Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Post-game pop-ups: Chiefs 4, PawSox 2

Swift summation
PawSox manager Arnie Beyeler has to be itching to get away more than Lenny Kravitz ever has.

The first-year skipper has repeatedly divulged his concerns regarding his team’s home record, which remains mediocre for a playoff contender in particular at 35-32.

And with Tuesday night’s 4-2 loss to the Syracuse Chiefs before 9,602 of their loyal followers, his pupils verified his discomfort by finishing the latest homestand at 3-5, including three losses in four tries to a hapless tribe of Chiefs.

In a span of four half-innings, the contesting teams alternated runs to forge a 2-2 knot. Pawtucket started with two men in scoring position in the bottom of the second, at which point Brett Carroll singled to score Hector Luna from third.

Steve Lombardozzi thoroughly utilized his speed to constitute the first Chiefs run in the third frame. He led off with a single to shallow right upon beating Luna’s throw from the second base vicinity, moved to second on Matt Antonelli’s one-out walk, stole third with Jesus Valdez at bat and scored with relative facility when Valdez put the ball in play.

The Sox retorted and renewed their lead to 2-1 in the bottom portion of the third. Daniel Nava doubled to the right field corner and scored ahead of Lars Anderson’s subsequent rolling single to center.

But Syracuse was just as quick to delete that deficit in the fourth with a series of two-out singles. With Corey Brown and Lombardozzi already on board, Roger Bernardina turned an RBI single into a virtual double whilst sending Brown home from second.

The run-trading trend abruptly fizzled after that as the PawSox were put down in order in the fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth innings. Syracuse starter Brad Peacock benched each of his last seven challengers before Garret Mock came on in relief to commence the sixth and went a perfect 7-for-7 with one fly, two Ks and four straight grounders.

Meanwhile, with the bases loaded and one out in the sixth, Tug Hulett singled to deep left-center to put Syracuse ahead, 3-2, and keep the bases loaded. Antonelli subsequently scored on a wild pitch by PawSox reliever Jason Rice for a two-run advantage.

Anderson finally perked up the Pawtucket bat rack when he dropped a payoff pitch onto the left-center lawn for a leadoff single in the ninth. Subsequent base hits by Luna and Will Middlebrooks loaded the bases with nobody out.

But like the Chiefs so many times before them, the Sox let a multitude of would-be runs evaporate as Carroll struck out and Luis Exposito grounded into a game-ending double-play.

PawSox pluses
Throughout the night, the Chiefs pitchers and fielders were not giving much to the PawSox, but the effort showed to some extent in a few key hitters. Whether they went for hits or not, Nate Spears, Nava, Luna and Anderson each managed to put the ball into the outfield on multiple occasions.

Sox stains
The first two pitchers on duty Tuesday night combined for an outing that was nothing short of hair-whitening for their higher-ups and home rooters. Starter Alex Wilson lasted a mere four innings, in which time he expended 86 pitches, only 50 for strikes, struck out only two batters and authorized 11 baserunners out of 23 total challengers.

The lone source of consolation concerning Wilson, namely that only two of those runners ultimately crossed the plate, had a temporary shelf-life. Rice was not much better in the fifth and sixth innings, throwing only 20 out of 41 pitches for strikes and yielding another two runs and five more runners.

Even the oft-reliable veteran southpaw Randy Williams started his shift with an unsavory strike-to-ball ratio, doling out only eight strikes out of 18 offerings in the seventh inning.

Chiefs notes
While Syracuse retired the PawSox in order seven times, the visitors had at least one baserunner in each of the first eight innings. The Chiefs eventually went down in order on Royce Ring’s watch in the ninth.

Antonelli failed to put the ball in play in his first four plate appearances, but patiently drew two walks in three confrontations with Wilson and a five-pitch freebie via Rice.

Brown left the game after he injured himself in successful pursuit of Exposito’s fly ball to the right-center fence for the second out of the fourth. With Brown out of the equation, the Chiefs had Bernardina shuffle from left to center, Jeff Frazier move from first base to left and Chris Marrero entered to fill the void at first.

Williams was officially outrighted to the PawSox by the parent club in Boston earlier in the day Tuesday.

Pawtucket made one other transaction by placing the hard-luck outfielder Ryan Kalish on the disabled list for the second time this season. Kalish, just a little more than four months removed from sustaining a shoulder and neck ailment that sidelined him until earlier this month, is suffering from a trapezius inflammation.

