Saturday, July 16, 2011

Post-game pop-ups: Bulls 11, PawSox 8

Swift summation
The way the ball failed to lasso Durham Bulls third baseman Daniel Mayora in the ninth inning put the stamp on the PawSox’ fatal flaws in an 11-8 loss Saturday night at McCoy Stadium.

With the final score virtually left to dry, Mayora reached first base on an errant toss by Pawtucket third baseman Nate Spears. He then stole second base upon outrunning catcher Ryan Lavarnway’s throw.

Between four different pitchers and 11 different defensive players, the Sox’ tab included two fielding errors, two wild pitches, a passed ball and two hit batsmen. It all wasted a valiant offensive uprising that deleted a six-run deficit in the fourth inning.

After three fairly pristine frames, Pawtucket starter Tony Pena, Jr. wilted in the top of the fourth. Safeguarding a 1-0 lead at the start, he only mustered one out, a sacrifice grounder by Robinson Chirinos that scored the Bulls third run of the frame.

On the whole, Pena authorized six runs and seven baserunners in the inning. Those included an error charged to Tony Thomas, a single, a walk, a hit batsman, and three RBI doubles. By the time Desmond Jennings had doubled off the right-center wall to score both Mayora and Ray Olmedo, Pena was forked out in favor of Jason Rice.

Rice came on with a 6-1 deficit glowering at him. It morphed into a 7-1 pothole when Felipe Lopez scored Desmond Jennings from second base.

But the PawSox quickly countered in the home half. Ronald Bermudez sent Thomas home on a no-out single that nudged Brent Dlugach to third. Dlugach promptly scored himself ahead of Che-Hsuan Lin’s third single in as many plate-appearances for a 7-3 differential.

Two outs later, Lavarnway walked to load the bases and Lars Anderson followed up with a first-pitch grand slam, drawing a sudden 7-7 knot. It was Pawtucket’s fourth salami of the season and first since Spears hit a four-run homer on April 21 versus Syracuse.

But after Lavarnway singled to lead off the sixth, the Sox went through eight consecutive batters without a hit. Meanwhile, the Bulls renewed their lead when Dan Johnson sent Jennings home from second with a two-out single in the sixth.

J.J. Furmaniak, who pinch-ran for Felipe Lopez in the ninth, gave Durham what proved a requisite dose of insurance ahead of Russ Canzler’s single. Leslie Anderson followed up with a two-run shot to right.

Lavarnway led off the bottom of the ninth with a homer of his own to left-center. But regrettably for the home faithful, Dlugach and the PawSox ran out of magic when the shortstop grounded into a game-ending 4-6-3 double play.

PawSox pluses
Amidst the stimulating fourth-inning onslaught, it was almost forgotten that the lately quiet Lin had already logged three base hits. He was joined in that heavy-hitting club by―who else?―Lavarnway.

The catcher extended his hitting streak to seven games when he sent Lin from first to third with a single to right field in the first. He then catapulted a first-pitch double to the centerfield warning track in the third. In his most important at-bat of the evening, with two down and two men in scoring position, he drew a full-count walk. He later redirected Ryan Reid’s high offering to deep left-center for a leadoff single in the sixth, giving him his fifth three-hit outing in only 30 Triple-A games on the year. His ninth-inning bomb changed that to his first four-hit venture.

Whether he was swinging it or restraining it, Dlugach made virtually all of the right choices with his bat. He homered to right-center in the second for his first dinger since June 28, a span of 32 at-bats, and his first hit of the series to give Pawtucket the initial 1-0 lead. He took a four-pitch walk to start kindling the fourth. And he sent Thomas to third with an opposite-field single in the fifth, though both men along with Bermudez were stranded.

Sox stains
The PawSox bat rack spoke for itself when it nimbly compensated Pena’s bevy of blunder in the fourth. That having been said, there were far too many opportunities passed over.

Daniel Nava alone left eight prospective RBIs on base. A cumulative three players were stuck on third base when an inning ended, another three on second base. And in the fifth inning, the bottom of the order―Thomas, Dlugach, and Bermudez―loaded the bases with no outs, yet were all stranded when the lead was theirs to regain.

