The drama days of August are officially on. And to the PawSox’ credit, they are learning how to pull through when the stakes come down to the wire.
For the fourth time in as many outings this calendar month, the Sox trailed by a run with only three outs. And for the third time in four tries, they pulled through, deleting two deficits in all on the night to vanquish the Buffalo Bisons, 6-5, at McCoy Stadium Friday night.
Right fielder Brett Carroll, formally assigned by Boston on Thursday after being acquired from the Milwaukee Brewers system, caught on to this trend on the fly as his second base hit in Sox attire made the difference.
Standing as Pawtucket’s last hope with Che-Hsuan Lin and pinch-runner Tony Thomas on the corners, Carroll dropped a 2-2 offering by Buffalo Bisons pitcher Dale Thayer to the opposite foul line in right field.
Lin scored with relative facility for the equalizer while Thomas all but channeled Enos Slaughter the way he beat Mike Baxter’s throw to finalize the victory.
Buffalo cleanup man Valentino Pascucci drew first blood by clearing the centerfield fence and taking Joshua Satin home from first base.
In the bottom half, Pawtucket cut the deficit when Lin led off with a double and then shuffled to third and the plate on Nate Spears’ and Jed Lowrie’s respective sacrifice grounders. Lars Anderson followed through with an equalizing solo shot to right field.
For each of the following two innings, PawSox starter Kevin Millwood neutralized the Bisons for a pair of 1-2-3 segments while his mates tacked on another run. A botched double play forced Buffalo to settle for a force-out, gave Jose Iglesias a free pass to first and scored Daniel Nava from second for a 3-2 lead.
Pawtucket raised the upper hand to 4-2 in the third as Spears led off with a walk and advanced one stage apiece on sacrifices by Lowrie and Anderson and an RBI single by Carroll.
Buffalo perked back up and put their first two batters on base in both the fifth and the sixth. Although they spilled those runners in the fifth, they pulled even in the sixth. Fernando Martinez doubled with one out to deep right to score Mike Baxter from second and send Satin to third. In turn, Satin went home for the 4-4 knot on a sacrifice grounder by Nick Evans.
The eldest rostered members of each contesting club, Pawtucket’s Millwood and Buffalo’s Miguel Batista, each pitched six full innings before handing the 4-4 deadlock over to their respective bullpens.
After retiring each of his first four challengers, Hideki Okajima walked Satin, who subsequently scored from first with the help of Fernando Martinez’s double off the right-center wall.
The resultant 5-4 deficit remained until the ninth, when Lin and Lowrie set the stage for Carroll’s heroics.
After repeat relegations to the reserves’ squad and a demotion from the No. 2 to No. 7 slot in the batting order, Nava went 2-for-3 with a run-scored and a walk. After Nava dropped a single into shallow right-center in the second inning, the PawSox went without redirecting any pitches to the outfield until Nava lined another single to right field in the sixth.
It was Nava’s first multi-hit game since July 26, which was effectively the eve of his recent slump.
Carroll earned himself a welcome variety pack in his McCoy debut. And that was all before his game-winning hit.
With the game tied 2-2 in the top of the second, the Bisons might have carried on the two-way scorefest if it weren’t for Carroll’s alertness in right field. He tracked down Tejada’s base hit and thwarted his endeavor to stretch a single to a double.
Carroll was one of four PawSox to steal a base on the night, joining Jose Iglesias, Lin and Spears. The latter two runners simultaneously pilfered second and third with one out and Lowrie at bat in the seventh.
The PawSox ought to understand that they can’t go on like this for the next month-plus. And they could have practiced sparing themselves the dramatics if they had done a little more to exploit Batista, who threw 43 of his 97 pitches for balls, walked five and authorized five hits.
All four of Pawtucket’s stolen bases went for naught. In the second inning, Iglesias might have augmented a 3-2 lead if not for an inning-ending ground out by Lin. In the fourth, Carroll was likewise stranded on second by Hector Luna, who grounded out in each of his first three at-bats and went 0-for-4 on the night.
And in the seventh, with a radiant opportunity to bust a 4-4 tie with the bases loaded and one away, Anderson grounded into a force-out at home and Carroll flied out.
As a team, the PawSox hit 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position. This is a habit they will have to break to bulk up their insurance policy in the playoff race.
Through the first six innings, the PawSox logged four hits on connections that reached the outfield. Other than that, the Buffalo outfield trinity of Evans, Feliciano and Baxter had nothing to go after and thus did not garner credit for any putouts or assists until Feliciano caught Carroll’s shallow fly to center to end the seventh.
Conversely, the Bisons elevated 19 balls to the outfield within the first eight innings, nine for hits and 10 for outs.
Batista and batterymate Dusty Ryan were each charged with an error in the second inning. First Batista, covered first base but failed to reel in a throw from the shortstop Tejada on the would-be double play that instead sent Nava home. One play later, Iglesias stole second and proceeded to third on a throwing gaffe by Ryan.
Lin’s leadoff double in the first inning constituted his first hit in 25 plate-appearances.
Millwood stopped one pitch shy of cracking a triple-digit count for the third consecutive outing. With a no-decision, he is now on a personal four-game winless streak.
Each team garnered an infield hit in Friday's contest. Carroll’s RBI single in the third scored Spears while Feliciano rolled a grounder to second and loaded the bases in the eighth.
Jason Rice, who succeeded Okajima with two out in the eighth, allowed no hits and garnered credit for his third win this season.