A combination of a single and throwing error by Lehigh Valley’s Kevin Frandsen from third base allowed Hector Luna to reach second as the leadoff man in the ninth. He subsequently stole third and then ran home to give the PawSox a long-awaited run ahead of Will Middlebrooks’ sacrifice fly to centerfield.
But the designated hitter only personified Pawtucket’s fatally delayed perk-up. Luna, who had broken up his playoffs-long Blutarsky average in his previous at-bat in the seventh, only whittled a deficit down to 3-1.
Two easy plays later, IronPigs’ starter Brian Bass cemented that 3-1 score, along with a complete game victory and a three-game sweep of the PawSox.
On an evening when the offense on both fronts was as barren as a Canadian cornfield in January, the PawSox outdid the Pigs in most every category except the key column with the “R” heading.
Lehigh Valley mustered only three hits as opposed to Pawtucket’s five. Meanwhile, the home defense committed no errors while Lehigh Valley made three on the night.
In all, the PawSox were allotted 11 baserunners versus the IronPigs’ four. But they only drove home one of those while Lehigh Valley had a sound 75 percent success rate.
In each of the first two innings, the IronPigs and PawSox had one baserunner apiece. Lehigh Valley scored each of its. The Sox stranded each of theirs.
For the second time in the series, model baserunner Rich Thompson flaunted his forte to grab a quick 1-0 lead. He leveled the first pitch of the game onto the shallow centerfield lawn, stole second base with Scott Podsednik at bat, then advanced to third and home on back-to-back sacrifice grounders.
Josh Barfield raised the IronPigs’ upper hand to 2-0 in the second, dropping a one-out, solo home run into the bullpen behind the left-field barrier.
For each of the next three innings, the PawSox once again put one man on base and stranded him each time. Then, in the sixth, Thompson led off the road half with a double, hustled to third on yet another Podsednik sacrifice grounder and made it 3-0 on what was scored a fielder’s choice that caught Frandsen at first.
The indefatigable Bass went into the ninth already having thrown a full eight, shutout innings, throwing 107 pitches and allowing nine baserunners, including two by way of the hit-batsmen. The second of those, Lars Anderson, placed himself on first and Joey Gathright on second with only one out in the eighth.
But on the next play, Drew Sutton redirected the first pitch he saw to IronPigs shortstop Freddy Galvis, who initiated an inning-ending twin killing. And, for all intents and purposes, a dream killing.
For the better part of the night, Bass had a higher pitch count than his Pawtucket counterpart, Alex Wilson. A major reason for that was Che-Hsuan Lin, who reached base on a hit-by-pitch and gave the Sox their first hit of the night with a rolling single in the third.
At that point, Bass had thrown a cumulative 41 pitches at 10 challengers. In two plate-appearances, Lin had summoned 14 of those and worked up a pair of full counts. Lin proceeded to steal second base after drawing two pickoff attempts with Daniel Nava at bat. Gathright pulled a similar stunt in the eighth after leading off that inning with a single.
Wilson, meanwhile, mustered his longest of five total outings at the Triple-A level this season. In the regular season, the hasty call-up from Portland did not last any more than an even six innings per night. On Saturday, he was pulled after seven full stanzas, having thrown 80 pitches and allowed a mere three runs on three hits while striking out six IronPigs.
In relief of Wilson, Trever Miller was perfect with a pair of 1-2-3 stanzas, striking out two while inducing a pair of grounders and flies.
Luis Exposito was Bass’ only strikeout victim and he was benched in that exact fashion twice in three confrontations with the Lehigh Valley starter.
Nava entered Game 3 having hit 2-for-6 with a run-scored, an RBI double and two walks in the first two games. But the No. 3-slotted batter went an acrid 0-for-4 on elimination night. He was one of four hitters who stranded a teammate in scoring position.
The cleanup man Anderson also fizzled after being one of the few to cultivate multiple hits during the first two games at Lehigh Valley. His only trip to the basepaths was courtesy of the ball hitting him.
Jose Iglesias went 0-for-4 failed to get the ball into the outfield until he flied to Thompson in straightaway center, ending the game and the season.
Despite failing to reach base, Frandsen was credited with two RBIs, having knocked in Thompson for both of his runs on a sacrifice grounder.
Barfield was charged with a fielding error in the fifth as Iglesias reached first base. It marked the second time in as many nights that Iglesias reached on an error. Moss was charged with Lehigh Valley’s first error in the opening inning when he caught Gathright’s fly, then overthrew the ball back into the infield, allowing Lin to take a free ride to second base.
Between the regular season and postseason, Bass finished with a 2-1 record in five starts against the PawSox in 2011.
Lin was the only PawSox player with a hit in each of all three playoff games, finishing the bada-bing, bada-boom postseason with a .308 batting average. Gathright and Sutton were the only others to finish the run on the north side of the Mendoza Line.
Wilson struck out Brandon Moss and Domonic Brown two times apiece as the No. 4 and No. 5-slotted IronPigs each went 0-for-4 on the night.