While Lavarnway’s otherworldly hot streak is a welcome form of old news for the Pawtucket faithful, Hector Luna’s cold spell is the polar opposite. And he may have hit the nadir on Saturday. Going 0-for-4 for the second consecutive game, Luna struck out swinging to end the eventful fourth, struck out looking to end the sixth and immaturely protested umpire Fran Burke’s ruling to end his night early.

Bulls notes
Jennings returned from injury and assumed the DH duties as Durham’s leadoff man. After striking out his first time up, he drew a walk and logged three hits, including two doubles, along with two runs scored and two batted in.

Johnson joined Jennings in the evening’s three-hit club and had a hand in two key runs. He joined Lopez in crossing the plate to give Durham a 2-1 edge and start the fourth-inning fireworks while his sixth-inning single gave Durham an 8-7 edge.

Intriguingly enough, the formidable Brandon Guyer was one of only two Bulls with neither a hit or an RBI on the night. The 0-for-5 Chirinos was credited with a sacrifice grounder that plated Canzler to augment Durham’s advantage to 3-1.

Cleveland Santeliz, reactivated from the disabled list earlier in the day and putting in his first appearance since June 18, relieved Jason Rice to commence the seventh. Despite throwing six of 13 pitches for balls, he mustered an easy 1-2-3 inning before yielding to Scott Atchison for the eighth.

Carl Crawford went 0-for-3 in Part II of his rehab stint. Just like in Friday’s game, Nava ultimately moved from right field to Crawford’s old spot in left while Nate Spears supplemented the outfield.

By night’s end, the PawSox had used three different right fielders as Luna’s ejection invited Matt Sheely into the game. Sheely assumed his usual post when Spears transferred to take Luna’s spot at third base.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Post-game pop-ups: PawSox 3, Bulls 2

Swift summation
As Durham Bulls pitcher Lance Cormier’s bid was repelled and plummeted out of sight over the PawSox bullpen behind left field, a specimen of the present and increasingly promising future of the Boston organization shared a decisive trot home.

With Carl Crawford on first base while putting in his first of two rehab appearances in Pawtucket, the unremittingly radiant Ryan Lavarnway homered for the third time in as many games. That two-run fifth-inning blast granted the PawSox a 3-1 lead en route to a 3-2 triumph before 10,123 fans at McCoy Stadium Friday night.

On the whole, Lavarnway had his third consecutive multi-hit game and his 11th overall in 28 appearances with the PawSox. In the third inning, he had singled to nudge Crawford to second base.

Crawford, who gave way to Ronald Bermudez in the sixth, reached base safely in all three of his plate appearances and batted in the first run of the game. After Che-Hsuan Lin reached second base on a throwing error to lead off the home half of the first and advanced to third on Daniel Nava’s single, Crawford dropped an offering from southpaw Alex Torres into right field, allowing Lin to give Pawtucket an initial 1-0 lead.

The Bulls made two sacrifices to bite their way back into the game. Russ Canzler’s grounder in the third plated Brandon Guyer, who later hit a fly ball to left deep enough to send J.J. Furmaniak home from third in the seventh.

PawSox pluses
From his defensive post at first base, Lars Anderson stopped a lot of bleeding when the Bulls poked Pawtucket with their horns. He caught Daniel Mayora’s bunt attempt in front of the mound for the first out of the second with two Bulls already on base.

In the third, Anderson ensnared leadoff man Ray Olmedo’s liner and singlehandedly carried out Canzler’s sacrifice grounder that scored Guyer to draw a 1-1 knot, but amounted to no further damage.

Anderson did the same thing to the subsequent challenger, Leslie Anderson, to stop the bleeding and end the inning. And then, in the fifth, he teamed up with pitcher Kevin Millwood, who covered first base to catch Olmedo.

Millwood did plenty to recompense most of the looks he gave the Bulls. With two Bulls on board and one out in the first, he caught Dan Johnson looking at three straight strikes and then benched Canzler on a 0-3 count as well. He stranded two more Durham runners to end a scoreless second inning by initiating a 1-5-3 double play.

Millwood eventually neutralized the opposing bat rack long enough to register eight straight outs and allowed only one more hit before finishing the night with five Ks, one earned run and five hits in six innings-pitched.

