Ryan Lavarnway was in a perfect position to make the McCoy Stadium masses forget everything that had happened since his usual self mysteriously vanished after the first inning as he approached the dish in the ninth.
Regrettably for the home faithful, though, old friend Brandon Moss raced to the perfect position to spoil everything. The Lehigh Valley IronPigs outfielder who played parts of the 2007 and 2008 seasons in Pawtucket snagged Lavarnway’s low-flying shot to the left field corner, averting a home run and salvaging a 5-4 edge for his current mates.
Immediately thereafter, Lars Anderson popped out to Kevin Frandsen at the third base foul line to finalize Pawtucket’s fall-from-ahead 5-4 falter Thursday night.
The loss spoiled the Sox’ bid for a four-game sweep that would have rendered them tied with the IronPigs for first place in the International League North. Instead, they are two games behind on that leaderboard and knotted with the Gwinnett Braves for tops in the wild card derby.
Lavarnway had homered to left-center to give the PawSox a 2-0 lead with one out in the first. It was his fifth dinger against the IronPigs and the sixth Lehigh Valley starter Ryan Feierabend has surrendered to a Pawtucket challenger this year.
But Lavarnway struck out swinging in each of his next two encounters with Feierabend. By the time Lavarnway was benched for the second time in the fifth, the Pigs had deleted the deficit thanks to Josh Barfield’s RBI single in the second inning and Rich Thompson’s solo homer in the fifth.
Luis Exposito lined a single into shallow right to score Hector Luna from third and renew Pawtucket’s upper hand, 3-2, in the bottom of the sixth. But two plays later, with Exposito and Ronald Bermudez both on board, Feierabend gave way to Joe Savery and the IronPigs bullpen proceeded to tantalize the PawSox.
Between the sixth, seventh and eighth innings, Pawtucket mustered one run while stranding a cumulative four runners. Meanwhile, Lehigh Valley perked up in the top of the eighth to usurp the lead.
Moss drew another knot with a sacrifice fly to score Frandsen from third with only one away in the frame. Pete Orr, who had sent Frandsen to third with a double, stayed on second momentarily before Delwyn Young carried him home with a two-run shot that gave the visitors a 5-3 upper hand.
Jose Iglesias played seven innings in his first appearance since a concussion sustained 18 days prior and his itch to contribute again translated unmistakably. From his shortstop post, Iglesias had a hand in nine of the defense’s first 19 putouts, including each of the first three and six of the first eight.
At the dish, Iglesias went 2-for-3 with a not-so-reprehensible lineout to right field in the second, followed by two assertive singles in the fourth and the sixth. He would give way to Nate Spears to start the eighth.
Lately, Luna has made himself somewhat of a regular under the “Sox stains” heading of this sight. And he was inevitably bumped down a slot in the batting order with the return of Drew Sutton on Wednesday.
But to his credit, Luna accelerated his wheels on Thursday, good enough to earn a pair of extra-base hits, those being a leadoff double in the second and a triple in the sixth that amounted to Pawtucket’s go-ahead run.
Bermudez’s patience at the plate paid off multiple times Thursday night. In the second, he drew a walk on a payoff pitch. In the sixth, he fouled off a pair of 0-2 pitches, took two balls, and then reached first on a fielding error. He likewise fought off two potential third strikes in the eighth before grounding into a sacrifice that nudged Exposito to third.
Tasked with safeguarding Tony Pena, Jr.’s would-be win with a 3-2 lead to commence the eighth inning, Hideki Okajima surrendered as many hits (four) in one inning as Pena had in seven. Along the way, the aforementioned 3-2 edge devolved into a 5-3 deficit.
Okajima was ultimately charged with a blown save and endured his first loss in six overall decisions on his 2011 transcript.
As much as the PawSox pounced on Lehigh Valley’s iffy pitching and fielding (three errors) for a cumulative 15 baserunners on the night, they could have done more, as evidenced the nine men they left stranded.
In the second, Luna and Bermudez were left in scoring position when they might have augmented the 2-0 lead but instead watched Daniel Nava pop out. Che-Hsuan Lin left men on both first and second twice in as many at-bats when he struck out swinging to end the fourth and the sixth. And in the seventh, Luna grounded into an inning-ending double play with the bases loaded.
Young and Barfield were the only Lehigh Valley players with a multi-hit game.
Savery took credit for the win, improving to 2-0 on the year. Mike Zagurski took over for the eighth while Justin De Fratus breezed through the ninth to garner the hold and the save, respectively.
Both teams left the bases loaded in their respective turns at bat in the second and then exchanged 1-2-3 stanzas in the third.
Spears, who pinch-hit in the eighth, was the only Pawtucket offensive player who didn’t reach base safely at any point in Thursday’s game. However, he did hit a fruitful grounder to the first base that sent Exposito home on the sacrifice.
While Iglesias was welcomed back to the active roster, outfielder Matt Sheely was placed on the weeklong disabled list, retroactive to Wednesday, with what is being billed a foot contusion.