew that something would happen because when you use that much pitching as they did ... they’re gonna need some help. I think we were all prepared for that, but we weren’t sure at the time exactly who it would be."
Despite the short notice, Mantiply threw four scoreless innings, the longest he's thrown in any one game all season, to set the tone in Scranton's series-sweeping win. The 6-foot-4 southpaw, along with Nestor Cortes, who Scranton called up on Sunday, combined to shut out the Bisons while allowing only four hits and two walks in a 5-0 RailRiders win. The visitors' 12th consecutive victory against Buffalo illustrated what they've been able to do so well of late - keep winning amid flurries of movement between Scranton and the Yankees, whether those changes be a result of injuries, on-field performance or marathon games.
"We’re still able to do that with this many young guys," Mantiply said. " ... It’s been going on for the last couple weeks, so us showing up and being ready to play no matter what. It’s really been the core to our success so far."
Scranton currently sits three games ahead of second-place Lehigh Valley in the International League North with a 59-34 record, the best of the 14 teams in the league. Due to a bevy of Yankees injuries, Scranton offensive standouts Clint Frazier, Tyler Austin, Dustin Fowler, Tyler Wade and Ji-Man Choi have all played in the majors in the last month. Frazier and Choi still do, while Austin and Fowler are on the Yankees disabled list. Wade and several others are back with Scranton after stints in New York.
Pitching staff shakeups too, most recently Saturday night's, have forced the RailRiders to adapt on the fly with whichever arms are ready to throw on any given day. Scranton coaches knew Mantiply and Cortes would have to shoulder the majority of the load Sunday, but even they were slightly taken aback by the efficiency in which they did during a dominant performance on the hill. Despite not throwing as hard as other Bisons opponents, the pair helped extend a winning streak against Buffalo during which Scranton has only allowed 11 runs.
"They weren’t anything special. They threw the ball over the plate and we should’ve hit it," Bisons manager Bobby Meacham said. "You ain't gonna see that many guys that throw under 90 miles per hour from these types of staffs, and we saw two of them today and didn’t take advantage of it."
Movement like Scranton has experienced in the past several weeks isn't uncommon for minor league teams, but the volume of alterations in starters and relievers and hitters that have cycled in and out of the RailRiders' clubhouse is hardly commonplace.
Yet teams haven't taken advantage of it, especially Buffalo, and Scranton remains sitting pretty atop the league's perch.
"I think everybody’s just stepping up and doing their job. Everybody’s got different opportunities to do different things, even changing roles," Davis said. "We’ve got some experience here, experienced players, experienced pitchers who’ve been through this before."