Friday, June 8, 2012

Post-game Pop-ups: Indians 8, PawSox 6 (13 Innings)

Swift summation
The Pawtucket Red Sox finally learned Friday night that they can only juggle with torches so many times before they get burned.

Conceding the first run for the fourth time in as many nights against the visiting Indianapolis Indians and falling behind by at least three runs, the Sox deleted 4-0, 5-4 and 6-5 deficits. But they could never raise an upper hand and ultimately paid for their newest pitcher’s shoddy tone-setter as the Indians departed with an 8-6 victory.

In his first (and, so far, only) Triple-A inning of 2012, demoted Red Sox starter Daniel Bard sandwiched a single with two hit-batsmen to load the bases with no outs for Jeff Clement, who entered the night with the I.L.’s second-best batting average. Clement would hit into a forceout up the middle, but nonetheless nudged Chase d’Arnaud home for a 1-0 lead and put himself and Gorkys Hernandez at the corners.

Designated hitter Jeff Larish knocked both runners in with a double to the warning track in left-center.

Promptly succeeding Bard after one inning, Doug Mathis allowed two straight singles to commence the second, then yielded the Indians’ fourth unanswered run in the third. Brandon Boggs’ base hit scored Yamaico Navarro from second base.

With Pedro Ciriaco and Ryan Lavarnway aboard in the third, Mauro Gomez retorted with a one-out, three-run dinger over the opposite wall in right, instantly reducing the deficit to 4-3.

But Indians’ southpaw starter Jeff Locke retired each of his next seven challengers and eight of his next nine, six by virtue of a strikeout. Upon rallying from a 3-0 deficit to catch Gomez swinging and missing at a payoff pitch, he handed things over to the bullpen to commence the sixth.

As reliever Evan Meeks’ third challenger with two outs in that inning, PawSox infielder Tony Thomas belted a straightaway solo shot to draw a 4-4 knot. But Navarro’s own solo blast to left renewed the Indians’ lead to 5-4 in the top of the seventh.

Indianapolis reliever Tim Wood, who supplanted Jose Diaz with two down in the bottom of the seventh, saw to it that a cumulative three runners were stranded. The Sox finally solved him in the ninth, though, when Pedro Ciriaco doubled, advanced on a wild pitch, then came home for another equalizer on Ryan Kalish’s two-bagger to the centerfield gap.

Two scoreless extra innings ensued before Navarro walked, stole second and advanced to third on Lavarnway’s throwing error, then hustled home ahead of Boggs’ double, his second RBI hit of the night.

Che-Hsuan Lin led off the bottom of the twelfth by repeating his tenth-inning act with an opposite-field triple. And this time, he completed the tour with the help of Josh Kroeger’s one-out single to shallow left, making it 6-6 and forcing a thirteenth frame.

With two men in scoring position, a previously hitless Starling Marte wasted no time drilling a single to left field, plating Hernandez and d’Arnaud for an 8-6 Indy advantage.

In his third inning of relief, Indians left Kris Johnson subsequently repressed Pawtucket’s attempt at a fourth rally, retiring the top of the order 1-2-3.

PawSox pluses
Despite pitching six times as many innings as Bard, Mathis tamed the Tribe much more proficiently. Even as he elevated his single-night pitch count to an easy season-high of 105, Mathis finished strong by striking out three of four batters in the seventh.

Mathis’ successor, Alex Wilson, needed only 22 pitches, 16 for strikes, to whip up back-to-back 1-2-3 frames in the eighth and ninth.

Lin led the home team’s multi-hit club, which also featured Ciriaco and Kalish, with a single and two triples.

Sox stains
Bard’s brief and blunderstruck shift on the mound kind of speaks for itself. If not for that, maybe the Sox could have finished a sweep of the Indians within regulation and thus allowed the McCoy masses to leave without any guilt.

Other than that, there were no individual PawSox who had an altogether egregious night. Although, Kroeger, Nate Spears and Ciriaco all left Thomas and Lin hanging in scoring position when any one of them could have won it in the tenth with a simple base hit.

