Saturday, July 9, 2011

Post-game pop-ups: PawSox 2, Bisons 0

Swift summation
The late standup comedian and outspoken atheist George Carlin once explained how, instead of a deity, he worshipped the sun. He praised its visibility and its many light- and warmth-induced benefits.

Odds are, at least in the heat of the seventh inning Saturday night, PawSox first baseman Lars Anderson hardly considered Mother Nature’s ceiling light a just and loving sun. The early evening glare was an explanation, if not much of an excuse, for two consecutive errors that both went on Anderson’s tab and put a pair of Buffalo Bisons at the corners with only one out.

But then, the two men who each threw one ball past Anderson to mount the predicament collaborated with their besieged colleague to end the threat in a hurry. Shortstop Alex Valdez retrieved Jesus Feliciano’s grounder and tossed it to second baseman Nate Spears, who cut down runner Valentino Pascucci. In turn, Spears successfully hurled the ball to Anderson for the third out.

That twin kill salvaged a 2-0 Pawtucket lead that was sculpted on Buffalo’s own series of defensive misfortunes in the bottom of the second. With Spears on second base courtesy of a dropped ball by right fielder Fernando Martinez and Hector Luna on third, Valdez hit a routine pop up to first.

Valdez was tagged to end the inning, but not before Buffalo’s Zach Lutz dropped the ball, allowing both runners to score.

Lutz lassoed the ball and threw to shortstop Luis Figueora, denying Valdez extra bases, but the damage was already done in this case. The PawSox had sculpted a 2-0 lead, which they would morph into a 2-0 victory before 8,512 congregants at McCoy Stadium.

PawSox pluses
Tony Pena Jr., inserted with a certain degree of spontaneity in lieu of the promoted Kyle Weiland, matched a season high with four strikeouts. He benched Buffalo’s DH Pascucci in both encounters and got Luis Hernandez to swing at an 0-2 pitch for the second out of the fifth, proving he was unfazed by Jesus Feliciano hitting the Bisons’ first extra-base hit of the night one play prior.

Equal credit is owed to manager Arnie Beyeler, who knew Pena had to quit while he was ahead. Pena doled out his first walk to Mike Nickeas on a full-count, seventh-pitch ball and was promptly forked out in favor of Tommy Hottovy.

Pena’s final line for the night consisted of five shutout innings and only two hits permitted.

The third baseman Luna was the most outstanding defender working behind Pena’s back. He retrieved all three grounders that came his way within the first four innings and initiated a double-play in the sixth.

On the other side of the ball, Luna splashed a weeklong hitless drought. Entering the night at 0-for-26 in his last seven games-played, he doubled off the left field wall to lead off the second and scored ahead of Valdez’s single.

Daniel Nava, too, cracked his chrysalis a little more. After starting the night 0-for-3, he got one more chance with Che-Hsuan Lin’s two-out walk in the eighth. Nava’s first-pitch single to right sent Lin all the way to third, giving Pawtucket its first runner in scoring position since that fruitful second inning.

Because both of his baserunners were on by way of an error, Hottovy went without allowing a hit in three innings of relief work. He pitched a 1-2-3 seventh and eighth and only allowed one ball to reach the outfield (Michael Fisher’s sixth-inning fly out to Nava in left).

Sox stains
Designated hitter Ryan Lavarnway briefly upped his team-leading batting average from .330 to .337 when he doubled to the warning track in right-center in the first. But he regressed to .326 with a pair of strikeouts for the final outs of the third and sixth, respectively, and a pop fly to second that stranded Nava and Lin in the eighth.

Ronald Bermudez was also easily stifled on Saturday. He struck out in each of his first two at-bats, the first of which left Luna and Spears aboard before Valdez came through. His third time up, in the eighth, Bermudez hit a soft 1-2 grounder to finish the night at 0-for-3.

Valdez, too, endured a pair of Ks, but it’s slightly tougher to label him a stain on a night when he plates two runs.