Closer Randy Williams retired all four of the batters he faced, including three strikeouts for his sixth save of the year.

Sox stains
Hector Luna had an outstandingly uneventful evening when he had multiple opportunities to unleash some damaging carbonation. Facing four different Durham pitchers over the course of the night, he went 0-for-4 and was charged with leaving seven men on base.

In the first, he popped out to Johnson at first to strand both Nava and Crawford in scoring position and spill an opportunity to bust the levees early. His second time up, this time with the bases loaded and one away in the third, he popped out a foul to first yet again. He later flied out to left in the fifth and struck out swinging at a payoff pitch while Anderson stole second in the seventh.

Luna also had his share of lowlights at his third-base post. He let Chirino’s chopper pole-vault over him for two men on and no outs in the second; failed to throw out Guyer to grant him an infield single in the third; and had to be bailed out by shortstop Brendan Dlugach in a highlight-reel throw-out of Mayora in the seventh.

Reliever Jeremy Kerht authorized four hits in 1.2 innings of work, letting Durham saw the PawSox lead to 3-2 in the seventh and giving way to Randy Williams in the eighth with men on first and second.

Bulls notes
Every Durham batter reached base at least once Friday night. The only two without a hit, Johnson and designated hitter Leslie Anderson, earned a walk.

For the second straight night, Durham’s starter stuck around for only two innings. Torres gave way to Cormier to commence the third and by night’s end the Bulls had used five different hurlers.

Both of Guyer’s hits were infield singles.

Pawtucket infielder James Kang was reassigned to the Single-A Greenville Drive Friday afternoon. Meanwhile, the Bulls lost two of their players, Jose Lobatan and Jake McGee, to promotion to Tampa earlier in the day.

PawSox pitching coach Rich Sauveur traded in his usual No. 13 jersey for No. 25, allowing Crawford to claim his preferred digits for his two-game stint.

PawSox pitching preview

Home hurler
Veteran Kevin Millwood will try to keep intact his unbeaten Pawtucket transcript (4-0) as he makes his ninth start as a member of the Red Sox organization Friday night.

Millwood chalked up his first PawSox win on June 6 at the expense of this evening’s adversary from Durham. He only allowed one run on five hits while striking out four in a span of 6.2 innings as Pawtucket paced itself to an 11-3 victory at Durham Bulls Athletic Park.

The win gave the Sox three wins out of four tries over its wraparound weekend stay in Durham. One more win will automatically render Pawtucket the victor in its 2011 season series with the Bulls.

Guest starter
A winner in each of his last two starts, Durham lefty Alexander Torres previously received a no-decision in the Bulls’ 5-4 home victory over the PawSox June 5. He lasted 4.2 innings that day, authorizing four runs (three earned) on seven hits while doling out a season-high six walks.

On the year, the 6-6 Torres leads all Durham hurlers with a 3.30 ERA and ranks third in the International League with a collection of 98 strikeouts. Only Tom Milone of the Syracuse Chiefs (107) and the PawSox own Kyle Weiland (99, though still on recall to Boston) have more Ks to their credit.

In their previous encounter, Hector Luna was the only Pawtucket batter to tack multiple hits on Torres’ tab, depositing a double en route to scoring the team’s third run in the third inning and later depositing a single in the fifth.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Post-game pop-ups: PawSox 3, Bulls 2

Swift summation
While the McCoy Stadium masses observed Christmas in July amidst Thursday night’s contest, PawSox first baseman and cleanup batter Lars Anderson thoroughly Grinched the visiting Durham Bulls between the second and fourth innings.

Later on, just when it looked like closer Michael Bowden was in too much of a giving spirit, he repressed the host team’s growing heart at the eleventh hour. He followed a pair of two-out walks with a game-inning strikeout on Daniel Mayora to cement a come-from-behind 3-2 victory before 6,662 spirited rooters.

The win constituted Bowden’s 10th save of the season while coincidentally elevating Pawtucket to a season-best 10 games over the .500 mark.

Durham was initially ahead, 2-0, on the strength of Felipe Lopez’s two-run home run to right-center, and threatening to augment the edge in the second when Anderson made a potentially game-altering move.

