After the bottom portion of the their bat rack kindled just enough to sustain their viability in the game, some traditional and non-traditional top-four PawSox made the wise choice to restrain their cold bats and passively surpassed the lately unsolvable Louisville Bats, 4-3, at McCoy Stadium Monday night.
Coming on for the ninth inning vying to salvage a 3-2 victory, Louisville reliever Jordan Smith threw 17 balls out of 25 pitches, including 13 of his last 16 tosses with only one out needed to give the Bats each of the first three games of this series.
Pinch-hitter Daniel Nava drew a five-pitch walk with Nate Spears already on second base, Che-Hsuan Lin was hit to load the bases and Jose Iglesias let four unanswered balls go by to force Spears home for the equalizer.
Enter slugger Ryan Lavarnway, who had combined with the likes of Lin and Iglesias for an 0-for-8 evening, let three straight balls, a called strike and then Ball Four drop by. With that, Nava crossed the plate for a cathartic victory after the Bats had seemingly retained a subtle stranglehold all evening.
Louisville drew first blood for the third time in as many bouts as home runs via Daniel Dorn and Chris Valaika in the second and third innings, respectively, sculpting an initial 2-0 lead.
The No. 7-slotted DH Luis Exposito and bottom-feeding Ronald Bermudez combined for the PawSox’ first four hits. Exposito led off the third with a solo shot into the Bats’ bullpen and Bermudez hit a single in back-to-back innings. However, he along with two other runners, including Exposito in the fourth, were stranded to preserve Louisville’s 2-1 edge through four innings.
The Bats raised their upper hand to 3-1 in the fourth courtesy of Dave Sappelt, whose sacrifice fly scored Michael Costanzo. Hector Luna countered with a leadoff blast to pull Pawtucket back within one, 3-2, in the sixth.
Louisville retired each of the next nine PawSox batters before Spears led off the bottom of the ninth with a rolling single to shallow left-center. Spears advanced to scoring position on Exposito’s subsequent sacrifice grounder, but had no other tasks afterward but to savor the gradual gift from Smith.
Shortstop Jed Lowrie lasted only three innings in his first rehab game before he was lifted as planned after his second at-bat. But in that sliver of time, he collected his share of key defensive highlights. He initiated a 6-4-3 double-play for the first two outs of the second and collaborated with the catcher Lavarnway to foil Felix Perez’s stealing attempt and end the top of the third.
After threatening twice to catapult the ball out of the yard (flying out both times), Luna belted his 12th homer of the season well out of the park to extend his hitting streak to four games.
Lin barred Louisville first-baseman Daniel Dorn’s bid to augment his team’s lead in the ninth, snagging his fly ball at the right-center fence for the second out of the inning. As it happened, that play had vital implications when the PawSox usurped the game in the bottom half.
What has come over Lars Anderson? In the near-48 hours since his near-trade to Oakland, which came on the heels of a seven-game hitting streak, the cleanup man has gone 0-for-7. In four plate appearances Monday night, he struck out twice and hit a pair of soft grounders to the right side of the infield.
Anderson’s third-inning grounder to Dorn at first base left the bags loaded and spoiled Pawtucket’s opportunity to surmount a 2-1 deficit early. With the score unchanged through the next inning, Lin grounded into a force-out to strand a threesome of prospective RBIs of his own in the bottom of the fourth.
Meanwhile, his passive winning play aside, Lavarnway endured a pair of strikeouts for the ninth time in his last 11 games-played and went hitless for the fifth time in his last 12 outings.
Starting pitcher Edinson Volquez toiled to throw 111 pitches over a span of seven full innings-pitched. Although only 69 of those pitches were for strikes, he managed six strikeouts, confined the PawSox to two runs on five hits and pulled off four 1-2-3 stanzas.
Valaika and Denis Phipps each had multi-hit outings. Phipps lined a leadoff single to left field in both the fourth and the sixth and also doubled in the eighth.
Spears stole his eighth base out of nine attempts on the year after walking in the fourth inning. He is now tied with Nava for third on the team in that department. Ironically, the multifaceted Spears was filling Nava’s usual defensive post in left field on Nava’s night off Monday.
PawSox starter Kyle Weiland threw 98 pitches, his second-heaviest bushel in a single start this season. He sandwiched five so-so innings with a 1-2-3 first and seventh, finishing his night with a relatively efficient 13-pitch frame.
Infielder Brent Dlugach, playing second base while Lowrie and Iglesias took his usual shortstop position, struck out for his eighth consecutive outing and the 13th time overall these last eight games.
Michael Bowden, who combined with Tommy Hottovy for one hit in two innings of relief, garnered his third win of the season.