Bisons notes
Immediately after Valdez’s scoring play, Buffalo starter Pat Misch retired 12 consecutive PawSox batters for four straight 1-2-3 stanzas. He prolonged that trend for one more out in the seventh, and then gave way to Miguel Batista. Batista gave the PawSox their first walk of the night with a full-count ball to Lin with two out in the eighth.

Misch endured his second loss this season at McCoy despite a sparkling line of 6.1 innings-pitched, five strikeouts, three hits, and zero earned runs.

Randy Williams required only nine pitches to log a 1-2-3 ninth inning and nab his fourth save of the season.

Spears was making his first appearance back from the seven-day disabled list.

The 2-0 upshot was Pawtucket’s second shutout in four nights, and Pena had a hand in both of them. Saturday night’s starter and winner came in on relatively short rest, having pitched two innings of relief and earned a save in Wednesday night’s 2-0 victory over the host Syracuse Chiefs.

Pena improved his transcript to 7-4 on the year.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Rhode Island Day 2011 Evokes Memories of the Recently Departed

It was almost as eerie as it was saddening.

On October 3 of last year, only a few hours after the Boston Red Sox dropped the curtain on their rough 2010 campaign, the Rhode Island and New England baseball community lost a beloved figure in PawSox owner Ben Mondor.

And then, on April 1, hours before the BoSox were to commence this season, the hardball world yet another important Ocean Stater in Lou Gorman.

On top of the news that “Impossible Dream” manager Dick Williams passed away on Thursday, it is bound to be a bittersweet Rhode Island Day at Fenway Park this evening as the Sox engage the Orioles. Odds are all three figures will meet up and watch the festivities together from the Ultimate Skybox, but one wishes they could have stuck around these parts a little longer.

Williams had no direct involvement or influence on Rhode Island baseball, given that his Fenway stint ended immediately before Pawtucket garnered a Red Sox affiliate. But naturally, his leadership during the 1967 season stimulated rooters from Aquidneck Island and the Providence Plantations as much as anyone in the Hub’s sphere of influence.

Not long after Williams sought a slightly more fruitful gig in Oakland, Mondor demonstrated an indubitable appreciation for the importance of baseball to Rhode Islanders. He stabilized the PawSox and became the most unmistakable personality on the local sports scene over the subsequent three-plus decades.

Gorman, who briefly played for the last incarnation of his hometown Providence Grays in the late 1940s, represented his home state as an accomplished Major League executive. He was the first in an ongoing string of New England products to hold the office of Red Sox GM (succeeded by Dan Duquette and later Theo Epstein).

And were it not for one absurdly ill-timed, blunderstruck inning in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, Gorman, rather than Epstein, would have had the distinction of assembling the championship drought-splashers.

After his last Major League job ended in the late 1990s, Gorman was humble enough to return to his roots and keep applying his influential touch. He joined the likes of Mondor as a key Rhode Island baseball executive, overseeing the affairs of the New England College League’s Newport Gulls.

In all but one of their last 10 seasons, some with Gorman serving as the team Chairman and others in an unofficial capacity, the Gulls have seen a steady increase in attendance. They went from an average of 676 fans per game in 2001 to a nightly median of 2,284 last season. And they have led the NECBL’s attendance leaders five years running.

It is not unlike the protracted, exponential increase the PawSox experienced throughout the Mondor era, which practically necessitated McCoy Stadium’s 3,000-plus seat expansion in 1999.

Surprising, is it not, that there were times when drawing wholesome quantities of fan interest was an onerous task for any New England baseball franchise. But Williams, Mondor, and Gorman all answered the bell when those challenges confronted their respective teams.

For that reason, all three men should be the subject of much reminiscence amidst tonight’s celebration of Rhode Island’s role in Red Sox Nation.

Top 10 Moments in Modern Rhode Island Sports History

Seeing as Friday night marks the fourth annual observance of Rhode Island Day at Fenway Park, there is no time like the present to reflect on the state's best sports memories.