With two men in scoring position and only one out, Ray Olmedo raced to first base on a wild-pitch strikeout while Russ Canzler came darting home from third. But Anderson retrieved the fugitive ball and lobbed it to pitcher Brandon Duckworth, who applied the tag to thwart Canzler.

The PawSox got through the remainder of the inning unscathed. And in his next plate-appearance, with Daniel Nava and Ryan Lavarnway aboard with nobody out, Anderson doubled to Canzler’s property in right field, scoring Nava to put the Sox on the board and nudging Lavarnway to third.

After Lavarnway scored on Hector Luna’s sacrifice fly, Anderson completed his round trip for the go-ahead run as Nate Spears deposited an infield single to third base. Anderson hustled home to constitute the eventual winning run while Mayora failed to haul in what might have been a routine out.

At the top of the subsequent inning, Anderson also teamed up with shortstop Brent Dlugach for a unique, inning-ending 1-5-1 double play.

PawSox pluses
While Anderson was the catalyst in Pawtucket’s comeback, equal credit is owed to those who set the table for him. In each of his first two at-bats, Nava reached base and was subsequently nudged to second on a single by Lavarnway. Although that amounted to nothing in the first inning, the two men eventually drew the 2-2 knot ahead of Anderson’s RBI double and Luna’s sacrifice fly, respectively.

Not unlike Anderson, Spears had a sparkling night on both sides of the ball. In addition to two singles, the second of which scored Anderson for the 3-2 lead in the fourth, the second baseman took part in a pair of crucial force-outs.

Lavarnway joined Spears in Pawtucket’s multi-hit club with two singles of his own and by night’s end had upped his batting average from .343 to .350 in just 27 Triple-A games.

Scott Atchison, who was formally returned to the PawSox roster earlier in the day after the parent club optioned him over the All-Star Break, was flawless in his relief shift. Upon toeing the rubber with two away in the seventh, Atchison retired Olmedo on a grounder he fielded himself and then charged up a 1-2-3 eighth with a leadoff liner and a pair of strikeouts.

Sox stains
While he kept things relatively stable for the better part of his 6.2 innings of work against the Bulls, Duckworth looked like fictionalized Durham hurler Nuke Laloosh at times. In both of his encounters with the No. 9-slotted batter Olmedo, he threw a wild-pitch third strike, effectively negating the K and giving Olmedo a pair of free bases.

Additionally, after a smooth first inning and after running Lopez to a 0-2 deficit in the second, Duckworth threw three consecutive balls, surrendered Lopez’s two-run blast on the payoff pitch, then authorized back-to-back singles with still nobody out.

Luna similarly had a satisfactory outing on the whole, but not without a fairly sloppy sequence of events that nearly allowed Durham to expand upon its fruitful second inning. First, he let a base hit get by him to put men on first and second with a 2-0 deficit already glowering at the PawSox and still nobody out.

On the next play, he failed to make a throw to Spears that might have initiated a double-play. Spears caught Luna’s export, but was left in no position to tag Robinson Chirinos, thus had to settle for only throwing out batter Daniel Mayora and putting two Bulls in scoring position with one away.

Bulls notes
Third-hitting centerfielder Brandon Guyer reached base both of his first two times up, taking a hit in the first and nailing an infield single to shortstop in the third, but was subsequently thrown out at second both times. He was caught stealing in the first and drew two pickoff attempts while on board in the third before he was victimized by a fielder’s choice.

Dan Johnson and Canzler each logged a multi-hit night for Durham. Canzler’s ground-rule double to lead off the seventh would constitute the last of the Bulls seven hits.

Durham starter and Boston native Alex Cobb stayed through only the second inning, having thrown 11 balls on 20 total pitches. The Bulls subsequently went through Andy Sonnanstine, Mike Ekstrom, and R.J. Swindle.

Sonnanstine, who worked four innings, and Swindle, who was summoned for the eighth, split Durham’s bushel of four strikeouts on the night.

Tony Thomas assumed the DH post for his first lick of action since his left shoulder put him on the disabled list last week. Leading off the third, Thomas showed hesitation to start flexing his recently ailing shoulder. He alternated between fouls and balls en route to a full count before flying out to shallow center on the payoff pitch. Thomas finished the night at 0-for-3.