Indians notes
Navarro hit 3-for-5 on the night along with a walk, a run batted in and three runs-scored.

d’Arnaud was charged with his team-leading ninth error of the year from his shortstop post when he couldn’t collect Thomas’ grounder in the second inning. Although, on the other side of the ball, he batted a decent 2-for-5 along with his free base on Bard’s hit-by-pitch as well as Inman’s throwing error in the thirteenth.

Larish was the only Indianapolis batter to draw a walk on Mathis, getting the four-ball pass in both the third and fifth inning. In their third meeting, though, he would strike out swinging at a 2-2 pitch. Striking out again against Will Inman in the twelfth, Larish’s night ended when he was ejected for disputing the call.

Diaz intentionally walked Lavarnway in the seventh. Wood did the same to Gomez in the ninth shortly after Kalish’s double had drawn the 5-5 knot. Daniel Moskos likewise put Thomas on board in the tenth with a planned pass.

Each Indianapolis hitter struck out at least once, combining to brook 15 Ks on the night.

In his first home outing with the PawSox, Mark Prior struck out four while allowing a hit and a walk over the ninth and tenth inning.

Kroeger pinch hit for Ronald Bermudez in the bottom of the eighth, then nudged Alex Hassan to Bermudez’s left field post while assuming Hassan’s old spot in right for the ninth. Spears hit in lieu of Jonathan Hee to lead off the home half of the ninth, replacing him at third base for extra innings.

Indianapolis and Pawtucket combined to ground into seven forceouts, including six unanswered at the Indians’ expense within the first six stanzas.

At four hours and 41 minutes, Friday’s contest easily set a new mark as the longest game in the Sox’ 2012 season so far. They previously took four hours and eight minutes to lose an April 15 tilt in Buffalo.

The Gwinnett Braves will drop in for the second half of the PawSox homestand. Gwinnett pitching staff leader Julio Teheran will counter Tony Pena, Jr. in Saturday night’s series opener.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Post-game Pop-ups: PawSox 5, Indians 3

Swift summation
Even with a protracted wait to perk up and without the services of the two radiant Ryans, the patient Pawtucket Red Sox found a way to end Brandon Duckworth’s winless skid. 

When Duckworth threw his final pitch against the Indianapolis Indians in the sixth inning Thursday night, he and his mates were nursing a 3-2 deficit. But a three-run outburst in the home half at the expense of Indians’ reliever Duke Welker amounted to an eventual 5-3 victory at McCoy Stadium.

In addition to giving Duckworth his first winning decision in four starts and 23 days, the PawSox garnered themselves their third five-game winning streak of the season. What’s more, the I.L. North leaders are assured the better part of the ongoing four-game wishbone with the I.L. West-leading Indians.

Those developments cast no disturbances on the horizon to start the night as the omission of both Ryan Kalish and Ryan Lavarnway from the PawSox batting order at first appeared a dubious decision on the part of manager Arnie Beyeler. Rehabbing Indianapolis starter Jeff Karstens smoothly plowed through four-plus innings while his mates nibbled at Duckworth.

Back-to-back doubles via the heavy-hitting Jeff Clement and Yamaico Navarro drew first blood in favor of the Indians with no outs in the second inning.

One inning later, Chase d’Arnaud augmented the lead to 2-0 upon singling to centerfield, stealing second and advancing to third on catcher Mike Rivera’s error, then scoring via Gorkys Hernandez’s sacrifice grounder.

With his own sacrifice in the fifth, a straightaway flyout to Che-Hsuan Lin, d’Arnaud brought home Jake Fox for a 3-0 Indians edge.

Meanwhile, after leadoff man Pedro Ciriaco singled to lead off the bottom of the first, 12 consecutive PawSox were retired, beginning with Ciriaco’s foiled stealing attempt. They finally mustered another baserunner in the fifth with Josh Kroeger’s one-out double to right.

