Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Post-game pop-ups: PawSox 8, Red Wings 6

PawSox pluses
Second baseman Brent Dlugach was the most vital offensive performer in the PawSox’ epic rally Tuesday night, which saw them surmount a 6-0 pothole en route to an 8-6 win over the Rochester Red Wings at McCoy Stadium.

The No. 7-slotter’s feats wrapped up an important fourth inning that proved Pawtucket had a life and commenced a seventh stanza that ultimately saw the hosts usurp the lead.

Four unanswered hits, which plated two runs and summoned a conference on the Rochester mound, immediately thawed out the PawSox’ bat rack in the home half of the fourth. Bystanding baserunners Ryan Lavarnaway and Lars Andersen watched as their next two teammates went down, and then ran home on Dlugach’s straightaway single to cut the deficit to 6-4.

On his next plate appearance, Dlugach led off the bottom of the seventh with a homer to pull Pawtucket even, 6-6. Four hitters later, Daniel Nava sent Che-Suan Lin home from first with a distant double to right field.

Dlugach also made a potentially game-altering move in the defensive half of the third, when he carried out a fielder’s choice to cut down Chase Lambin for the first out of the inning. Rochester went on to leave two runners stranded in scoring position, meaning Dlugach’s deftness all but indubitably stopped the Wings from swelling their 5-0 lead.

Sox stains
Veteran Kevin Millwood is the only rostered Pawtucket pitcher with a complete game on his 2011 transcript. And that was from his preceding stint with the rival Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees.

Yet in Tuesday night’s triumph, the bullpen and offense had to salvage Millwood’s goose-egg in his PawSox “L” column, allowing him to finish the month of June at 3-0 in six starts.

Millwood’s four-inning night was the briefest and most brutal since he debuted at McCoy Stadium four weeks to date, when he withstood 2.2 innings while authorizing four earned runs on five hits.

On Tuesday, he exceeded all of those numbers with six earned runs on nine hits and equated his season-worst 13.50 ERA. In addition, the visiting Red Wings logged a team batting average of .450, topping the .385 success rate the Norfolk Tides chalked up against Millwood on June 1.

Since winning three straight starts after that Norfolk debacle, never posting a single-game ERA over 1.80 in that span, Millwood’s patchiness has been on a premium display.

There are exceptions to that trend, and at least one encouraging sign that he is replenishing his old form. Although he has only garnered one decision in his last three starts, Millwood has at least tuned up his strikeout count in that span.

Whiffing six Red Wings in the four innings he pitched Tuesday night gives him 19 Ks over his last 17.2 innings of work. This coming after he only mustered 11 in his first three starts with Pawtucket.

Before being drubbed for five runs in the second inning, Millwood started the night by striking out the side in the first, albeit with two singles interspersed.

And immediately before he was benched for the evening, he bagged a little self-serve mercy in the top of the fourth. After Trevor Plouffe led off with a home run to expand Rochester’s lead to 6-0, he sandwiched Aaron Bates’ ground out with a pair of Ks to Dustin Martin and Brian Dinkelman.

Of those working behind Millwood, no one had a more laborious second inning than Lin in centerfield. As Rochester batted around, five of their nine hitters directed the ball to Lin’s property.

Lin snagged lead-off man Chase Lambin’s liner and caught Brandon Roberts’ sacrifice fly. But the latter play allowed Tony Gardenhire to score and grant Rochester a 3-0 lead. Two plays later, Plouffe scored from first on a Martin double that Lin couldn’t collect in time.

After Millwood left, the likes of Jason Rice, Scott Atchison, and Randy Williams combined to allow but two hits in five full innings.

Atchison improved to 3-1 on the year, picking up his second win in as many appearances. Two swinging strikeouts in a one-two-three seventh gave him six Ks in those two winning efforts and at least one in each of his last nine outings.