Monday, July 11, 2011

In next homestand, PawSox can set a tone for homestretch

The notion of a midseason respite curbing a team’s timely progression need not be applied to the Pawtucket Red Sox. They are merely on the heels of a three-game winning streak and a 7-2 hot streak at the expense of three mediocre clubs from Western New York.

Look at the International League standings. The PawSox are knotted atop the wild card leaderboard with the Gwinnett Braves, each team bearing an identical 50-41 transcript.

Conversely, Pawtucket’s latest three adversaries from Rochester, Syracuse, and Buffalo stand as follows: The Red Wings are a half-game removed from last place, the Bisons are 2.5 games higher and the Chiefs are a shoddy 38-50.

In the wake of two close shaves at McCoy against Buffalo―one that saw a pair of errors bite the Bisons when another pair left the PawSox alone and another that saw Pawtucket relievers Jason Rice and Randy Williams barely avoid a four-alarm flameout as they juggled with torches―it is plain that Pawtucket will not be harmed by a three-day breather.

In fact, there is only cause to argue that the PawSox need to capitalize on the All-Star Break and promptly return poised to start blowing a stronger second wind.

After all, the forthcoming slate is the polar opposite to what led them into this break. The 54-day, 52-game homestretch begins with a four-game series against the IL South-leading Durham Bulls. Overall, Durham is a mere half-game ahead of its divisional cohabitant from Gwinnett, so this series will be as good as a bout between two wild card contenders.

Come next Monday, the Bulls will give way to Lehigh Valley, currently 3.5 games ahead of Pawtucket for tops in the North. And with another four dates with the IronPigs at Coca-Cola Park to follow July 26-29, Pawtucket is by all means within lassoing distance of the divisional title.

But that’s a limited time offer. The PawSox and IronPigs shall meet no more after this month. Therefore, if Pawtucket is to afford itself any opportunity to break away from the wild card gridlock and vie for a more enticing prize, it must get the better of Lehigh Valley these next eight encounters.

Upon returning home from Pennsylvania, the Sox will face still another key series with the Louisville Bats, who are 1.5 games back in the wild card race.

Three more items jutting out on the remaining schedule:

· The Sox venture southward in the first full week of August, culminating in a wraparound weekend at Gwinnett August 12-15. The G-Braves previously reaped three out of four from McCoy in May, though there is less cause for shame from a Pawtucket standpoint considering Gwinnett is the IL’s best road team at 30-16.

Naturally, the flipside is that Gwinnett is one of the circuit’s more disappointing home teams at 20-25. Only Toledo and Rochester have disappointed their local rooters more regularly. If the PawSox can prolong that trend, it could pay dividends in the dwindling weeks of the season.

· The Columbus Clippers, owners of the IL’s best record and the only decisive divisional leader with a 9.5-game cushion in the IL West, will pay a four-night visit to McCoy as soon as the PawSox return home from Georgia.

If nothing else, getting the better of Columbus and thereby wresting away the season series would bolster Pawtucket’s confidence and rep whilst padding on its 2011 resume.

· There are still six more dates to come with the not-completely-dead Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees, four on the road August 26-29 and two at McCoy prior to Labor Day.

If all goes according to plan, the PawSox will still have an edge hovering around 3.5 games when they cross paths with the Yanks again. At that point, they would have an opportunity to kick the final clod of dirt in Scranton’s faces.

Of course, to get to that point, they will have to keep devouring those Empire State cupcakes―who combine for 18 more meetings with the PawSox―the way they have this past week. Check that, with a little more consistent assertiveness.

And they’ll have to flex a little more against the IronPigs and all interdivisional forces they confront right from the very next sounds of “…home of the brave?” and “Play ball!”

With only pitcher Matt Fox engaged in All-Star activity, these next three days ought to give the PawSox the requisite sense of physical, mental, and psychological renewal.

With such parity between at least five prospective wild card teams, these next eight weeks are as good as a mini-season. It would be worth the while of everyone in Arnie Beyeler’s clubhouse to let that sink into their minds before the Bulls run in on Thursday.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

In refreshing return to win column, Fox represses blemishes

Hey now, he’s an All-Star. Could he get his game on Sunday?