But Alex Hassan wasted no time following up with a rolling single to center, scoring Kroeger to whittle the deficit down to 3-1. Karstens was simultaneously injured and replaced by Welker, a development beyond everyone’s control that nonetheless equaled the turning point of the evening.

Welker’s first two challengers, Nate Spears and Mike Rivera, singled in succession with Rivera’s base hit sending Hassan home from second, reducing Indianapolis’ lead to 3-2.

Kroeger came up again in the sixth with Lars Anderson and Mauro Gomez on board and dropped his eighth home run of the season over the right-field to usurp a 5-3 lead for Pawtucket.

The defense propped up that lead by bailing reliever Clayton Mortensen out of a pair of shaky relief innings with two double-plays. Mark Melancon only needed seven pitches in the ninth to stamp his 11th save of the season.

PawSox pluses
Spelling Lavarnway behind the plate, Rivera recompensed his throwing error with his second straight multi-hit game and fourth in 15 total appearances with the PawSox this season.

A similar performance by Kroeger, who is now 3-for-3 with each hit going for extra bases in this series, made it easy to forget that the DH also struck out twice on Thursday.

Sox stains
Batting 0-for-4, Lin was Pawtucket’s only batter who failed to reach safely at any point in the game. His final at-bat saw him grounds out to second base in the seventh when Jonathan Hee and Rivera both in scoring position and both unable to advance on any sort of sacrifice.

Indians notes
Centerfielder Starling Marte struck out in each of his three encounters with Duckworth.

Following Welker’s botched effort to hold up Kerstens’ victory, Evan Meek and Jose Diaz each threw a scoreless inning of relief in the seventh and eighth, respectively.

Hernandez was caught stealing in the top of the first with Duckworth throwing to Hee at his second-base post. 

Sent down from Boston earlier this week, Daniel Bard will toe the rubber for the series finale on Friday, countering Indianapolis southpaw Jeff Locke.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Post-game Pop-ups: Tides 2, PawSox 0

Swift summation
Ever the polite hosts to their departing visitors from Norfolk, the Pawtucket Red Sox could do no favors for their other special guest from their own parent club in Boston on Thursday.

Daisuke Matsuzaka’s latest rehab start blended the basic elements from his previous two. Just as they did against Toledo last Saturday, the Sox could not offer him enough support to reward his effort with a win.

And for the first time since Matsuzaka’s previous, and only, decision at the Triple-A level in 2012, namely a 5-0 loss at Durham May 17, the bat rack took a vow of silence. In the process, they treated Tides starter Chris Tillman to his longest, most efficient start of the season, his fourth in Norfolk.

The consequence: A 2-0 setback at McCoy Stadium decided almost in exclusive tandem by Tillman and designated hitter Lew Ford.

Ford’s first-inning solo shot off Matsuzaka was enough to hold up the Tides as visiting starter Chris Tillman one-upped his counterpart in stifling the Sox.

Lars Anderson constituted Pawtucket’s only hit and one of only four individuals to reach base through the first seven innings. Other than Josh Kroeger, who in the second inning reached first on a fielder’s choice and then advanced on a botched pickoff attempt, nobody could cross into scoring position on Tillman’s watch.

Meanwhile, in the seventh, Ford took full advantage of PawSox reliever Alex Wilson’s oily right hand to add to the lead he created six innings prior. Drawing a walk and then stealing second base, Ford was permitted to advance to third and then score on two consecutive wild pitches to Miguel Tejada.

Tillman would retire 17 consecutive batters between the third and the eighth inning and did anything but wear down along the way. He struck out the side, including Ryan Lavarnway and Anderson, in the seventh, then benched Mauro Gomez and Kroeger to start the eighth for five unanswered Ks.

His next challenger, Alex Hassan, redirected his one hundredth pitch of the night right back to the mound, allowing him to do the honors on his last out.