Boston outfielder J.D. Drew will reportedly join the PawSox for a two-game rehab stint when they wrap up their forthcoming road trip in Rochester next Monday and Tuesday.

Monday, August 22, 2011

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

Swift summation
Maybe a little weekend slumber won’t hurt them in the long run after all.

In the wake of two vinegary losses to the hapless Syracuse Chiefs, the PawSox perked back up Monday night. Within moments of the Lehigh Valley IronPigs losing, 2-0, in Indianapolis, the Sox finished nipping the Chiefs, 3-2, before an audience of 6,227 at McCoy Stadium.

The 58-68 Chiefs entered the game one loss away from mathematical elimination from the International League playoff derby. Their defeat at the hands of a team that has just renewed its lead in the Northern Division made the inevitable official for them.

At the other end, though, there was a dense concoction of first-time plus points and elements of redress brewing.

In his fourth Triple-A game, the previously hitless Will Middlebrooks finally cracked his chrysalis with an infield single to lead off the second inning. His second time up, he logged another base hit with two out in the fourth, then scored the game’s first run ahead of Brett Carroll’s double down the left field line.

Jeff Frazier promptly pulled even for the Chiefs in the next half-inning. He led off with a double to the right-center wall, moved to third on Corey Brown’s sacrifice bunt, then scored the equalizer while PawSox second baseman Nate Spears was preoccupied with throwing out Steve Lombardozzi.

But just as nimbly, Pawtucket renewed its advantage in the bottom of the fifth. Jose Iglesias led off with a full-count, nine-pitch walk and then came home with Che-Hsuan Lin, who thrust his first home run since June 22 over the left field wall.

As PawSox reliever Tommy Hottovy’s first challenger with two out in the seventh, Brown sawed the difference in half to 3-2 by dropping a solo shot into the bullpen behind the right field fence.

But afterwards, Hottovy didn’t let anyone get past first base en route to his sixth hold of the year before Michael Bowden hurled a 1-2-3 ninth for his 16th save.

PawSox pluses
Lin’s home run was his second at the Triple-A level and splashed a personal dinger-less drought at 196 at-bats. It also may have put the stamp on the leadoff man’s timely awakening in the power department. Lin had already entered Monday night’s affair having hit safely in each of his last three games and 4-for-13 overall in that span.

In addition, Lin now has five extra-base hits over the last week after previously mustering eight of them in his first 67 games with Pawtucket.

Tony Pena, Jr. allowed only one run and seven baserunners in 6.2 innings-pitched. Other than Frazier’s successful scoring endeavor in the fourth, the Sox starter had only one dire situation when he let the bases fill with one away in the second. He bailed himself out of that with a strikeout and popup.

Since he became a full-time starter circa late June, the PawSox have gone 1-5 in Pena starts over the course of July, but have now gone 4-0 when he throws the first defensive pitch in August. The former Major League infielder-turned-reliever-turned-starter has credit for two of those.

Sox stains
Pawtucket could have had a substantially cozier cushion if it had capitalized on more of its runners, especially those who reached scoring position. Luis Exposito alone was responsible for the third out of three separate innings. Accordingly, he stranded Carroll on second in the fourth, Hector Luna on third in the sixth and Will Middlebrooks on first in the eighth.

Meanwhile, Lars Anderson went 0-for-4 and, despite hitting two assertive flies to left in the fourth and fifth, also left the bases loaded in the seventh with a soft grounder.

Chiefs notes
As soon as Matt Antonelli had singled to left to lead off the eighth, every Syracuse batter had been on base one time apiece―no more, no less. Of the three without a hit up to that point, Roger Bernardina and Tug Hulett had each walked while Seth Bynum was hit by a pitch in the second inning.

After taking a rare day off on Sunday, Iglesias had a notably busy evening at shortstop Monday night. He was credited with seven putouts as well as four assists.

Luna, who has now played four different positions in as many games, assumed the DH duties and batted 2-for-4 Monday. He now has multiple hits in seven of his last 11 ventures.

