The Louisville Bats’ last-minute giveaway that went into effect Monday night proved a limited time offer. But the generous spread of home runs was a two-day event, as evidenced by the turn of events at McCoy Stadium Tuesday afternoon.
In a game where six out of seven overall runs came by way of the dinger, the PawSox converted a 3-2 deficit into a 4-3 triumph on their last call for the second time in as many tries. This time, with Che-Hsuan Lin on board with a two-out walk, Nate Spears took three straight balls and a called strike before he slugged Carlos Fisher’s next offering over the right-field wall.
The PawSox charged up a pair of homers for the second consecutive game. And Tuesday’s longballs effectively bookended what proved a multi-round staring contest between the pitching staffs and defenses.
In the bottom of the first, three pitches after fouling a 2-0 offering off his mug, Lars Anderson homered to left field to score Jed Lowrie from first and give Pawtucket a 2-0 lead.
Afterward, though, the lately mediocre PawSox offense tapered off. All the while, former PawSox outfielder Jeremy Hermida led off the second and fourth with solo shots to draw a 2-2 knot.
Over the bottom halves of next seven innings after Anderson’s blast, the Bats pitching staff authorized 11 baserunners, four of them in the form of a base hit and seven by way of the walk. But it all amounted to nothing for the Sox.
Pawtucket’s best missed opportunity to regain the lead came in the seventh. Spears dropped a Pyrrhic single into right field, where Hermida collected the remnants and gunned down Lin, who attempted to hustle from first to third base on the play. Spears subsequently stole second, only to be stranded when Ryan Lavarnway, pinch-hitting for Lowrie, went down swinging.
Meanwhile, until the seventh, Hermida was the only Louisville hitter to get past first base, which he did for the third time in the sixth upon walking and advancing to second on Devon Mesoraco’s single.
That trend changed dramatically in the ninth when Daniel Dorn and Mesoraco placed themselves on the corners with nobody out. A simple subsequent sacrifice fly by Mike Costanzo scored Mesoraco from third to grant the Bats a 3-2 upper hand.
Early on, starter Matt Fox’s strike-to-ball ratio was less than ideal (20-18 through two innings). But through that, he seemingly convinced the Louisville Bats to take chances, which paid off for the PawSox more often than not. By the time he was forked out after 5.2 innings of work, Fox had thrown 61 out of 96 pitches for strikes―19 of those fouled off―and logged a season-high nine strikeouts, eight of which were swinging Ks.
Fox also matched counterpart Scott Carroll’s tidiness with two runs on four hits and Hermida’s two homers were the only extra-base hits he authorized.
Jose Iglesias played a key role in continuously confining the Bats on the basepaths from his post at shortstop. He singlehandedly tagged Jose Castro at second and threw out Dave Sappelt for a double-play in the third and initiated a 6-4-3 to abolish Chris Valaika and Denis Phipps in the sixth. He reprised that feat to end the ninth and hold Louisville to one run after its most assertive threat of the day.
If a leadoff man isn’t going to get on base by hitting, which Lin hasn’t done much lately, he might as well sniff out iffy pitching and let a passport to the bags come to him. And in three encounters against Carroll, who threw 38 out of 80 pitches for balls, Lin drew two walks and also swiped second base in the third with Lowrie at bat. He then let reliever Jared Burton throw four consecutive balls by in the seventh and drew a full-count walk when he stood as the PawSox last hope in the ninth.
Were it not for Spears’ heroics, a repeat offender on the basepaths would have hampered Pawtucket yet again Tuesday.
Between the second and eighth innings, the PawSox stranded nine runners, including six in scoring position. Among other things, that effectively wasted stolen bases by Lin, Spears and Anderson, who stole second in the eighth after leading off with infield single, only be left hanging with three unanswered outs.
Hermida belted his second and third home runs of the series at Fox’s expense, but also struck out for the seventh time in the last four games when Hideki Okajima benched him to curtain a 1-2-3 eighth.
Mesoraco joined Hermida, Spears and Anderson in the game’s multi-hit club. He singled in the sixth as Pawtucket reliever Scott Atchison’s first challenger and led off the ninth with a liner to the grass in left-center.
Lowrie, who assumed the DH position in his second rehab venture, went 1-for-3 with a single in the first inning.
Jason Rice faced one challenger in relief of Okajima in the top of the ninth, inducing Kristopher Negron to an inning-ending double-play.
Each of Pawtucket’s last three home victories have been decided in the bottom of the ninth inning, including Monday night’s walk-induced walkoff and Lin’s game-winning single against Lehigh Valley July 20.