Before proceeding, it should be noted that the Ocean State has been percolating its fair share of sports moments since the late 1800s with baseball's Providence Grays and well into the 20th century with the likes of basketball's Providence Steamrollers and hockey's Providence Reds. But too little exists in the way of readily accessible archived accounts to include those teams in this compilation.

And so, Daniel's Den & Dugout decided to zero in on one of the most all-encompassing landmark years on the Rhode Island sports scene and look at all events going back to 1972-73. That was the year the Providence Civic Center (now Dunkin Donuts Center) opened its doors specially for PC basketball, Providence College christened Schneider Arena as its new on-campus ice house, and the year the Pawtucket Red Sox upgraded from Double-A to Triple-A baseball.

With that, enjoy refreshing your knowledge of the 10 best moments in Rhode Island sports:

10. 1994: PC wins the Big East championship
A full decade before Boston baseball's Dirt Dogs had their day against the Yankees in the 2004 ALCS, the Friar cagers reaped their own semifinal thriller from a regional nemesis on March 12, 1994.

Rob Phelps and Dickey Simpkins combined for 43 points―nearly two-third of PC's total harvest―as part of the Friars' 69-67 upset of top-seeded Connecticut in the Big East semifinals.

The following day, Phelps and Simpkins joined tournament MVP Michael "The Animal" Smith on the All-Tournament team while the whole PC squad exulted in its 74-64 victory over Georgetown.

9. 1985: PC wins the Hockey East championship at the Civic Center
Backstopped by Warwick's Chris Terreri and captained by East Providence resident Tim Army, the PC men's hockey team nipped Boston College in double-overtime, 2-1, for the first Hockey East playoff crown.

Steve Rooney, PC's top goal-getter on the year, shoveled the puck home over a bevy of bodies late in the second sudden-death session, giving the Friars the right to accept the trophy from their former patriarch and first commissioner of the infant conference, Lou Lamoriello. From there, they proceeded to the NCAA tournament, where they won yet another OT marathon over the rival Eagles in the semifinals before falling short of a national laurel against Rensselaer.

Less than two decades later, Providence College cemented the distinction of winning both the inaugural men's and women's Hockey East championship. Bob Deraney's pupils from the women's wing of Schneider Arena took each of the WHEA's first three pennants in 2002, 2003, and 2004.

8. 1992: Pro hockey returns to Providence
Somehow, the Divine City and the American Hockey League survived 16 years of separation between the departure of the storied Rhode Island Reds and the advent of the Providence Bruins.

Once the P-Bruins did commence play at the Civic Center, the confounding mystery as to how everyone got along in the interim was only magnified. The first of seven capacity crowds turned up for the first home game. By season's end, Providence had averaged a league-leading average audience of 9,279 per night, which was then No. 2 on the AHL's all-time single-season attendance leaderboard.

The P-Bruins would dominate all AHL gates for each of the following three seasons.

7. 1973: PC reaches its first Final Four
Even after Memphis pulled their plug in the semifinals, and even after UCLA abolished the Tigers for the championship two nights later, the Friars boasted the NCAA tournament's top scorer in Ernie DiGregorio, who amassed 128 points in four games.

And one of the tournament's scrapbook moments was when DiGregorio's 30-point output buoyed Providence to a 103-89 victory over Maryland in the East Regional title game. In a 25-member field, the Terrapins had been the only team exempted from the regional quarterfinals.

6. 1998: Surprise Rhode to the Elite Eight
The URI men's basketball team came within less than a minute of reaching the 1998 Final Four, only to spill a six-point lead and drop a 79-77 decision to Stanford. (If only Lamar Odom had been eligible to start that season rather than the following year, right?)

But all things considered, reaching that point was a mind-boggling feat on its own. Under first-year coach Jim Harrick, the 25-9 Rams kept within the single digits under the "L" column for the first time since 1987-88, coincidentally the year of their only other Sweet 16 appearance.

The top highlight of the Rams' unlikely venture was easily one week before the near-upset of Stanford, when stamped their passport to the Sweet 16 by dumping the Midwest Regional's top dog from Kansas, 80-75. Cuttino Mobley's game-best 27 points that night in Oklahoma City eclipsed the 23-point input of a touted Jayhawk by the name of Paul Pierce.