Nate Spears, who was Tillman’s final baserunner after drawing a walk in the third inning, led off the ninth with an opposite-field single against reliever J.C. Romero. But after Pedro Ciriaco’s sacrifice bunt nudged him to second, Spears was stranded as Jon Link took the ball for Norfolk and nimbly retired Che-Hsuan Lin.

PawSox pluses
For the second time in as many rehab appearances this homestand, Matsuzaka made it through five full innings, giving way to Alex Wilson after retiring his first challenger in the sixth. He walked no batters and struck out four, including former Boston teammate Bill Hall, and only Ford (2-for-2) could whittle any hits off of him.

In two full innings of relief, Garret Mock struck out three Tides and threw 19 out of 25 pitches for strikes.

Sox stains
Other than the top-to-bottom offensive famine, you mean?

Through the first seven innings, Norfolk’s only other baserunner besides Ford was leadoff man Chris Robinson in the third. He was admitted to first base when Anderson dropped Pedro Ciriaco’s routine throw from short, incurring his fourth error of the 2012 campaign.

Tides notes
Tejada had a busy, yet effective evening at his third-base post, fielding and executing seven PawSox ground balls within the first six innings. Those included each of Ciriaco’s first three plate appearances and Lin’s game-ending grounder.

Robinson’s two-out, eighth-inning single off Mock was Norfolk’s only hit at the expense of the Pawtucket bullpen.

Out of nine strikeouts on the night, Tillman threw six against the heart of the PawSox batting order, two apiece against Lavarnway, Anderson and Gomez.

Ford would appear on base a third time in the seventh when he drew a leadoff walk on Wilson. 

Pitchers Chorye Spoone and Billy Buckner switched places in the organization earlier in the day with Buckner coming up to Pawtucket from Portland.

The PawSox will embark on an abbreviated, one-stop road trip to Lehigh Valley the next four nights. That series will be their first against a divisional rival since finishing a home set with Rochester May 10 and their only one between now and an eight-day swing through Buffalo and Syracuse starting June 14.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Post-game Pop-ups: PawSox 11, Tides 8

Swift summation
Percolating a pattern of feast and famine the last four nights, Pawtucket Red Sox cleanup hitter Lars Anderson piloted his team’s second victory in three tries Tuesday. Batting 2-for-4, drawing a walk and driving home five runs, Anderson catalyzed one comprehensive slugfest of an 11-8 victory over the Norfolk Tides at McCoy Stadium.

The visiting Tides outhit the Sox, 16-15, and the teams combined to use nine pitchers. Starters Ross Ohlendorf of Pawtucket and Eddie Gamboa of Norfolk each incurred 10 hits on their tab, including two home runs.

Anderson’s cleanup counterpart, Miguel Tejada, constituted Norfolk’s third base hit of the opening stanza with runners at the corners, scoring Jamie Hoffmann from third and nudging Bill Hall over the second with one out.

Ohlendorf hit his next challenger, Joe Mahoney, to load the sacks for former PawSox catcher Luis Exposito. But he bailed himself out with only a one-run deficit by benching both Exposito and Brandon Waring on strikes.

Pawtucket’s bat rack wasted no time issuing a more massive, albeit largely passive, retort in the bottom half. Pedro Ciriaco’s base hit was followed by four unanswered walks to force in the equalizer and the go-ahead run. Later, with two outs, Nate Spears lined a single to left, scoring Ryan Lavarnway and Anderson for a 4-1 advantage.

Having batted around in the first, the Sox started from the top and once again loaded the bases with no outs in the second. Anderson’s single knocked home Ciriaco and Che-Hsuan Lin, though Lavarnway was thrown out by right field Jai Miller as he tried to advance to third.

Miller led off the fourth with a home run to left field, whittling the Tides’ deficit down to 6-2. Lew Ford’s single and Jamie Hoffmann’s four-pitch walk were immediately followed by Bill Hall’s blast to left-center, making it 6-5.

Anderson left the yard in the bottom half with Lavarnway on board for an 8-5 Pawtucket advantage. Josh Kroeger stashed his own shot over the right field wall, his second in as many days, later in the inning to make it 9-5.

