Saturday, July 16, 2011

Post-game pop-ups: Bulls 11, PawSox 8

Swift summation
The way the ball failed to lasso Durham Bulls third baseman Daniel Mayora in the ninth inning put the stamp on the PawSox’ fatal flaws in an 11-8 loss Saturday night at McCoy Stadium.

With the final score virtually left to dry, Mayora reached first base on an errant toss by Pawtucket third baseman Nate Spears. He then stole second base upon outrunning catcher Ryan Lavarnway’s throw.

Between four different pitchers and 11 different defensive players, the Sox’ tab included two fielding errors, two wild pitches, a passed ball and two hit batsmen. It all wasted a valiant offensive uprising that deleted a six-run deficit in the fourth inning.

After three fairly pristine frames, Pawtucket starter Tony Pena, Jr. wilted in the top of the fourth. Safeguarding a 1-0 lead at the start, he only mustered one out, a sacrifice grounder by Robinson Chirinos that scored the Bulls third run of the frame.

On the whole, Pena authorized six runs and seven baserunners in the inning. Those included an error charged to Tony Thomas, a single, a walk, a hit batsman, and three RBI doubles. By the time Desmond Jennings had doubled off the right-center wall to score both Mayora and Ray Olmedo, Pena was forked out in favor of Jason Rice.

Rice came on with a 6-1 deficit glowering at him. It morphed into a 7-1 pothole when Felipe Lopez scored Desmond Jennings from second base.

But the PawSox quickly countered in the home half. Ronald Bermudez sent Thomas home on a no-out single that nudged Brent Dlugach to third. Dlugach promptly scored himself ahead of Che-Hsuan Lin’s third single in as many plate-appearances for a 7-3 differential.

Two outs later, Lavarnway walked to load the bases and Lars Anderson followed up with a first-pitch grand slam, drawing a sudden 7-7 knot. It was Pawtucket’s fourth salami of the season and first since Spears hit a four-run homer on April 21 versus Syracuse.

But after Lavarnway singled to lead off the sixth, the Sox went through eight consecutive batters without a hit. Meanwhile, the Bulls renewed their lead when Dan Johnson sent Jennings home from second with a two-out single in the sixth.

J.J. Furmaniak, who pinch-ran for Felipe Lopez in the ninth, gave Durham what proved a requisite dose of insurance ahead of Russ Canzler’s single. Leslie Anderson followed up with a two-run shot to right.

Lavarnway led off the bottom of the ninth with a homer of his own to left-center. But regrettably for the home faithful, Dlugach and the PawSox ran out of magic when the shortstop grounded into a game-ending 4-6-3 double play.

PawSox pluses
Amidst the stimulating fourth-inning onslaught, it was almost forgotten that the lately quiet Lin had already logged three base hits. He was joined in that heavy-hitting club by―who else?―Lavarnway.

The catcher extended his hitting streak to seven games when he sent Lin from first to third with a single to right field in the first. He then catapulted a first-pitch double to the centerfield warning track in the third. In his most important at-bat of the evening, with two down and two men in scoring position, he drew a full-count walk. He later redirected Ryan Reid’s high offering to deep left-center for a leadoff single in the sixth, giving him his fifth three-hit outing in only 30 Triple-A games on the year. His ninth-inning bomb changed that to his first four-hit venture.

Whether he was swinging it or restraining it, Dlugach made virtually all of the right choices with his bat. He homered to right-center in the second for his first dinger since June 28, a span of 32 at-bats, and his first hit of the series to give Pawtucket the initial 1-0 lead. He took a four-pitch walk to start kindling the fourth. And he sent Thomas to third with an opposite-field single in the fifth, though both men along with Bermudez were stranded.

Sox stains
The PawSox bat rack spoke for itself when it nimbly compensated Pena’s bevy of blunder in the fourth. That having been said, there were far too many opportunities passed over.

Daniel Nava alone left eight prospective RBIs on base. A cumulative three players were stuck on third base when an inning ended, another three on second base. And in the fifth inning, the bottom of the order―Thomas, Dlugach, and Bermudez―loaded the bases with no outs, yet were all stranded when the lead was theirs to regain.

While Lavarnway’s otherworldly hot streak is a welcome form of old news for the Pawtucket faithful, Hector Luna’s cold spell is the polar opposite. And he may have hit the nadir on Saturday. Going 0-for-4 for the second consecutive game, Luna struck out swinging to end the eventful fourth, struck out looking to end the sixth and immaturely protested umpire Fran Burke’s ruling to end his night early.

Bulls notes
Jennings returned from injury and assumed the DH duties as Durham’s leadoff man. After striking out his first time up, he drew a walk and logged three hits, including two doubles, along with two runs scored and two batted in.

Johnson joined Jennings in the evening’s three-hit club and had a hand in two key runs. He joined Lopez in crossing the plate to give Durham a 2-1 edge and start the fourth-inning fireworks while his sixth-inning single gave Durham an 8-7 edge.

Intriguingly enough, the formidable Brandon Guyer was one of only two Bulls with neither a hit or an RBI on the night. The 0-for-5 Chirinos was credited with a sacrifice grounder that plated Canzler to augment Durham’s advantage to 3-1.

Cleveland Santeliz, reactivated from the disabled list earlier in the day and putting in his first appearance since June 18, relieved Jason Rice to commence the seventh. Despite throwing six of 13 pitches for balls, he mustered an easy 1-2-3 inning before yielding to Scott Atchison for the eighth.

Carl Crawford went 0-for-3 in Part II of his rehab stint. Just like in Friday’s game, Nava ultimately moved from right field to Crawford’s old spot in left while Nate Spears supplemented the outfield.

By night’s end, the PawSox had used three different right fielders as Luna’s ejection invited Matt Sheely into the game. Sheely assumed his usual post when Spears transferred to take Luna’s spot at third base.