Well, a long-awaited winning effort highlighted with seven strikeouts was a good step in that direction. It should help Pawtucket Red Sox starting pitcher Matt Fox rinse out enough of the recent vinegar for him to go savor the honor of representing the International League this week.

He still has yet to cut down on the recent frequency of balls and the walks, but the game’s favorable upshot will push that matter back to the trunk until his next scheduled start versus Durham next Sunday.

Fox, the PawSox only ambassador to Wednesday night’s Triple-A Midsummer Classic in Salt Lake City, was not following through on his accolade leading up to the last game before the break.

But five days removed from the nadir of his season―namely a 13-3 drubbing in Rochester that saw him charged with 11 earned runs on 10 hits in merely 2.2 innings of work―Fox was at least good enough to splash a personal winless drought Sunday afternoon.

Fox logged 5.1 innings and left with a 4-1 lead that eventually morphed into a 4-3 win over the Buffalo Bisons at McCoy Stadium. That marked his first credited win since a 9-3 triumph over Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on May 15.

It seems only the New England Revolution have waited longer for another victory, and only by one day at that. The local Major League Soccer franchise is 0-6-3 in nine overall outings since edging out the Vancouver Whitecaps, 1-0, on May 14.

Similarly, Fox had reeled in eight consecutive no-decisions, missing out on credit for three PawSox victories along the way, along with the Red Wings’ raid this past Tuesday.

In his first bounce-back opportunity on Sunday, Fox flexed plenty of command. He got Buffalo’s Michael Fisher to whiff on a 0-2 pitch, and then caught Zach Lutz looking at a full-count strike to end the first inning.

Lutz would be benched on strikes in all three of his encounters with Fox, who commenced the second where he left off by getting cleanup DH Fernando Martinez to look at an on-target 3-2 pitch.

But the recurrence of the phrase “full-count” is where the other shoe is at least dangling from one of the McCoy Stadium autograph fish-poles and brushing the dirt in front of the dugout. Of the 97 pitches Fox threw on Sunday, 53 were for strikes while a whopping 44 were for balls.

Out of 22 batters-faced, five worked Fox to a 3-2 count. Two of those cases ended in a K, another in one of four walks the starter authorized on the day.

The fourth culminated in Jesus Feliciano’s RBI single that put Buffalo on the board and sawed Pawtucket’s lead to 2-1 in the fifth. And one inning later, Fox caught Lutz swinging but was finished immediately thereafter when he hit Martinez with a payoff pitch.

Those four walks in 5.1 innings are coming on the heels of two in 2.2 frames versus Rochester, three in five innings at home versus the Red Wings on June 30, and five in Indianapolis June 25. It is certainly a trend that Fox will want to curb going forward as he and the PawSox try to set themselves apart from the IL’s congested pool of playoff contenders.

On the other hand, out of seven Buffalo baserunners on Fox’s tab, only two of them earned their spot by actually swinging the bat. Fox all but gave his outfield the OK to go grab a frozen Del’s to start the 80-degree afternoon as only three Bisons put the ball that far in the first five innings.

The two hits Fox authorized were the fewest in a single outing since his previous win over Scranton exactly eight weeks to date. Likewise, his seven strikeouts equate the season high he set against the Yankees.

And save for a case of back-to-back walks in the second and Bell’s scoring play, no Bison so much as reached scoring position with Fox on duty. All the while, the PawSox were comparatively shagging out Buffalo starter Dylan Owen and his colleagues, sculpting a four-run fortress for Fox and his successors to protect.

They did just that, which cemented a refreshing and timely day of the pitcher’s positives outdueling the drawbacks.

Post-game pop-ups: PawSox 4, Bisons 3

Swift summation
Through at least the first five innings Sunday afternoon, no participating parties governed the ball better than the PawSox batting brigade. While the visiting Buffalo Bisons only managed to lob three of Fox’s 97 offerings beyond the infield, Pawtucket hit 12 of Buffalo starter Dylan Owen’s pitches over the outfield grass.

