After the momentum swayed throughout the wee phases, then settled in limbo through seven innings, the PawSox bat rack and bullpen got the better of their Gwinnett Braves counterparts to crack open a 7-3 victory at Coolray Field Monday night.
With the win, Pawtucket completed its most successful out of seven eight-game road trips in 2011, having taken three out of four bouts with Charlotte and Gwinnett each. They are also off to a 10-3 start in August at the halfway mark of the month.
Ryan Lavarnway broke the ice in a hurry for the PawSox, catapulting a home run to straightaway center for his first hit of the series and a 1-0 lead in the first inning.
Before there were any outs in the second, the Sox had sprinkled on additional three hits and two runs. Daniel Nava led off the stanza with his second solo shot in as many days. Brett Carroll followed up with a single up the middle, stole second with Hector Luna at the dish and scored ahead of Luna’s subsequent base hit to left.
The Braves pulled even under both the run and hit heading in the bottom of the third. Jeff Fiorentino deposited a leadoff single in right-center, advanced to third on a wild pitch to Matt Young and scored Gwinnett’s first run with the assistance of Young’s sacrifice fly to center.
With the bases cleared and two away, Ruben Gotay went on board, then flew home with Stefan Gartrell, who homered into the Braves bullpen to draw a 3-3 knot.
After four full scoreless innings, the PawSox were on the verge of yielding Gwinnett reliever Anthony Varvaro a second straight 1-2-3 stanza in the eighth. But Varvaro breathed life back into the visiting bat rack by walking Carroll and Luna on a combined nine pitches.
In turn, Nate Spears stepped up and singled to right to score Carroll from second and send Luna to third. Four pitches later, Jose Iglesias sent Luna and Spears home for a 6-3 edge as he doubled over the head of Young at the left-field warning track.
Luna collected his second RBI hit of the game in the ninth, scoring Nava from second on a single to the opposite field in right.
The defense bailed themselves and starting pitcher Brandon Duckworth out of multiple self-imposed scares near the end of his six-inning outing. Jeff Fiorentino mooched a leadoff single off the veteran hurler to commence the fifth, only to be caught stealing by the catcher Lavarnway and second baseman Nate Spears.
In the sixth, Duckworth saw his two challengers get on board by way of an infield single and a throwing error by Luna. But Spears proceeded to initiate a double-play that saw Mauro Gomez to third. In turn, Gomez was left stranded as Duckworth got Wilkin Ramirez to whiff on a payoff pitch.
Che-Hsuan Lin egregiously spilled a potential opportunity to renew Pawtucket’s lead with the 3-3 tie still intact in the top of the fifth. On board with a one-out single, he was caught stealing in an elaborate 2-3-6-4 rundown after Ryan Kalish took his second strike en route to an inning-ending swing and miss.
Granted, this was Gwinnett pitching to them, but four of the more leaned-on batters struck out multiple times apiece. Kalish whiffed three times while Lavarnway, Anderson and Spears were each benched on strikes twice. In five plate-appearances, Anderson failed to put the ball anywhere near the outfield.
Gomez led the offensive cause for the hosts, going 3-for-4 with three singles.
Jaye Chapman, who promptly succeeded Varvaro after Iglesias’ two-run hit, copied his successor by missing out on a 1-2-3 ninth in costly, agonizing fashion. After getting Lavarnway and Anderson out, Chapman yielded singles to Nava and Carroll before Luna singled to right, driving Nava home to finalize Pawtucket’s scoring.
Lavarnway, who was in Portland during Gwinnett’s visit to McCoy Stadium in May, entered Monday’s game an unlucky 0-for-13 in the series, making him the only PawSox batter without a hit against the Braves up to that point. His homer at least ensured that he hatched the Gwinnett goose-egg before heading home.
PawSox reliever Tommy Hottovy required only 13 pitches to retire all four of his challengers and claimed credit for the win. Hottovy was followed by Scott Atchison and Michael Bowden, who combined 1.2 innings pitched and allowed only one baserunner in the form of Gomez, who singled off Atchison with two out in the eighth.
Atchison was credited with his fifth hold of the season.
Over their eight-game season series, Pawtucket pitchers combined to strike out G-Braves batters 76 times. Meanwhile, Gwinnett hurlers benched a cumulative 70 of their PawSox challengers in 2011.