5. 1984: Resilient PawSox win their second I.L. title
Had the parent club's "Impossible Dream" from 17 years prior ended in unadulterated sweetness, this is most likely how it would have felt.

Second-year manager Tony Torchia and the 1984 Pawtucket Red Sox pulled off 21.5-game turnaround from the preceding season and stamped the fourth and final International League playoff spot at the eleventh hour. From there, they discarded the Yankees' farm club from Columbus with startling facility, allowing them to engage the Maine Guides in the Governor's Cup championship series.

The elastic PawSox were presented with yet another gut-check when the Guides claimed the first two games of the best-of-five series at McCoy Stadium. But pitcher Robin Fuson, who had literally transferred from Maine during a series in Pawtucket three months prior, returned to his former office and helped to turn the tables with a Game 3 gem.

Subsequent 4-2 and 3-0 victories completed the comeback to give Pawtucket its first I.L. playoff crown in 11 years―and ultimately its only title under Ben Mondor's supervision.

4. 1987: Pitino leads PC basketball to the Final Four
The No. 6-seeded Friars entered the 1987 NCAA tournament lacking a single victory in the dance since 1974. By the time they conducted spring cleaning in the locker rooms, they had set a program record with four national tournament wins in a single run.

Bolstered by the likes of future ring-bearing Florida coach Billy Donovan, Rick Pitino's pupils entered the Southeast Region and dumped a quartet of local institutions: Alabama-Birmingham, Austin Peay State, Alabama, and Georgetown to claim PC's first Final Four berth since 1973.

Intriguingly, of the Friars' four tournament triumphs, none were more compelling than their second-round win over Austin Peay. Whereas the other three adversaries went down by no less than a 15-point differential, PC had to delete a double-digit deficit within the final six minutes and force overtime before nudging off Austin Peay, 90-87.

3. 1973: Pawtucket Red Sox win the Junior World Series
It might be because the team didn't stabilize financially until Ben Mondor took charge, but it's simply difficult to justify how easily the Pawtucket Red Sox' inaugural Triple-A season is lost in the franchise's annals.

After all, this was a team featuring late-season call-ups Fred Lynn and Jim Rice, along with the I.L.'s Most Valuable Pitcher in Dick Pole. And Pawtucket did win the International League pennant at the expense of future Red Sox manager Joe Morgan and the Charleston Charlies.

And the artist soon to be affectionately dubbed the PawSox (that moniker was an afterthought until Mondor arrived) did go on to win what was then known as the Junior World Series.

After conceding Game 1, the Sox swept the next four away from the American Association champion Tulsa Oilers by a cumulative score of 16-5. Rice's three-run dinger spelled the difference in a 5-2 series clincher at McCoy Stadium.

2. 1999: Providence Bruins win the Calder Cup
To call it a dream reversal would be to give a little too much credit to the average human's fantasizing skills.

After their sixth AHL season marked one of the most blunderstruck in league history with a basement-bound 19-49-12 record, the Providence Bruins enlisted Peter Laviolette as their new head coach for the 1998-99 season.

At the time, Laviolette was but two years removed from retirement as a player and was the P-Bruins all-time leader with 252 career games, many with the "C" over his heart. And the only two years they had gone without his services, namely the 1993-94 season when he took leave for the Olympics and the 1997-98 season when he was coaching in the ECHL, were the franchise's lone non-playoff campaigns.

If such a thing was possible, Laviolette endeared himself to the Providence fan base all the more when he unhesitatingly pledged to reverse the P-Bruins fortunes. And still all the more when his pupils followed through in record-setting fashion, placing first in the league at 56-16-8.

The rapid resurgence culminated in what was by then a predictable manner as the Spoked-Ps obliterated the Rochester Americans in five games for the Calder Cup championship, clinching with a 5-1 victory on an indescribably stimulating Sunday night at the Civic Center.

