By the time Che-Hsuan Lin approached the batter’s box in the bottom of the ninth Wednesday afternoon, he had an opportunity to hatch two noteworthy goose-eggs while salvaging another.
Although Lin was credited with the PawSox only RBI on the day, having sent Luis Exposito home from third in the third on a sacrifice fly, he was one of only 18 total contesting batters with no hits in the game. Meanwhile, with Nate Spears and Exposito on base and a 1-1 tie at hand, Lehigh Valley IronPigs reliever Michael Schwimer’s 5-0 record was in jeopardy.
As it happened, Lin dropped Schwimer’s payoff pitch the opposite way into shallow right, sending Spears home for a walkoff 2-1 triumph at McCoy Stadium. With that, in addition to breaking his own zero in the day’s hit column and Schwimer’s under the 2011 “L” heading, Lin effectively improved Pawtucket to 10-0 when Kevin Millwood starts on the mound.
It was a regular bend-don’t-break outing for the veteran hurler. Of the game’s first seven hits, five were singles by the IronPigs whereas the PawSox hit for two sets of extra bases via Daniel Nava and Exposito in the first and third innings, respectively.
Hector Luna effectively bucked that trend with a leadoff single in the bottom of the fifth that could have been a double if Luna were a gambler.
And while none of Lehigh Valley’s first six hits were for extra bases, a prolific second inning saw them whittle three worthwhile base hits off of Millwood. Josh Barfield nailed the first of those, advanced to third on a subsequent hit-and-run with Cody Overbeck, and came home for an initial 1-0 lead with the help of Brian Bocock’s bunt single.
Meanwhile, 13 of Pawtucket’s 24 batters to face IronPigs starter Nate Bump lobbed the ball into the outfield. The IronPigs defense was responsive and repressive most of the time, but Exposito did muster a run after his double was followed by a pair of sacrifice flies courtesy of Ronald Bermudez and Lin.
In seven innings of confrontation, the IronPigs could only nibble at Millwood in moderation and in sparse instances. Save for the three singles and run he allowed in the third, along with an iffy seventh where he allowed his first extra-base hit and issued his only walk, the veteran pitcher gave the visitors no enticing opportunities. He charged up back-to-back 1-2-3 segments in the third and fourth innings and bailed himself out of the seventh by thrusting a called third strike past Kevin Frandsen for his fifth K of the day.
Two full days out of action seemed to benefit Nava, who in his first at-bat nailed his first extra-base hit in 14 appearances, his previous two-bagger having come on June 29 versus Rochester. He later hit an assertive liner that was caught by right fielder Delwyn Young and then dropped a leadoff single on Young’s property in the eighth. Regrettably for him, Nava was stranded after both of his hits, left on third base in the opening stanza and on first in the eighth.
With two IronPigs aboard and only one out in the ninth, Lin caught Kevin Frandsen’s fly just shy of the warning track, then relayed the ball to Luna, who subsequently forwarded it to second-baseman Drew Sutton to end the threat.
Lin’s afternoon will put mixed reviews on his transcript. After leading off the bottom of the first by reaching on Barfield’s fielding error, he was overeager when Nava doubled to the centerfield warning track and paid when he was thrown out at the plate. Seeing as runs proved difficult to reap as the day wore on, it would have been just fine for the PawSox to be patient and have two men in scoring position with no outs early on. Lin also stranded a cumulative three runners with outs in the fifth and seventh.
Reliever Jeremy Kerht succeeded Millwood for the eighth and threw seven of his first eight pitches for balls, including a hit-batsman in leadoff man Pete Orr. Over the next few plays, Orr stole second and was given a free break for third on Kerht’s wild pitch to Barfield, whom he walked on a payoff pitch. He ultimately averted the threat by getting Overbeck to chase a third strike, but by inning’s end had still thrown less than 50 percent strikes (12 out of 25 total tosses).
Ryan Lavarnway, who had a rare 0-for-4 outing, was not exactly reprehensible in his first three at-bats. But with Nava on board and nobody out with a 1-1 tie at hand in the eighth, he paid for his excess passiveness. Lavarnway jumped out to a 3-0 count against Lehigh Valley reliever Michael Schwimer, then looked at two straight strikes and fouled off two more offerings before whiffing and returning to the dugout.
With his RBI bunt in the second and a fifth-inning single, the No. 9-hitting Bocock was the first participant to log multiple hits in the game. He earned a third single by way of a popup dropped by Sutton in the ninth.
Though uncharacteristically unproductive at the plate until his ninth-inning single, Rich Thompson had an eventful day in centerfield. He initiated the relay play that nailed Lin in the first and caught five fly balls over the first four innings.
Catcher Dane Sardinha entered the game with a watered-down .086 batting average, yet mustered the team’s first extra-base hit with a one-out double to the left-field corner in the seventh.
Only two of Lehigh Valley’s nine hits came from the upper echelon of the batting order. Those were Orr’s first-inning single and Thompson’s ninth-inning infield hit.
Sutton, who was reassigned from Boston on Monday, put in his first Triple-A appearance since June 16 and only his third since May 19. It is his first lick of game action overall since he pinch-ran and garnered two at-bats in Sunday night’s 16-inning marathon at Tropicana Field.
After going 1-for-4 on the day, Sutton had a .300 batting average in 40 games with the PawSox, making him the only active member of the team in the .300 range, besides the radiant Lavarnway.