Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Luna’s half-full glass switches positions in PawSox victory

The uplifting news regarding PawSox slugger Hector Luna entering Wednesday night’s bout with Columbus: He had a nine-game hitting streak in the works, going 14-for-31 in that span. During that streak, he had elevated his batting average from .247 to .265 on the year.

Most recently, Luna was one of only three PawSox to mooch a hit off of the Clippers in Tuesday night’s series opener that briefly saw Corey Kluber flirting with a no-hitter.

The slight downer in all this: Luna, for all of the balls he was belting onto the ground of late, including an incredible 9-for-15 performance against the stingy Gwinnett Braves last weekend, he had a mere three RBIs to speak of.

Odds are Luna gladly accepted the tradeoff that came in Wednesday’s 5-2 triumph over the Clippers at McCoy Stadium. Assuming both the defensive first-base post and a hard-earned cleanup position in the batting order―both ordinarily occupied by Lars Anderson―Luna went 0-for-4 to snap his hot streak.

But in his first two at-bats, he reached base safely. And he drove in one of those elusive RBIs and played an instrumental role in moving along another Pawtucket run as part of a decisive sugar rush in the first and third innings.

In the bottom of the first, the PawSox were already trailing, 1-0, when Che-Hsuan Lin doubled, Nate Spears reached on centerfielder Tim Fedroff’s error and Ryan Lavarnway drew a four-pitch walk.

With the most luxurious arrangement imaginable at his disposal, bases full and no outs, Luna did enough to justify manager Arnie Beyeler’s reward for his recent surge. He grounded into a force-out that caught Lavarnway at second while placing himself and Spears at the corners and scoring Lin for the equalizer.

The resultant RBI was Luna’s third in as many days, having batted in two at Gwinnett on Monday after going without any in each of his previous six outings. On the next play, Luna advanced to second while Spears granted Pawtucket a 2-1 edge on the strength of the equally hard-hitting Daniel Nava’s single.

In the bottom of the third, Luna’s second at-bat had a visually identical upshot to his first. With Lavarnway and Spears on first and second, respectively, with nobody out, Luna grounded into another fielder’s choice.

And once again, the Clippers managed to tag Lavarnway at second in what proved a Pyrrhic victory. Luna was once again at one corner while Spears was 90 feet away from home. He would get there for what proved to be the winning run on another hit by Nava.

This time, Nava doubled and Columbus right fielder Shelley Duncan was charged with an error as he tried to throw the remnants back into the infield. Accordingly, Nava took a free pass to third base and Luna joined Spears at home for a 4-1 upper hand and the team’s first dose of insurance.

For Luna, the run-scored was another long-time-coming reward for his habitual hitting. While he has now crossed the plate six times over his last 10 games, he has also been stranded more than his share in recent ventures.

But on Wednesday, one of the prime candidates for Pawtucket’s player of the month could collaborate with his teammates and soundly contribute to a winning cause.

Even if that meant accepting a suddenly rare goose-egg in his evening hit column in the process.