At that point, PawSox-turned-Tides manager Ron Johnson made the night’s first pitching change, forking out Gamboa in favor of Oscar Villarreal. Ohlendorf himself was gone the following inning with Junichi Tazawa coming out of the bullpen for the fifth.

Tazawa nearly had a 1-2-3 sixth, but Mahoney’s third strike got away and gave him a free pass to first base. Exposito subsequently pounced with an RBI double to left-center, which he extended to a three-bagger while Mahoney hustled home. 

But a fugitive third strike on Lin would also extend Pawtucket’s half of the seventh. With Tony Thomas aboard second base, Lavarnway sent him home on a single for a 10-6 lead.

With runners at the corners in the eighth, Tejada grounded into a fielder’s choice that nabbed Hall, but scored Hoffmann. Mauro Gomez promptly restored Pawtucket’s four-run advantage with a solo dinger to right.

Red Sox relievers Chorye Spoone and Will Inman combined to load the bases with no outs in the top of the ninth. Inman then induced a forceout that scored Davis, but nabbed Ford while putting Hoffmann and Miller at the corners.

The fielder’s choice paid dividends as the vacancy at second base opened the door to a game-ending, 4-5-3 double-play.

PawSox pluses
With everybody picking up at least one hit, seven individuals crossing the plate at least once and five different batters logging at least one RBI, Tuesday night’s top-to-bottom offensive outpouring speaks for itself.

Not to be overlooked on the other side of the ball, Lin made an impactful return to the McCoy outfield in his first game since a call-up to Boston, particularly in the third inning.

With the Tides threatening with two men on and nobody out, Lin all but singlehandedly sustained what was then a 6-1 lead. He hustled to scoop up Exposito’s straightaway single and threw Tejada out at the plate.

The very next batter, Waring, just missed at least one or two potential RBIs when Lin caught his fly ball at the straightaway warning track. The centerfielder then caught Blake Davis’ long-range swat to retire the side.

In immediate relief of Ohlendorf, Tazawa recompensed his last outing and garnered a much more deserved winning decision, striking out four and allowing one earned run on two hits in two innings.

Sox stains
Ohlendorf allowed at least two baseunners in each of his four innings of work for a total of 14 on the night. He matched a season-high by authorizing 10 hits while issuing two walks and hit Mahoney in each of their first two encounters.

Other than that, every active resident of the McCoy third-base dugout turned in an irreproachable performance. The closest anyone got to a subpar night was DH Alex Hassan, who didn’t pick up a hit until his last at-bat in the eighth and was the only member of the order to record neither a run-scored or run batted in.

Tides notes
Ohlendorf barely outclassed Gamboa, which doesn’t say much about either party. The Norfolk starter could only last 3.2 innings, allowing nine earned runs on 10 hits as well as the four consecutive walks to Lin, Lavarnway, Anderson and Gomez in the first.

The leadoff man Ford was easily the Tides’ most consistent hitter. He logged a base hit in each of his first four plate appearances, flied out a few feet shy of the right-field warning track in the seventh inning, then loaded the bases on a no-out single in the ninth. In addition, he was the only player on his side not to strike out at any point.

The PawSox broke double digits in the run column for the fourth time this season and the first since a 15-10 victory over Durham on April 20.

Ciriaco made it through a game without striking out for the first time in nine outings.

Norfolk had entered this series having scored no more than four runs and allowed no more than five in any of their previous six games. With the series half-over, they have plated six-plus runs on back-to-back days.

Earlier in the day, Tides pitcher Miguel Gonzalez was recalled to the parent Baltimore Orioles, who in turn sent down pitcher Tommy Hunter and outfielder Xavier Avery.

At three hours and 38 minutes, Tuesday night was the PawSox’ longest game of the 2012 season not to go into extra innings.

