Monday, August 22, 2011

Post-game pop-ups: PawSox 3, Chiefs 2

Swift summation
Maybe a little weekend slumber won’t hurt them in the long run after all.

In the wake of two vinegary losses to the hapless Syracuse Chiefs, the PawSox perked back up Monday night. Within moments of the Lehigh Valley IronPigs losing, 2-0, in Indianapolis, the Sox finished nipping the Chiefs, 3-2, before an audience of 6,227 at McCoy Stadium.

The 58-68 Chiefs entered the game one loss away from mathematical elimination from the International League playoff derby. Their defeat at the hands of a team that has just renewed its lead in the Northern Division made the inevitable official for them.

At the other end, though, there was a dense concoction of first-time plus points and elements of redress brewing.

In his fourth Triple-A game, the previously hitless Will Middlebrooks finally cracked his chrysalis with an infield single to lead off the second inning. His second time up, he logged another base hit with two out in the fourth, then scored the game’s first run ahead of Brett Carroll’s double down the left field line.

Jeff Frazier promptly pulled even for the Chiefs in the next half-inning. He led off with a double to the right-center wall, moved to third on Corey Brown’s sacrifice bunt, then scored the equalizer while PawSox second baseman Nate Spears was preoccupied with throwing out Steve Lombardozzi.

But just as nimbly, Pawtucket renewed its advantage in the bottom of the fifth. Jose Iglesias led off with a full-count, nine-pitch walk and then came home with Che-Hsuan Lin, who thrust his first home run since June 22 over the left field wall.

As PawSox reliever Tommy Hottovy’s first challenger with two out in the seventh, Brown sawed the difference in half to 3-2 by dropping a solo shot into the bullpen behind the right field fence.

But afterwards, Hottovy didn’t let anyone get past first base en route to his sixth hold of the year before Michael Bowden hurled a 1-2-3 ninth for his 16th save.

PawSox pluses
Lin’s home run was his second at the Triple-A level and splashed a personal dinger-less drought at 196 at-bats. It also may have put the stamp on the leadoff man’s timely awakening in the power department. Lin had already entered Monday night’s affair having hit safely in each of his last three games and 4-for-13 overall in that span.

In addition, Lin now has five extra-base hits over the last week after previously mustering eight of them in his first 67 games with Pawtucket.

Tony Pena, Jr. allowed only one run and seven baserunners in 6.2 innings-pitched. Other than Frazier’s successful scoring endeavor in the fourth, the Sox starter had only one dire situation when he let the bases fill with one away in the second. He bailed himself out of that with a strikeout and popup.

Since he became a full-time starter circa late June, the PawSox have gone 1-5 in Pena starts over the course of July, but have now gone 4-0 when he throws the first defensive pitch in August. The former Major League infielder-turned-reliever-turned-starter has credit for two of those.

Sox stains
Pawtucket could have had a substantially cozier cushion if it had capitalized on more of its runners, especially those who reached scoring position. Luis Exposito alone was responsible for the third out of three separate innings. Accordingly, he stranded Carroll on second in the fourth, Hector Luna on third in the sixth and Will Middlebrooks on first in the eighth.

Meanwhile, Lars Anderson went 0-for-4 and, despite hitting two assertive flies to left in the fourth and fifth, also left the bases loaded in the seventh with a soft grounder.

Chiefs notes
As soon as Matt Antonelli had singled to left to lead off the eighth, every Syracuse batter had been on base one time apiece―no more, no less. Of the three without a hit up to that point, Roger Bernardina and Tug Hulett had each walked while Seth Bynum was hit by a pitch in the second inning.

After taking a rare day off on Sunday, Iglesias had a notably busy evening at shortstop Monday night. He was credited with seven putouts as well as four assists.

Luna, who has now played four different positions in as many games, assumed the DH duties and batted 2-for-4 Monday. He now has multiple hits in seven of his last 11 ventures.

The PawSox have now gone seven consecutive games without an error, bringing them to within one game of matching a season-high set between August 1 and 10.