On a day when starters Matt Fox and Brandon Duckworth were both placed on the disabled list, the last thing the PawSox faithful needed was another dose of unusual vinegary pitching news. Yet the oft-reliable veteran Scott Atchison let it leak anyway.
Atchison had not allowed a single run in a cumulative 11 straight innings pitched leading up to a dramatic bases-loaded, two-out scenario in the eighth.
But after Tim Fedroff and Cord Phelps hit back-to-back singles and Travis Buck drew an intentional walk, Beau Mills belted the Clippers’ second grand slam in three nights, usurping a 7-4 lead.
From there, the PawSox could only whittle down the deficit to 7-5, courtesy of a solo home run by Daniel Nava. The Clippers turned that difference to stone for a steal of a 7-5 victory at McCoy Stadium, spoiling what was arguably a win-worthy Triple-A debut for the freshly promoted Alex Wilson.
Each team’s performance in the first inning was hardly indicative of the encore in the second. Both teams initially went down 1-2-3, failing to put a single ball beyond the infield.
Columbus drew first blood in the top of the second courtesy of Paul Phillips, whose sacrifice fly to right field with nobody out and the bases loaded scored Shelley Duncan from third.
But the PawSox were apt to retort as four straight hits amounted to four straight runs. After Lars Anderson and Nate Spears led off the bottom half with back-to-back singles, Hector Luna’s liner dropped deep enough into left field to score Anderson from second for a 1-1 knot. Brett Carroll wasted no time tripling to right, pushing Spears and Luna home for a 3-1 lead.
Carroll completed the four-run outburst when he scored ahead of Jose Iglesias’ sacrifice grounder to short.
With Mills on board with a walk in the fourth, Jared Goedert homered to right to reduce Pawtucket’s lead to 4-3.
The contesting starters, Wilson and Zach McAllister of Columbus, regained control for a while thereafter. Between the bottom of the fourth and the top of the sixth, neither bat rack spawned a single baserunner. Anderson broke that up with a rolling, one-out single to right-center in the bottom of the sixth.
But after Wilson and Anderson combined to retire 10 straight Clippers, Columbus perked up with a fatal vengeance in the eighth.
At times, the Clippers threatened to max out Wilson’s pitch count earlier than preferred from a Pawtucket standpoint. But in his Triple-A debut, Wilson doled out a decent 87 pitches over six innings and passed along a 4-3 lead to Atchison to commence the seventh.
Wilson’s highlights included striking out third-slotted Columbus batter Chad Huffman and cleanup man Buck in each of their first two confrontations. He later caught Buck looking at an 0-2 strike to begin a 1-2-3 sixth en route to retiring each of his final eight challengers following Goedert’s home run.
Luna had yet another solid night at the dish, hitting 3-for-4 and hitting an assertive fly ball for his only out. He has now hit 17-for-39 in his last 11 outings.
Jose Iglesias grounded out each of his first three plate appearances. In the bottom of the seventh, he egregiously spilled an opportunity to potentially augment what was then a 4-3 edge when he hit into a double play that also eliminated Carroll and ended a quick inning. The thing was that it became a double-play primarily because Iglesias failed to realize that his short-distance grounder was in fair territory and therefore opted not to make a break for first base.
In the ninth, Iglesias struck out swinging to strand Luna on second and end the game.
From the bottom of the batting order to the top, it was an even less eventful night at the dish for Che-Hsuan Lin. He went 0-for-4 on the night with a pair of grounders and a set of strikeouts.
Mills and Tim Fedroff piloted the visitors’ offensive cause with two hits and a walk apiece.
McAllister lasted an even seven innings. In relief, Nick Hagadone allowed one run and hit in the form of Nava’s home run while Josh Judy surrendered a leadoff single to Luna. Otherwise, they had relative facility salvaging McAllister’s second winning decision over Pawtucket this season.
Wilson was credited with a fielding assist upon throwing out Fedroff as the leadoff man tried to get on base by way of a first-pitch, short-distance bunt in the fifth.
PawSox catcher Luis Exposito barely missed out on an extra-base hit in each of his final two at-bats on the night. In the seventh, he was foiled by Huffman at the left-field warning track while Fedroff caught his fly at the straightaway centerfield warning track in the ninth.
The loss was only Pawtucket’s ninth on the year when leading after six innings.