1. 1981: PawSox win The Longest Game at McCoy
What else could possibly cap this list?

If any true event generating from the Ocean State is ever the basis for a motion picture, it will have to be this.

In the 30 years since the PawSox and Rochester Red Wings played to a 32-inning deadlock on Easter weekend, then finished within one inning 66 days later, the game's devout followers and history students have made a point of learning every worthwhile statistic and anecdote.

It was a 33-inning affair that took a cumulative eight hours and 25 minutes to finalize. Rochester had a chance to cement a 1-0 or 2-1 victory, only to let the Sox draw a last-chance knot in the ninth and 21st innings, respectively.

It was 4:07 a.m. when play was suspended on Easter morning after the 32nd stanza with a mere 19 spectators still on hand at McCoy Stadium. The only reason the night went that long was because International League president Harold Cooper couldn't be reached to confirm curfew regulations.

Support staffers in both dugouts used broken bats as firewood for the sake of providing passable warmth.

Major League Baseball was on strike when the game was resumed on June 23, thus attracting national and international media outlets alike to see the 18-minute 33rd inning that culminated in Dave Koza's RBI single, which sent Marty Barrett home from third with almost absurd facility.

Everyone knows the story just that well, as they ought to. After all, this spontaneous special event gave the PawSox and their humble city an irrevocable badge of history.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Red Sox pop-ups: Little things build up, cost Lackey

Trouble finishing much? Or some sort of Blue Jay demon?

It looked like a combination of both was at work throttling Boston Red Sox starter John Lackey in a 1-2 punch Monday afternoon.

Less than a month removed from a personal three-game winning streak, and less than a week removed from a loss in Philadelphia when he arguably deserved a more savory outcome, Lackey regressed to new lows in the team’s return home from a 10-day road trip.

The second-highest-grossing member of the Red Sox roster ($15,950,000 and trailing only Josh Beckett) penned the single-shoddiest entry in his 2011 game log. He authorized seven runs on nine hits within the first three innings of an eventual 9-7 falter to Toronto at Fenway Park.

The only reason he didn’t exceed any of his previous highs on the year (10 hits via the Angels on May 5, nine runs by these same Blue Jays May 11) was because he set a new single-game low with 2.1 innings-pitched. But the truth is, all of the data could have been a little less dreadful if Lackey had simply sprinkled an extra strike here and there.

Of the 16 batters he confronted, Lackey jumped to an initial 0-1 count 10 times, including all four first-inning adversaries. And Lackey had eight opportunities to polish off a Toronto player all on his own, yet only mustered that third strike twice.

His only two strikeouts on the day―one against Adam Lind to end the first inning and the other benching Jose Molina in the second―followed the exact same pattern. Lackey leaped ahead to a 0-2 count and authorized a ball before the Blue Jay in question swung and missed on the fourth pitch.

Theoretically, with more third strikes, Lackey could have spared himself as many as eight extra pitches. More critically, though, he might have saved the Red Sox extra runs and made all the difference between a winning and losing cause, as evidenced by Boston’s rally from the fifth inning onward.

In the third stanza, wherein Toronto expanded the gap from 3-0 to 7-0, Lackey pushed three more Blue Jays to the brink with two strikes. Yet he wound up yielding a hit to all three.

Leadoff man Eric Thames fell behind 1-2 before he singled to left. On the next play, Jose Bautista was on the verge of going down on three straight pitches. But Lackey gave him two free breaths with back-to-back balls and ultimately let the count run full before Bautista dropped the play’s seventh offering on Josh Reddick’s property.

Three plays later, with Thames and Bautista both having scored and with only one out off the checklist, Lackey lured Travis Snider into a 0-2 hole.

But after watching a ball go by, Snider laced a tricky grounder down the right field wall for an easy, two-RBI double, his second two-bagger in as many innings.

With that, Lackey’s day was done as an expectable breeze of boos nudged him along to the dugout after a mere 2.1 innings-pitched.

By day’s end, his 2011 transcript fell back to three games below .500 (5-8), exactly where it was at 2-5 after his previous bout with the Blue Jays.

