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2018 Gary SouthShore RailCats Season Recap

09/14/2018 12:13 PM -

2018 Season Highlights

The 2018 season was one for the record books as the Gary SouthShore RailCats won a franchise record 59 games and captured their first regular-season division title as members of the American Association. Gary also qualified for the playoffs for the second straight season, something that had never been done since the ‘Cats joined the American Association in 2011.

The RailCats returned to the postseason mostly in part to finishing 41-24 in the North Division and posting the best second half record in the division at 35-15. Gary outscored their opponents, 260-186, in the second half and hit 35 of their 46 home runs over the last 59 games of the regular season.

RailCats Return to Postseason
The Gary SouthShore RailCats returned to the postseason for the first time since joining the American Association in 2011 after winning the North Division on the final day of the season with a 3-2 victory over the Kansas City T-Bones. The nail-biting victory was also Gary’s franchise record 59th win of the season.

Gary guaranteed themselves a postseason berth 10 days earlier with a 4-1 victory against Sioux Falls but captured their first division title as members of the AA with the 3-2 final vs. KC on the final day of the regular season.

Second Half Surge and Dominant Divisional Play carries Gary back to Playoffs
The RailCats returned to the postseason mostly in part to finishing 41-24 in the North Division and posting the best second half record in the division at 35-15. Gary outscored their opponents, 260-186, in the second half and hit 35 of their 46 home runs over the last 59 games of the regular season.

The RailCats finished above .500 against every team in the North Division, including the American Association runner-up St. Paul Saints at 7-6. Gary also went 19-10 in the month of July, including a season-high-tying eight-game winning streak to close the month, and posted a .291 batting average and 3.08 ERA in July.

Minor dominates American Association before signing with Mexican League
Daniel Minor was arguably the best pitcher in all of the American Association before having his contract purchased by the Saraperos de Saltillo of the Mexican League on July 26. Minor went 11-2 with two complete games and a 2.51 ERA in 15 starts and at the time led the American Association in innings pitched (97), complete games (2) and shutouts (2). Minor was also second among qualifying pitchers in ERA (2.51) and finished tied for third in strikeouts (77).

Nine of Minor’s last 10 starts were quality starts and the right-hander went 8-0 with a 1.42 ERA in his last eight starts with Gary. During his eight-game winning streak, the 27-year-old allowed just nine runs, 44 hits, nine walks and struck out 48 batters over 57 innings. Minor went 14-3 with a 2.22 ERA over 22 appearances (21 starts) with Gary after being acquired from the Winnipeg Goldeyes on August 10, 2017.

Pugh posts career bests in third season with RailCats
Tillman Pugh returned to the Gary SouthShore RailCats for the third time in the last four seasons after re-signing with the club on July 9 and left an indelible mark throughout the entire American Association. The 29-year-old veteran slashed a team-best .357/.436/.554/.990 with 27 runs, 56 hits, 10 doubles, seven home runs, 24 RBIs, 21 walks and five stolen bases in 42 games. The ninth-year pro also reached base in a league-best 41 straight games during the regular season, hit a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 12th vs. the Lincoln Saltdogs and reached base in a season-high-tying five plate appearances.

Pitching Staff shines all season long
The Gary SouthShore RailCats pitching posted the second-best ERA in the American Association at 3.65 and arguably had the best bullpen in the North Division. The RailCats starting rotation led the American Association with seven complete games and three shutouts while the entire pitching staff issued the fewest number of walks (227). The starting rotation finished with 43 quality starts and averaged 5.2 innings per start while the bullpen posted a 1.26 WHIP and a 3.1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Individually, Jeff McKenzie led the American Association with 137.2 innings, tied for the league lead with three complete games and led the ‘Cats with 20 starts. Myles Smith, Jack Fowler and Adam Quintana all recorded 30+ relief appearances while Quintana finished with a team-high 12 saves and Smith and Fowler tied for the team lead with eight holds.

Tagert returns to postseason
Manager Greg Tagert brought Gary back to the postseason for the ninth time in his 14 seasons at the helm after claiming the regular-season North Division Title. Tagert has won three league championships (2005, 2007, 2013), is a four-time league Manager of the Year (Dubois County, 2001; Gary, 2007, 2009, 2016) and has finished with a .500 or better record in every season except one since being named the team’s manager in 2005.

Tagert has also led Gary to the playoffs nine times (2005-2010, 2013, 2017-18) has won three Division Titles and has helped advance 24 former RailCats to affiliated baseball, including 2006 outfielder Nathan Haynes, who played in the MLB for the Los Angeles Angels and Tampa Bay Rays from 2007-08. Tagert’s most recent player to have his contract purchased by an MLB affiliate was shortstop Ryan Fitzgerald, who had his contract purchased by the Boston Red Sox on May 2, 2018.

Tagert has developed three Northern League Pitchers of the Year, two League Rookie of the Year winners, a Northern League Player f the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, five Baseball America All-Independent League selections, eight full-season Northern League All-Stars and two full-season American Association All-Stars.

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