Salt River advances to AFL championship game; Ryan Perry will start

The Salt River Rafters downed Billy Hamilton and the Peoria Javelinas, 6-4 Wednesday afternoon at Salt River Fields in Arizona Fall League competition.

Salt River improves to 16-13, guaranteeing a winning regular season record, and with one game left to play Thursday. Scottsdale (15-15) will be unable to catch them because the Scorpions would have played one more game, and they lost that game.

First baseman Matt Skole went 0-for-3 with a walk, but is still batting .305. Third baseman Jason Martinson went 1-for-3 with a walk and a strikeout. But right-hander Aaron Barrett picked up his third hold in the AFL season, pitching two innings, allowing one run on two hits, with one walk and one strikeout. Brian Goodwin and Anthony Rendon had the day off.

Salt River scored three runs in the fourth and fifth frames. Corey Dickerson, Ryan Goins and Jose Gonzalez each had two RBIs for the Rafters. Hamilton went 0-for-5 for the Javelinas.

The Rafters will face Peoria or Surprise in the AFL championship game Saturday. Game time is 3:10 pm Eastern time on MLB Network.

Rafters and Nationals minor league rehab pitching coach Mark Grater said the consistent pitching staff got them to the one-game final.

"I thought we had the best five starting pitchers combined," said Grater. "One thing that helped out was everybody that was in instructional league, Blue Jays, White Sox, Diamondbacks, Rockies and us, no one had sore arms. These guys all played hard, they were all grinders, even the taxi squad guys."

Nationals pitcher Ryan Perry, who converted from reliever to starter this season, will get the start Saturday. Perry is 2-0 with 4.98 ERA in 21 2/3 innings for Salt River over six starts. he had 16 strikeouts and eight walks.

"Perry is learning to pitch instead of just throwing the ball," Grater said. "He can go five innings. (Manager) Matt (Williams) will have a shorter leash than normal because we will have 10 pitchers available to pitch that day."

Rendon is expected to play in the championship game. Grater believes Goodwin will play, as well as Skole. Goodwin should go because former Blue Jays outfield prospect Jake Marisnick cannot suit up now as the big trade between the Blue Jays and Marlins has not been approved yet.

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