Sick streak for Ellsbury
Since withdrawing last Friday’s game in Houston due to illness, leadoff man Jacoby Ellsbury been on a feverish three-day tear. He has etched seven hits, two walks, two stolen bases, three runs scored, and two RBIs post-illness.

And this is also coming not long after he went 3-for-5 with an RBI in a 5-2 triumph over the Phillies last Thursday.

Promptly returning for the remainder of the Astros series, Ellsbury turned a first-inning walk into the opening run and a fifth-inning double into Boston’s fourth run en route to a 10-4 win on Saturday.

The subsequent afternoon, he belted two hits, drew another walk, and stole second in Sunday’s 2-1 triumph that sealed a winning road trip (5-4) for the Red Sox.

And on Monday, Ellsbury went 4-for-5 with a run scored and two RBIs, along with his first triple of the season in the fifth inning and a stolen base in the ninth.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Post-game pop-ups: PawSox 9, Yankees 3

Swift summation
One evening before families break out their cold beverage coolers from coast to coast, the Pawtucket Red Sox batting brigade unleashed its own form of carbonation at McCoy Stadium Sunday night.

After initially trailing 1-0 and 2-1, the PawSox plated at least one run in each of the first five innings to sculpt a gaping 7-2 lead and paced themselves to a 9-3 victory over the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees.

The day after only two men combined for three hits in two shutout losses to the Yankees, eight Pawtucket players combined for 14 hits. Four of them (Ryan Khoury, Ryan Lavarnway, Lars Anderson, Luis Exposito) logged themselves multiple hits. Khoury, Anderson, Ronald Bermudez, and Luis Exposito all left the yard.

Each of the first six pitches Scranton put into play (and seven of the first eight) reached the outfield. But after Jordan Parraz’s second-inning homer to left-center nudged the Yankees ahead, 2-1, the visitors virtually ran out of fireworks.

Starter Kevin Millwood would neutralize the Yankees for four scoreless innings and only allow one more run in the form of Terry Tiffee’s solo blast in the sixth. He finished with 7.0 innings-pitched, six strikeouts, and six hits on 103 pitches and improved to 4-0 since being acquired from none other than Scranton.

Anderson, who had scored to tie the game 2-2 in the second, broke that same knot when hit his first home run since June 4. He belted a 0-1 pitch to right field, bringing home Lavarnway to grant Pawtucket a 4-2 lead in the third.

Lavarnway’s two-out single scored two insurance runs in the fourth and Bermudez hit a solo shot in the fifth. Exposito did the same in the seventh to make it 8-3 and a bases-loaded wild pitch by Scranton reliever Andrew Backman in the eighth invited James Kang home from third to finalize the 9-3 differential.

PawSox pluses
Khoury, recalled from Portland earlier in the day, made pivotal plays on both sides of the ball in his first Triple-A game of the year. Assuming the second slot in the batting order, he homered his first time up by belting a 1-1 pitch over the left field wall, giving Pawtucket its first run of the series.

Khoury had previously seen action in 17 games with the PawSox last season along with nine in 2006, but had yet to hit a Triple-A homer until Sunday night.

On the defensive end, Khoury thwarted Scranton’s threat to augment what was then a 2-1 deficit when he initiated a routine 4-6-3 double play to end the top of the second.

In the fourth, with his team now ahead on the strength of Anderson’s dinger, Khoury singled to push Che-Hsuan Lin to second. The two runners would each steal on a single play to put themselves in scoring position and then augment the lead to 6-2 on Lavarnway’s RBI single.

In his fourth at-bat, Khoury valiantly denied Scranton starter Greg Smith what would have been his only 1-2-3 inning. With two out in the sixth and a 2-2 count at hand, Khoury fouled off three pitches and took a third ball before he singled to center.

Another new face, Jeremy Kehrt, stood out in relief of Millwood. On the day he was summoned from Single-A Salem, Kerht pitched a facile 1-2-3 eighth, luring the Yankees into three routine grounders.

