Division foes turning it on

The Somerset Patriots entered Thursday’s action 24-28 in the second half and five games behind Freedom Division leader York.

So is anybody thinking the Patriots won’t be geared up these last 20 games and come playoff time?

(Crickets chirping)

That’s what I thought.

Somerset is making its usual push for the playoffs and that effort took a giant step forward Monday with the signing of pitcher Brian Tollberg. The 35-year-old was dominant for the Patriots in 2005, as Ryan Dunleavy of the Courier News explains, and he won a Somerset franchise-record 10 games prior to the All-Star break.

That performance earned him an affiliated offer from the Houston Astros and then an invite to Toronto’s spring training, although Tollberg has been out of organized baseball for two years. In his first appearance with the Patriots Wednesday, Tollberg gave up an earned run and struck out a batter in two innings of work.

And in case you’ve been under a rock lately, Newark has seriously turned up the heat on the Revs. The Bears are hitting .391 as a team in the last 10 games and Jose Herrera, Ramon Castro, Keith Reed, Randall Simon, Manny Mejia and Willis Otanez are all hitting better than .415 during that stretch. Simon is hitting an absurd .528 with 19 hits and 10 RBIs over his last eight games. So it’s no suprise to see that Newark team average sitting at a pretty .309 these days.

This all begs the question, how much trouble are the Revs in? Their lead in the Freedom Division is down to two games entering play Thursday and Newark also just got All-Star game starter Patrick Stanley back from the disabled list. It could be quite the interesting race with the Bears down the stretch.

But York has plenty working in its favor. Wednesday night’s rainout in Bridgeport has turned into a home game for York, scheduled for sometime next week as part of a doubleheader, and the Revs will enjoy a nine-game homestand starting Thursday with a game against Long Island. York is 35-24 at home this year and clearly better offensively playing within the confines of Sovereign Bank Stadium.

Still, the Freedom Division — or the NL West, as some Atlantic League enthusiasts enjoy calling it — should provide quite the intriguing race down the stretch.

*Randy Flaum photo.

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