Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Walk-off hit carries on favorable trends for Lin, PawSox

When Che-Hsuan Lin uncorked a shallow single to bring home Wednesday afternoon’s winning run in the form of Nate Spears, he also popped open a can of clichĂ©s.

The two most prominent items that lurked with carbonation near the surface were the likes of “third time’s a charm” for himself and “all good things must come to an end” for a couple of pitchers.

Entering Lin’s confrontation with Lehigh Valley IronPigs hurler Michael Schwimer, though, the big question on the latter matter was “Which of those good trends would halt and at whose expense?”

The bottom of the ninth inning all but constituted the eleventh hour for Lin’s five-game hitting streak, and perhaps the PawSox perfect 9-0 transcript in Millwood starts. Meanwhile, Schwimer had a sparkling 5-0 record on his season when he entered the game to commence the eighth, at which point a 1-1 draw had stood unruffled for four straight innings.

Immediately before Schwimer had come into the equation, Lin had squandered two previous opportunities to snap the 1-1 knot. In the bottom of the fifth, Hector Luna and Ronald Bermudez were on the corners with two away when Lin grounded to IronPigs shortstop Brian Bocock, who collaborated with second baseman Josh Barfield to tag Bermudez.

Two innings later, Luis Exposito was on board with a one-out walk, only to be stranded when Bermudez flied out and Lin popped out to Kevin Frandsen along the first-base line.

On the other hand, the PawSox were heavily indebted to Lin just for bringing the long-standing 1-1 draw into existence and for keeping it out of Lehigh Valley’s hands for a full five-and-a-half innings. Exposito led off the home half of the third with a double and nimbly advanced to third when Bermudez belted a sacrifice fly to left.

Enter Lin, batting for the first time since he reached on a fielding error and then failed to score from first base on Daniel Nava’s double when he was thwarted at the plate.

This time, Lin lobbed a 1-1 offering from Nate Bump to left field, where it was caught by Brandon Moss, but deep enough for Exposito to sprint home. In a daylong plethora of long-distance teases off Pawtucket bats, Lin’s would be the only productive one.

At his centerfield defensive post, Lin made amends for another first-inning blunder wherein he couldn’t quite ensnare Pete Orr’s bloop to the shallow area. In another three opportunities over the course of the day, he put out three IronPigs with routine catches.

The magnitude of each of those plays was dwarfed, though, by a key assist in top of the ninth. Reliever Jeremy Kerht, tasked with salvaging Kevin Millwood’s relative gem when he came out of the bullpen the previous inning, allowed back-to-back singles with only one out.

His subsequent challenger, Kevin Frandsen, repelled a 1-0 delivery to the centerfield warning track. But Lin, who had to hustle out of his unorthodox position in the shallow outfield, managed to snatch it before the wall.

Baserunners Bocock and Rich Thompson both opted to tag and make a break for scoring position. But Lin alertly hurled the ball back to Luna at third base. Although that throw fell just shy of cutting down Bocock, Luna was equally apt to relay the ball to second baseman Drew Sutton, who tagged Thompson for an inning-ending double-play.

With the one-all knot still intact, Lin was ultimately summoned as the fifth Pawtucket batter in the bottom half. His opposite-field connection constituted his 10th his now-six-game tear, improved the PawSox to 10-0 in Millwood starts and gave them their third consecutive triumph over the I.L. North-leading IronPigs.

In those three wins, Lin has played a direct role in every deciding inning. On Monday night, he led off the third with a single and scored the first run ahead of a double by Ryan Lavarnway, who scored himself to make it 2-0 en route to a 4-1 victory. On Tuesday, Lin scored the go-ahead run in the sixth to bust a 3-2 knot and set Pawtucket off to a 7-2 win.

The Sox needed one more win, whether it was Wednesday or Thursday, to ensure that the contesting teams leave McCoy Stadium Thursday night with a slimmer gap in the standings than when they initially convened on Monday.

None other than the streaking Lin made that possible. The PawSox now trail Lehigh Valley by one game going into Thursday’s series finale.