In the afterglow of their I.L. North championship party, the PawSox were not quite inclined to sleep in all day Sunday.
Although it appeared that way at times, they perked up at all the right times to pilfer a 4-3 brownie victory from the hapless Rochester Red Wings before a brimful audience of 10,507 at McCoy Stadium.
The game was decided in the eighth when Lars Anderson drew a leadoff walk and a pair of previously 0-for-4 batters came to life. First, Hector Luna lined a single to nudge Anderson to second.
And then, after Luis Exposito and Luna preoccupied the Rochester defense with a double play and allowed Anderson to reach third, Will Middlebrooks stepped up. One night removed from a grand slam, Middlebrooks sent the first pitch from Chuck James onto the left field lawn and Anderson home to bust a 3-3 tie.
Moments later, Anderson made another decisive step on another bag. With one out and one on in the ninth, he snatched Chase Lambin’s liner and singlehandedly carried out a game-ending double play by beating Jeff Bailey to his post at first base.
Pawtucket was still without a hit in the third inning when Jose Iglesias and Joey Gathright drew back-to-back walks, then advanced to scoring position on a wild pitch to Drew Sutton. One play later, Daniel Nava hatched two goose-eggs at once by lining a single into right to score both runners for a 2-0 lead.
Lambin cut into that lead in the top of the fourth with a two-out triple to the right-center wall that pushed Dustin Martin home from first base. In turn, former PawSox infielder Aaron Bates usurped the lead, flying Lambin home with a dinger to left-center.
In his next at-bat, Nava deleted the 3-2 deficit in the fifth. He scored Iglesias from second and ushered Drew Sutton to third base with a one-out double to right field.
After Bates’ home run, PawSox starter Alex Wilson and reliever Hideki Okajima combined to retire nine consecutive Red Wings. That string ended with two down in the seventh, when Jair Fernandez reached base on the third baseman Middlebrooks’ fielding error.
The error ultimately amounted to no damage, but Middlebrooks made substantial amends for it anyway in the bottom of the eighth.
While Wilson started his outing with gratifying efficiency, the bat rack sapped Rochester hurler Deinys Suarez in a hurry. By the end of the third inning, Wilson had thrown a mere 27 pitches as opposed to the 60 issued by Suarez. Accordingly, Wilson could afford a busier inning in the fourth and lasted through six stanzas, having thrown 80. Suarez, on the other hand, was finished with one out in the home half of the fifth, having thrown 93.
Wilson and Okajima combined for eight strikeouts and no walks over seven innings, in which time the Red Wings sent each of their batters to the plate three times for 27 batters over the first 21 outs.
Okajima got through the eighth in nimble fashion with a strikeout and a double play. He then saw his record improve to 8-1 when the PawSox pulled ahead for good in the bottom half.
In the bottom of the sixth, Luis Exposito spilled a chance to seize a 4-3 lead when a pitch to Brett Carroll landed in the dirt. Exposito daringly made a break for second base, but was thrown out with relative facility.
Carroll’s bat appeared anything but refreshed after getting three full days off, including the team’s rest day on Thursday and the recent short-stack series with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. The right fielder went 0-for-4 on the night and stranded Middlebrooks in both the fourth and eighth.
Red Wings notes
Suarez could not solve Nava in three confrontations, allowing the left fielder to knock in each of Pawtucket’s first three runs in two at-bats and also walking for the PawSox’ first baserunner in the first. Conversely, reliever Cole DeVries induced Nava to fouling off a pair of payoff pitches before he popped up to short to strand Iglesias on second and end the seventh.
DeVries allowed no runs on two hits in 2.2 innings of work as Suarez’s immediate successor.
Martin was the only Rochester batter with multiple hits on the night with a single in each of his first two at-bats.
The PawSox set a franchise record with their 149th double play on the season. Anderson’s unassisted twin killing was No. 150 for the team.
Randy Williams closed his second consecutive victory and earned his eighth save.
Iglesias joined Anderson, Luna and Nava as the only four PawSox to have taken part in at least 100 games during the 2011 regular season.
Sunday’s game marked the end of Dan Hoard’s six-year tenure in the McCoy Stadium radio booth. He will leave his post at the PawSox radio network this week to focus exclusively on his new job calling the NFL’s Cincinnati Bengals.