In a callous twist, the floundering Syracuse Chiefs tripped up the PawSox on Sunday by taxing Pawtucket’s clear-cut boon and then utilizing their cushion hold off the host’s not-so-celestial offense.
Between starter Felix Doubront and relievers Royce Ring, Junichi Tazawa, Hideki Okajima and Scott Atchison, the Chiefs elicited 161 pitches from PawSox pitchers. Doubront threw barely one-quarter of those pitches and was ultimately charged with six second-inning runs.
Conversely, Chiefs starter Yunesky Maya and three relievers needed a combined 122 tosses to ward off a valiant PawSox comeback and cement a 7-4 decision at McCoy Stadium.
Back-to-back doubles by Jesus Valdez and Tug Hulett, both dropped along the left-field line amounted to a 1-0 lead for Syracuse. Seth Bynum followed up with a single to left-center to put himself and Hulett on the corners and Jeff Frazier homered to left on a payoff pitch to tack on another three runs with still nobody out in the second.
Doubront let two more men on as he walked Carlos Maldonado and authorized his fourth extra-base hit in the form of a double by Corey Brown. He was promptly forked out in favor of Ring with still nobody out in the inning.
With Ring on duty and two men in scoring position, Matt Antonelli flied out to center to score Maldonado from third and Chris Marrero singled to send Brown home from second for a 6-0 pothole.
While the Chiefs combined for 10 plate-appearances in their second-inning outburst, it took the PawSox a full three innings to return to the top of their order. Of their two baserunners up to that point, Che-Hsuan Lin was stranded on third in the first inning while Hector Luna was eliminated on an inning-ending double-play in the second.
On their third try of the day, the Sox finally broke an 11-plus-inning run drought dating back to Daniel Nava’s home run in Saturday’s 3-1 loss at Fenway Park. Nate Spears led off by lining a double to the right-field corner, advanced to third on Nava’s sacrifice fly to center and scored on Lars Anderson’s grounder to second.
Lin lashed out his second two-bagger of the day to lead off the sixth and found his way home on a sacrifice grounder by Spears and rolling single by Nava.
Against Atchison in the eighth, Bynum raised the Chiefs’ upper hand to 7-2 with an opposite-field dinger over the right field wall.
Luna homered to left-center to carry Anderson home from second and whittle the deficit down to 7-4 with one out in the ninth. But when Garrett Mock replaced fellow reliever Lee Hyde, he promptly retired Brett Carroll and Matt Spring to drop the curtain.
After the scathing second inning, the bullpen combined for three straight 1-2-3 stanzas and nearly had a fourth one before Frazier laced a two-out single to shallow left on a payoff pitch by Okajima in the sixth.
In his fourth relief outing of the month after coming back from offseason surgery, Tazawa arguably had his best day yet in 2011. In 2.2 innings of work, he retired all eight of his challengers with three strikeouts and let only one ball reach the outfield.
While the top three members of the batting order touched the stingy Maya for a combined four hits in their first nine at-bats, the cleanup-hitting Anderson was comparatively less than productive. Although one of Anderson’s three groundouts against Maya amounted to a sacrifice RBI, the other two ended an inning and stranded one runner apiece.
In two confrontations with Maya, Tony Thomas struck out twice on a cumulative eight pitches. Facing reliever J.D. Martin in the seventh, Thomas flied out to shallow center on the first pitch to strand both Luna and Matt Spring in scoring position.
Will Middlebrooks has now logged three games with the PawSox, one as a DH and two at his usual third base positional post. As of the conclusion of Sunday’s game, he has gone 0-for-11 with six strikeouts, including a pair of looking Ks on Sunday.
With Pawtucket’s offense as off-and-on as it’s been in the homestretch of this pennant race, Middlebrooks has no time to acclimate. He is going to have to thaw out sooner rather than later.
Leadoff batter Steve Lombardozzi was the only Syracuse player not to score or bat in a run during the team’s decisive second inning. His popup to Hector Luna at first base constituted that inning’s first out. He also struck out once against four different Pawtucket hurlers, those being Doubront in the first, Tazawa in the fourth, Okajima in the seventh and Atchison in the ninth.
Frazier added a third hit to his Sunday log with a two-out double off of Atchison immediately following Bynum’s solo shot.
Luna went 3-for-4 and now has six multi-hit outings within his last 10 games, dating back to his most recent day off on August 11.
Spring, promoted from Single-A Salem after Ryan Lavarnway was promoted to Boston, made his debut behind the PawSox plate and belted a ground-rule double in the seventh for his first Triple-A hit.
Sunday’s announced attendance was a season-high 10,654.