Sunday, July 17, 2011

Post-game pop-ups: Bulls 13, PawSox 3

Swift summation
As Ryan Lavarnway goes, so go the PawSox, it seems. And when Lavarnway is striking out, it’s not such a good omen.

Less than 24 hours removed from a career night at McCoy Stadium, the radiant rookie plummeted downhill on the stats sheet with the rest of his team Sunday afternoon. Going 0-for-4 in five plate appearances, Lavarnway went down swinging at the hands of Durham Bulls reliever Jay Buente to curtain an egregious 13-3 Pawtucket loss.

With the win, the Bulls have salvaged a split in the series and pole-vaulted over the once-thriving PawSox for a half-game lead in the International League wild card derby.

It originally looked as though both bat racks had been drained in the afterglow of Durham’s explosive 11-8 triumph Saturday night. But in the fourth inning, Pawtucket starter Matt Fox gradually disassembled before a replenished Bulls offense.

Fox struck out the cleanup man Dan Johnson for the second time in the game and for his fourth K on the day, hinting that he was not shaken up by Felipe Lopez’s first-blood double the previous play. But he then walked Canzler on a payoff pitch and hit Leslie Anderson to load the bases and summon pitching coach Rich Sauveur to the mound.

Fox subsequently got J.J. Furmaniak to watch an 0-2 pitch for a crucial strikeout, but John Matulia stepped in and nailed a two-run single down the left field line, augmenting the deficit to 3-0.

Johnson’s sacrifice fly in the fifth inning proved the difference as it sent Daniel Mayora home from third for the Bulls’ fourth run. Another tradeoff in the seventh, with Canzler sending in Jennings, gave Durham a 5-1 edge and finished off Fox.

But from there, the visitors merciless manners only continued as they charged up another eight runs on seven hits against Pawtucket relievers Dennis Neuman and Jeremy Kehrt.

Lopez finalized the score with a three-run home run with two outs in the ninth.

PawSox pluses
Although it was indubitably unsettling for local rooters to see him scorched like this, Fox had a few highlights. He did match a season-high with his third seven-strikeout performance on the year.

For the second straight outing, the bottom one-third of the batting order was the brightest portion of the PawSox offense. Tony Thomas, Brent Dlugach and Ronald Bermudez combined for five of the team’s eight hits and played a role in all three runs.

In the bottom of the fourth, Thomas drew a one-out walk, advanced to second on Dlugach’s single, and made the trip home in one rush as Bermudez deposited a liner into centerfield. Two innings later, with the game still in reach, Thomas sent Nate Spears home from first on a double and scored himself on Bermudez’s own double to cut the deficit to 4-3.

Sox stains
PawSox players were culpable in most every hair-whitening malfunction on the day, save for the Internet outage that delayed the publication of this very report.

If the fourth inning was a disturbance of hiccups, then the final three were eruptions of hives. Before any Bulls crossed the plate to activate their handsome insurance policy, Thomas failed to throw out Mayora, resulting in an infield hit and runners at the corners with nobody out. Two plays later, Fox was compelled to intentionally walk Johnson, despite his good fortune against him in previous encounters. Jennings, Mayora, and Johnson Leslie Anderson all subsequently scored to crack open the gap to 8-3.

Although he was just recalled from Single-A Greenville earlier in the day, one can infer more was expected out of Neuman as he relieved Fox. As it happened, in his fifth appearance with the PawSox and first since May 22, Neuman mustered only one out amongst six batters-faced. The others were constituted by three walks and two doubles.

In addition, Neuman and Kehrt combined to let all four inherited runners score.

Cleanup hitter Lars Anderson logged two hits, but the first was wasted on a bizarre bounce. Lavarnway, on board with a two-out walk in the third inning, got in the way of Anderson’s liner as he attempted to execute a hit-and-run. Upon being struck by the ball, he was ruled out and the Sox had spilled a chance to draw first blood in the game.

From there, a whole series of unfortunate events ensued for the McCoy masses.

Bulls notes
All nine offensive starters logged at least one hit for Durham, giving the team 16 total on the day. But no one individual came within smelling distance of equating Mayora’s dolphin show.

The No. 2-slotted third-baseman registered four hits and scored five runs. Two of those were driven in by Lopez, whose RBI bushel spiked from two to five on his brownie blast in the ninth.

Bulls’ starter Brian Baker repressed several early threats, including three doubles within the first five innings (by Che-Hsuan Lin, Thomas and Anderson, respectively) that ultimately amounted to nothing.

Baker was charged with all three Pawtucket runs, only two of occurring on his watch, but claimed an easy seventh winning decision with the help of his offense and bullpen. Save for Bermudez’s RBI double, Mike Ekstrom and Buente did not authorize a single hit in a combined four full innings.

Infielder Jose Iglesias will reportedly take his first round of batting practice since his July 3 concussion tomorrow and could be back in the lineup later in the week.