By the time they had overcooked Gwinnett Braves starter Yohan Flende, cracking open a 5-0 lead by the sixth inning, the only vital task at hand for the PawSox was salvaging Matt Fox’s complete game shutout.
They did just that as Fox allowed only two hits and four baserunners and became the first Pawtucket hurler to finish his own start in the 2011 season in a 5-0 victory at Coolray Field Sunday afternoon.
Fox threw a fairly efficient 99 pitches, struck out seven challengers and only doled out one walk. Meanwhile, from the top to the bottom of the order, his bat-wielding colleagues did their part.
Six different Sox pilfered a hit off of Flende. Of the three who did not, Ryan Lavarnway found his way on by way of a fielding error and walk while Ryan Kalish batted in two runs by virtue of the sacrifice fly.
The PawSox garnered each of the game’s first six baserunners, three via hits, two by way of the walk and one on an error.
Daniel Nava set the tone for a fruitful second inning with a leadoff home run to left-center. Brett Carroll and Hector Luna followed up with a double and single, respectively, to left field. Nate Spears’ sacrifice fly to the right-field warning track scored Carroll from third, augmenting the edge to 2-0.
The Sox ran on a similar sugar rush in the fourth inning, once again nailing three hits in succession and cultivating two more runs. After Spears and Jose Iglesias each batted their way on, Che-Hsuan Lin sent an opposite-field single to right, scoring Spears from second and sending Iglesias to third for a 3-0 lead in the fourth.
Following up on that, Kalish’s sacrifice fly sent Gwinnett right fielder Stefan Gartrell far enough on the run to score Iglesias for a 4-0 lead. Kalish likewise drove in the fifth run on a sacrifice to left that sent Spears home in the sixth.
That fifth run was charged to Flande, who had passed down two baserunners to Ben Swaggerty when he was removed with no outs in the sixth.
Spears, a full-time lefty at the plate, entered the game with a respectable .267 batting average against southpaws. In three confrontations with Flande, Spears did not disappoint, going 2-for-2 with a pair of singles and an RBI sacrifice fly.
Through seven innings Lars Anderson was the only PawSox player not to reach base or otherwise contribute to the offensive cause in any fashion. Through four at-bats, he had twice struck out and twice flied out to strand a cumulative three of his teammates.
On the other side of the ball, Anderson did his job for the most part, save for a fielding error that allowed Jeff Fiorentino on board as Gwinnett’s first baserunner in the third.
But in fairness, Anderson was only a minus by comparison to the rest of his mates. In the ninth, he singled to right to at least extend his hitting streak to 11 games.
In relief of Flande, his fellow southpaw Swaggerty retired each of his first six challengers over the sixth and seventh innings. Swaggerty subsequently gave way to righty J.J. Hoover to commence the eighth while another lefty, Dustin Richardson, came on for the ninth. Hoover and Richardson combined to allow two baserunners while striking out three.
Wilkin Ramirez attained the anti-hat trick against Fox, striking out in each of their three meetings, thus constituting the third out of the second, fourth and seventh innings.
Braves’ shortstop Tyler Pastornicky injured his leg in the seventh amidst a vain attempt to tag Iglesias as he stole second base. He was replaced by Brandon Hicks.