Designated hitter Ryan Lavarnway stood out with a first-inning double and home runs in the fourth and fifth. His second blast, a two-out catapult to left-center that brought Matt Sheely home from first base, ultimately spelled the difference in a tense 4-3 triumph before 8,733 fans at McCoy Stadium.

The said tension emerged almost in the immediate afterglow of Lavarnway’s second dinger. And it wouldn’t let up until Sheely ensnared Valentino Pascucci’s liner between shallow and deep right-center field for the final out.

Starter Matt Fox finally garnered his first win since May 15, allowing him to shed a personal nine-game winless skid off his conscience before going to the All-Star Game in Salt Lake. His only outstanding glitch was an RBI single authorized to Jesus Feliciano, which sent former PawSox slugger Bubba Bell home from second and cut a 2-0 lead in half in the fifth.

But when Fox gave way to Jason Rice, having just pelted Fernando Martinez with one out in the sixth, Buffalo’s offense perked up. Martinez advanced to second on Pascucci’s single, and then scored on Jason Botts’ double with still only one away. Pascucci subsequently brought the Bisons to within a run with the help of Luis Hernandez’s sacrifice fly.

Once in each of the next three innings, the Bisons put a runner in scoring position. And by day’s end, they had dished the ball into the outfield as many times as their hosts (14 each).

But the PawSox, who reaped their second run through Hector Luna’s solo shot in the fourth, held fort to sweep this two-game series and improve to a season-best nine games above the .500 fence at 50-41.

PawSox pluses
Fox could have stood to cut down on the balls (44 total). Other than that, it’s tough to argue with his bushel of seven strikeouts. Most impressively, he benched Buffalo’s No. 3 hitter, Zach Lutz, in all three of their encounters.

Besides Lavarnway, several Pawtucket hitters flexed conspicuous power at the plate, even if some didn’t translate theirs to the scoresheet as much.

Che-Hsuan Lin and Daniel Nava both went hitless, but nonetheless belted two eventual flyouts apiece to the warning track. Luna hit an assertive liner to left (though it was snagged by Jason Botts) to go along with his homer. And Brent Dlugach pushed a deep liner in the second before singling in the fourth immediately after high-fiving Luna at the plate.

Dlugach also stood out at shortstop on Sunday, having a hand in four straight inning-ending plays. Between the fifth and the eighth inning, Dlugach’s work forced the Bisons to strand a cumulative eight runners, preventing them from ever usurping the lead or even deleting the entire deficit. And he just missed ending the ninth inning when Lutz kept the game going with a rolling single to left.

Sox stains
Rice pushed Pawtucket’s luck more times than the average rooter could likely handle. In each of three innings, he let the Bisons hit three balls into the outfield, amounting to a cumulative five hits on his tab. That included two doubles and four runners reaching scoring position. The first two, Fernando Martinez and Pasucci, both made it home in the sixth to reduce the differential from 4-1 to 4-3.

Luis Exposito was the only member of the PawSox batting order who did not so much as reach base or even put much relish on the ball in any of his three plate appearances.

Bisons notes
Bell put Buffalo on the board upon taking a walk, stealing second after luring Fox into two unsuccessful pickoff attempts, and hustling home on Feliciano’s base hit. In total, the aggressive Bisons drew four pickoff attempts on the day.

Once Fox departed, Lutz’s cold bat thawed out and he became the only Buffalo player with multiple hits on the day. He averted a 1-2-3 seventh with a single to left and likewise thwarted a quick-and-easy ninth by dropping another base hit on Nava’s property.

Like Pat Misch a day before him, Owen lost his second start at McCoy in 2011. The Bisons are 2-4 in visits to Pawtucket this season with the brunt of the losses split entirely between this weekend’s starters.

In relief of Owen, Jack Egbert and Dale Thayer combined for three no-run, no-hit innings. The PawSox combined for seven groundouts and two fly outs in those final stanzas.

Luna joined Sheely in the hit batsman club, taking a free pass from Owen to lead off the second. A dispute over Sheely’s HBP play in the fifth inning warranted an ejection for Buffalo skipper Tim Teufel to start the sixth.

Rice was credited with his second hold while Randy Williams, who handled the ninth-inning workload, garnered his fifth save.