While the McCoy Stadium masses observed Christmas in July amidst Thursday night’s contest, PawSox first baseman and cleanup batter Lars Anderson thoroughly Grinched the visiting Durham Bulls between the second and fourth innings.
Later on, just when it looked like closer Michael Bowden was in too much of a giving spirit, he repressed the host team’s growing heart at the eleventh hour. He followed a pair of two-out walks with a game-inning strikeout on Daniel Mayora to cement a come-from-behind 3-2 victory before 6,662 spirited rooters.
The win constituted Bowden’s 10th save of the season while coincidentally elevating Pawtucket to a season-best 10 games over the .500 mark.
Durham was initially ahead, 2-0, on the strength of Felipe Lopez’s two-run home run to right-center, and threatening to augment the edge in the second when Anderson made a potentially game-altering move.
With two men in scoring position and only one out, Ray Olmedo raced to first base on a wild-pitch strikeout while Russ Canzler came darting home from third. But Anderson retrieved the fugitive ball and lobbed it to pitcher Brandon Duckworth, who applied the tag to thwart Canzler.
The PawSox got through the remainder of the inning unscathed. And in his next plate-appearance, with Daniel Nava and Ryan Lavarnway aboard with nobody out, Anderson doubled to Canzler’s property in right field, scoring Nava to put the Sox on the board and nudging Lavarnway to third.
After Lavarnway scored on Hector Luna’s sacrifice fly, Anderson completed his round trip for the go-ahead run as Nate Spears deposited an infield single to third base. Anderson hustled home to constitute the eventual winning run while Mayora failed to haul in what might have been a routine out.
At the top of the subsequent inning, Anderson also teamed up with shortstop Brent Dlugach for a unique, inning-ending 1-5-1 double play.
While Anderson was the catalyst in Pawtucket’s comeback, equal credit is owed to those who set the table for him. In each of his first two at-bats, Nava reached base and was subsequently nudged to second on a single by Lavarnway. Although that amounted to nothing in the first inning, the two men eventually drew the 2-2 knot ahead of Anderson’s RBI double and Luna’s sacrifice fly, respectively.
Not unlike Anderson, Spears had a sparkling night on both sides of the ball. In addition to two singles, the second of which scored Anderson for the 3-2 lead in the fourth, the second baseman took part in a pair of crucial force-outs.
Lavarnway joined Spears in Pawtucket’s multi-hit club with two singles of his own and by night’s end had upped his batting average from .343 to .350 in just 27 Triple-A games.
Scott Atchison, who was formally returned to the PawSox roster earlier in the day after the parent club optioned him over the All-Star Break, was flawless in his relief shift. Upon toeing the rubber with two away in the seventh, Atchison retired Olmedo on a grounder he fielded himself and then charged up a 1-2-3 eighth with a leadoff liner and a pair of strikeouts.
While he kept things relatively stable for the better part of his 6.2 innings of work against the Bulls, Duckworth looked like fictionalized Durham hurler Nuke Laloosh at times. In both of his encounters with the No. 9-slotted batter Olmedo, he threw a wild-pitch third strike, effectively negating the K and giving Olmedo a pair of free bases.
Additionally, after a smooth first inning and after running Lopez to a 0-2 deficit in the second, Duckworth threw three consecutive balls, surrendered Lopez’s two-run blast on the payoff pitch, then authorized back-to-back singles with still nobody out.
Luna similarly had a satisfactory outing on the whole, but not without a fairly sloppy sequence of events that nearly allowed Durham to expand upon its fruitful second inning. First, he let a base hit get by him to put men on first and second with a 2-0 deficit already glowering at the PawSox and still nobody out.
On the next play, he failed to make a throw to Spears that might have initiated a double-play. Spears caught Luna’s export, but was left in no position to tag Robinson Chirinos, thus had to settle for only throwing out batter Daniel Mayora and putting two Bulls in scoring position with one away.
Third-hitting centerfielder Brandon Guyer reached base both of his first two times up, taking a hit in the first and nailing an infield single to shortstop in the third, but was subsequently thrown out at second both times. He was caught stealing in the first and drew two pickoff attempts while on board in the third before he was victimized by a fielder’s choice.
Dan Johnson and Canzler each logged a multi-hit night for Durham. Canzler’s ground-rule double to lead off the seventh would constitute the last of the Bulls seven hits.
Durham starter and Boston native Alex Cobb stayed through only the second inning, having thrown 11 balls on 20 total pitches. The Bulls subsequently went through Andy Sonnanstine, Mike Ekstrom, and R.J. Swindle.
Sonnanstine, who worked four innings, and Swindle, who was summoned for the eighth, split Durham’s bushel of four strikeouts on the night.
Tony Thomas assumed the DH post for his first lick of action since his left shoulder put him on the disabled list last week. Leading off the third, Thomas showed hesitation to start flexing his recently ailing shoulder. He alternated between fouls and balls en route to a full count before flying out to shallow center on the payoff pitch. Thomas finished the night at 0-for-3.