Friday, September 9, 2011

Iglesias taking less painful shots for PawSox

Joey Gathright has been flaunting his speed on the basepaths in recent outings, especially with his infield bunt single in Game 1 of the International League postseason on Thursday. As a result, one had to wonder why PawSox manager Arnie Beyeler opted to let him be the odd man out when rotating Tony Thomas into the batting order for Game 2.

But the way Jose Iglesias filled in Gathright’s No. 2 batting position was wholly immune to blame as the Sox fell into a two-games-to-none crater with a 3-2 walkoff loss at Coca-Cola Park. In both of the last two losses to the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, Iglesias has demonstrated his share of quickness when given the chance, giving him tangible and intangible roles in what little offense the PawSox have cultivated.

Carrying over from the climactic phases of the regular season, Iglesias’ outing on Friday (two sacrifice grounders, a run-scored and an RBI) gives him seven runs-scored and six batted in over the past 12 games. He crossed the plate to draw an initial 1-0 edge and later knocked in a stimulating equalizer in the eighth, forcing Lehigh Valley to take an extra inning for the win.

In addition, on Thursday, Iglesias stole his fourth base in the last five games, upping his combined regular-season and postseason total to 13 pilfers.

For the longest time, everything Iglesias was on defense, he wasn’t on offense. But a sound homestretch on both sides of the ball earned him an elevation from his customary No. 9 slot to go up between Che-Hsuan Lin and Daniel Nava.

All the more astounding when one recalls that Iglesias is going on a mere 10 weeks since he was the center of a frightful scene in the McCoy Stadium batter’s box.

In the eighth inning of a July 3 tilt with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees, the prized prospective Red Sox shortstop was biffed in the lid by Andrew Brackman’s delivery. In turn, the PawSox placed him on the disabled list three days later with a diagnosed concussion.

All things considered, Iglesias recovered ahead of schedule. He was reactivated after a mere 15 days on the DL and proved to be back in his old form at his shortstop post, assisting on each putout in a 1-2-3 first inning against Lehigh Valley July 21.

Not long afterward, he began to accelerate his batting prowess in a most timely manner as the Sox hustled after their first divisional crown in eight years.

Most notably, in Part I of an Aug. 26 doubleheader at Scranton, Iglesias hit his first professional home run in nearly two four years and a cumulative 596 at-bats over four different levels.

From there, he curtained the regular season hitting 9-for-30 with three walks, three extra-base hits and six runs-scored.

In his first 89 games of the season, leading up to Aug. 24, Iglesias had batted .223 with only eight extra-base hits and 26 RBIs. Over the final 12 games of the regular season, he elevated his average a solid 12 points to .235, going 13-for-39 in the final lap and adding five RBIs.

Of his last five games, Thursday’s 4-2 shortcoming to open this semifinal series has been the only outing where Iglesias failed to notch a hit.

However, when he reached first base on pitcher Dave Bush’s fielding error in the fifth, he opportunistically stole second base, then advanced to third on Lin’s sacrifice grounder, through he was ultimately stranded.

On Friday, he was one of only three PawSox to mooch a hit off of Lehigh Valley starter Ryan Edell and scored Pawtucket’s only run at Edell’s expense. In the top of the first, he sent an 0-1 pitch rolling into left for a one-out single, then hustled home in a direct round trip from first base with the help of Lars Anderson’s double to the right-centerfield gap.

Iglesias’ second at-bat was a fairly productive out in the third. Lin, who had deposited a one-out double, advanced to third when Iglesias grounded to short. Iglesias’ effort went to waste though, when Nava hit another grounder to short to end the inning and failed to drive in what otherwise would have given Pawtucket a 2-1 lead.

Iglesias would sacrifice himself once more in the eighth, dropping a crisp bunt in front of the mound to again send Lin to third. This time, the potential tying run dropped the “potential” tag as Nava leveled a ground-rule double to left-center, allowing Lin to draw a 2-2 knot.

Regrettably for Iglesias, though, few of his mates have been able to chip in similar plays. And in the tenth, he was the last of five strikeout victims for IronPigs reliever Justin De Fratus, who would soon claim credit for the win on the strength of old friend Brandon Moss’ RBI single.