Sox stains
When this was still a contest, namely in the first two innings, there was room for Pawtucket blunders to jut out, which they did.

A first-inning, two-out wild pitch by Millwood allowed Austin Krum to scurry over from second to third, from which he scored easily on Tiffee’s single to shallow center. Odds are, based on where the ball landed, Krum could not have scored from second on that play. In turn, if not for that wild pitch, Millwood could have held Scranton scoreless in the first.

In the bottom half, Lin failed to extend a leadoff single to a double, costing the PawSox what could have been their first baserunner right off the bat.

For whatever reason, cleanup man Hector Luna couldn’t book a float for Sunday night’s hit parade, going 0-for-5.

Yankees notes
At first, it looked like Austin Krum was going to have another batter’s box buffet on Pawtucket’s tab. He led off with a three-pitch single and ultimately scored the first run of the game on Tiffee’s aforementioned single.

But afterwards, Krum grounded into a double-play and struck out twice. Millwood finished his night with a three-pitch K that caught Krum looking to end the seventh.

The DH Tiffee went 3-for-4, thus accounting for half of the Yankees’ hits against Millwood. Tiffee logged two RBIs and two extra base hits, those being a fourth-inning leadoff double and a solo shot in the sixth.

For the second time in as many days, a PawSox batter went down ailing upon being struck by a pitch. Jose Iglesias left in the eighth when Backman plunked him with a 2-0 delivery. He was replaced by Kang in the basepaths and at shortstop.

Michael Bowden yielded a single to Laird and a walk to Parraz, but otherwise had little trouble garnering his eighth save of the year. He curtained his shift the same way Millwood had, by catching Doug Bernier looking at a three-pitch strikeout.

For the second straight night, the McCoy masses arrived in season-high numbers. The announced attendance 12,865 eclipsed the 10,111 who turned out for Saturday’s 7-0 loss.

PawSox pitching preview

Home hurler
Kevin Millwood will bookend Pawtucket’s six-night, seven-game homestand when he takes the ball at 6:05 this evening to face his former teammates. The towering veteran righty will try once again to enhance his 3-0 record with the PawSox after two straight no-decisions, the first being in Louisville June 23 and the more recent one being last Tuesday’s 8-6 home win over Rochester.

Earlier this season, Millwood went 1-1 over two starts with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. His lone win with the AAA Yankees was a complete-game 4-2 triumph over Syracuse on April 23 at PNC Field. Millwood allowed seven hits in as many innings and struck out three in Part One of a doubleheader.

Since the beginning of June, Millwood has been the only Pawtucket pitcher to garner a victory on a Sunday. His five-inning effort to vanquish Charlotte at McCoy on June 12 was sandwiched by losses to Durham June 5, Lehigh Valley June 19, and Indianapolis a week ago.

Guest starter
Lefty Greg Smith will make his fifth appearance and fourth straight at the Triple-A level since a June 13 reassignment from the parent Bronx Bombers. He most recently lost to the Norfolk Tides this past Tuesday, 9-2, giving up seven runs (six earned) on seven hits in six innings.

Before that, though, Smith won back-to-back decisions at home against Columbus and Norfolk.

The PawSox, who are 12-11 against left-handed starters, will try to prolong Smith’s winless streak (one loss, one no-decision/relief appearance) away from PNC Field.

Each of the PawSox’ next two games will be regional televised. Cox cameras will be on hand this evening, and tomorrow’s road tilt with Rochester can be seen on NESN.

This evening will mark the second time the 2011 PawSox have faced a given adversary the day after they dropped both installments of a doubleheader to the same foe. On April 15, one day removed a 3-2 and 4-1 setback in Syracuse, they rebounded to knock off the host Chiefs, 8-2.

That April 15 triumph also halted their first three-game losing streak of the season. Saturday evening’s 7-0 falter marked the fourth, but Pawtucket has yet to drop four in a row at any point.

A win Sunday will pull the Sox to within a half-game back of Scranton for second place in the International League North and pull their home record (20-21) back onto the .500 fence.