The PawSox have now gone seven consecutive games without an error, bringing them to within one game of matching a season-high set between August 1 and 10.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Doubront’s tough luck year bottoms out in PawSox loss

In the world’s old patriarchal tongue from ancient Rome, the adjective “sinister”―known in modern English to be strictly associated with evil and inauspicious circumstances―was actually a synonym for both “left” and “left-handed.”

Somewhere, at least one former citizen of Julius Caesar’s empire must have been watching Felix Doubront’s second inning at McCoy Stadium Sunday afternoon and uttering the Latin phrase for “case and point.”

Each of the southpaw Doubront’s first four challengers in the second stanza nailed a hit into the left-field vicinity, sculpting a rapid-fire 4-0 lead for the Syracuse Chiefs. A subsequent walk and double nudged Doubront over the precipice prematurely at 44 pitches, 31 shy of manager Arnie Beyeler’s goal for the luckless lefty.

Syracuse ultimately won, 7-4, dropping Doubront to a 1-5 transcript with the PawSox this season. Doubront, who started the year in the Major Leagues before being optioned on April 18, has claimed each of his six Triple-A decisions within his last 10 out of16 total starts. Those starts have been interspersed with two stints on the disabled list.

Since returning from his latest ailment, a hamstring injury suffered in a July 19 bout with Lehigh Valley, Doubront has failed to pitch any more than an even three innings. He lasted a mere 2.2 at Charlotte on August 11, although that was by design as he was re-acclimating.

To commence the current homestand, Doubront returned to the McCoy mound last Tuesday, but was forked out after allowing five runs on four hits within the first three innings en route to a 5-2 loss to Columbus.

Sunday’s start, nearly six full weeks to the date of his second and most recent winning decision in 2011 with Double-A Portland, had an initially promising vibe to it. Doubront struck out the first two men in the Chiefs batting order, using the minimum limit of six pitches on those plays. A grounder by Chris Marrero curtained a 1-2-3 first inning.

But things instantaneously imploded in the second. Back-to-back doubles by Jesus Valdez and Tug Hulett, both dropped along the left-field line, amounted to a 1-0 lead for Syracuse.

After Seth Bynum lined a single to left-center to put himself and Hulett on the corners, Jeff Frazier homered to left on a payoff pitch to tack on another three runs with still nobody out in the second. At that point, Doubront had already thrown an aggregate 21 pitches to four homeward bound batters in the inning.

Doubront let two more men on as he walked Carlos Maldonado and authorized his fourth extra-base hit in the form of a double by Corey Brown. Successor Royce Ring would let both of those men score, maxing out Doubront’s tab of six earned-runs on five hits.

Doubront, who sat out the latter half of May with a groin strain, is off to a false start in his second comeback from a long-term injury, especially considering his June and July log.

It took two full months and seven starts for Doubront to record a five-plus-inning start and, in turn, a decision. Although he lost in Norfolk on that June 9 evening and eventually went on an 0-3 hex in five starts, he was at least getting reasonably deep into the game.

Ironically, these same Chiefs offered Boston’s defending Minor League Pitcher of the Year his long-awaited first 2011 season victory on July 6 as Doubront turned in his longest, most efficient start to date. Through a full seven shutout innings with only four base hits and six total runners on his tab, he set the table for a 2-0 triumph in Syracuse.

Over the subsequent All-Star Break, Doubront suddenly commenced a personal winning streak, squeezing out a 9-5 victory in a one-night stop with the Sea Dogs July 11, going for five innings with only one earned-run on four hits and nine strikeouts.

Since then, though, Doubront has gone no longer than 4.1 innings per game. At that stage in a July 19 bout with the IronPigs, he found himself tumbling back down to the disabled list yet again as he aggravated a hamstring whilst fielding a soft grounder.

A good 33 days and four starts later (including one rehab outing with Single-A Lowell), Doubront has not come close to a repeat of his early July gem at Syracuse. In fact, on Sunday, the Chiefs seemed to achieve retribution by blowing his psyche about as far back as possible.

Post-game pop-ups: Chiefs 7, PawSox 4

Swift summation
In a callous twist, the floundering Syracuse Chiefs tripped up the PawSox on Sunday by taxing Pawtucket’s clear-cut boon and then utilizing their cushion hold off the host’s not-so-celestial offense.

Between starter Felix Doubront and relievers Royce Ring, Junichi Tazawa, Hideki Okajima and Scott Atchison, the Chiefs elicited 161 pitches from PawSox pitchers. Doubront threw barely one-quarter of those pitches and was ultimately charged with six second-inning runs.

Conversely, Chiefs starter Yunesky Maya and three relievers needed a combined 122 tosses to ward off a valiant PawSox comeback and cement a 7-4 decision at McCoy Stadium.

Back-to-back doubles by Jesus Valdez and Tug Hulett, both dropped along the left-field line amounted to a 1-0 lead for Syracuse. Seth Bynum followed up with a single to left-center to put himself and Hulett on the corners and Jeff Frazier homered to left on a payoff pitch to tack on another three runs with still nobody out in the second.

Doubront let two more men on as he walked Carlos Maldonado and authorized his fourth extra-base hit in the form of a double by Corey Brown. He was promptly forked out in favor of Ring with still nobody out in the inning.

With Ring on duty and two men in scoring position, Matt Antonelli flied out to center to score Maldonado from third and Chris Marrero singled to send Brown home from second for a 6-0 pothole.

While the Chiefs combined for 10 plate-appearances in their second-inning outburst, it took the PawSox a full three innings to return to the top of their order. Of their two baserunners up to that point, Che-Hsuan Lin was stranded on third in the first inning while Hector Luna was eliminated on an inning-ending double-play in the second.

On their third try of the day, the Sox finally broke an 11-plus-inning run drought dating back to Daniel Nava’s home run in Saturday’s 3-1 loss at Fenway Park. Nate Spears led off by lining a double to the right-field corner, advanced to third on Nava’s sacrifice fly to center and scored on Lars Anderson’s grounder to second.

Lin lashed out his second two-bagger of the day to lead off the sixth and found his way home on a sacrifice grounder by Spears and rolling single by Nava.

Against Atchison in the eighth, Bynum raised the Chiefs’ upper hand to 7-2 with an opposite-field dinger over the right field wall.

Luna homered to left-center to carry Anderson home from second and whittle the deficit down to 7-4 with one out in the ninth. But when Garrett Mock replaced fellow reliever Lee Hyde, he promptly retired Brett Carroll and Matt Spring to drop the curtain.

PawSox pluses
After the scathing second inning, the bullpen combined for three straight 1-2-3 stanzas and nearly had a fourth one before Frazier laced a two-out single to shallow left on a payoff pitch by Okajima in the sixth.

In his fourth relief outing of the month after coming back from offseason surgery, Tazawa arguably had his best day yet in 2011. In 2.2 innings of work, he retired all eight of his challengers with three strikeouts and let only one ball reach the outfield.

Sox stains
While the top three members of the batting order touched the stingy Maya for a combined four hits in their first nine at-bats, the cleanup-hitting Anderson was comparatively less than productive. Although one of Anderson’s three groundouts against Maya amounted to a sacrifice RBI, the other two ended an inning and stranded one runner apiece.

In two confrontations with Maya, Tony Thomas struck out twice on a cumulative eight pitches. Facing reliever J.D. Martin in the seventh, Thomas flied out to shallow center on the first pitch to strand both Luna and Matt Spring in scoring position.

Will Middlebrooks has now logged three games with the PawSox, one as a DH and two at his usual third base positional post. As of the conclusion of Sunday’s game, he has gone 0-for-11 with six strikeouts, including a pair of looking Ks on Sunday.

With Pawtucket’s offense as off-and-on as it’s been in the homestretch of this pennant race, Middlebrooks has no time to acclimate. He is going to have to thaw out sooner rather than later.

Chiefs notes
Leadoff batter Steve Lombardozzi was the only Syracuse player not to score or bat in a run during the team’s decisive second inning. His popup to Hector Luna at first base constituted that inning’s first out. He also struck out once against four different Pawtucket hurlers, those being Doubront in the first, Tazawa in the fourth, Okajima in the seventh and Atchison in the ninth.

Frazier added a third hit to his Sunday log with a two-out double off of Atchison immediately following Bynum’s solo shot.

Luna went 3-for-4 and now has six multi-hit outings within his last 10 games, dating back to his most recent day off on August 11.

Spring, promoted from Single-A Salem after Ryan Lavarnway was promoted to Boston, made his debut behind the PawSox plate and belted a ground-rule double in the seventh for his first Triple-A hit.

Sunday’s announced attendance was a season-high 10,654.