This Date In Providence Bruins History: May 29

1999: Peter Ferraro scores twice and Antti Laaksonen, Landon Wilson, Randy Robitaille and Steve King pitch in one apiece for a 6-1 blowaway of the Fredericton Canadiens. The Game 6 victory at the Providence Civic Center stamps the P-Bruins passport to the Calder Cup Finals.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Post-game Pop-ups: Tides 6, PawSox 4

Swift summation
Last Monday, it was a steady flow of smooth-riding low Tides for Pawtucket Red Sox pitcher Doug Mathis. This Monday, it was an overwhelming crush of high Tides.

In a rematch of his 4-0 victory down in Norfolk, Mathis left the Memorial Day tilt at McCoy Stadium with a 6-2 deficit after 5.1 innings of work. It would morph into a 6-4 loss for the PawSox.

One week after he confined the Tides to one baserunner in a seven-inning shutout gem at Harbor Park, Mathis allowed twice as many men on board within the first inning. A 4-6-3 double-play at the expense of cleanup man and Major League veteran Miguel Tejada quelled any Norfolk threat, at least for the time being.

In the third, Jai Miller belted a second straight payoff pitch over the opposite wall in right-center, spotting the visitors a 1-0 lead.

Nate Spears retorted in the bottom half, driving his third dinger of the homestand over the right-field wall and picking up Pedro Ciriaco on the way home to seize a 2-1 lead for the PawSox. But following a leadoff single by former Boston infielder Bill Hall, Tejada was just as quick to draw a 2-2 knot by lining a double into the left-field corner, scoring Hall from first base.

Nudged to third by Joe Mahoney’s single, Tejada restored the Norfolk lead to 3-2 courtesy of Luis Exposito’s RBI base hit with still nobody out in the fourth. Jamie Hoffmann’s fifth-inning solo shot augmented the advantage to 4-2.

The Tides’ inning-by-inning erosion of Mathis rolled right along into the sixth. Brandon Waring slugged a one-out double off the left-center wall and Blake Davis followed up with another homer for a 6-2 edge.

That would be it for the starter, who immediately gave way to Garret Mock.

Josh Kroeger nibbled into the deficit in the bottom of the seventh with a double, followed by a nudge over to third via Alex Hassan and a sacrifice fly by Ronald Bermudez. In his next plate appearance, Kroeger cleared the fence on Jon Link’s first pitch to make it 6-4 with one out in the ninth.

But after that and a double by Ronald Bermudez, pinch-hitter Mauro Gomez grounded out to thwart the rally.

PawSox pluses
Kroeger, Hassan and the No. 9-slotted Jonathan Hee combined to account for six of Pawtucket’s eight hits, each charging up two.

Spears extended his hitting streak to seven games, his run-scoring streak to six and his RBI streak to three. He has now driven in a total of five runs in as many games this homestand.

Sox stains
Mathis matched a couple of season-worst stats with the 10 hits (May 16 at Durham) and six runs allowed (May 1 at Toledo).

Darnell McDonald got on base for the first time in three games since his reassignment from Boston. But it was hardly worth flattering oneself over as he was hit by Norfolk starter Zach Clark’s pitch in the first inning.

Afterwards, McDonald struck out in each of his next two encounters with Clark, who otherwise claimed no other strikeout victims in his six innings of work. McDonald is now 0-for-8 at the Triple-A level in 2012.

In addition to McDonald, the rest of the heart of Pawtucket’s batting order was hardly beating on Monday. Ryan Lavarnway drew a walk, but otherwise combined with Lars Anderson to go 0-for-7. 

Tides notes
Exposito, a veteran of five-plus seasons in the Red Sox organization and 92 games with Pawtucket last year and this April, faced his original organization for the first time since his rights were swapped from Boston to Baltimore. He was on recall to the parent Orioles during the PawSox visit to Harbor Park last week.

Leadoff man Lew Ford was the only visiting batter not to whittle a hit off of Mathis, going 0-for-3 against the PawSox starter. Yet in the sixth, on the first pitch he faced from Mock, he landed a double on the centerfield warning track.

On recall from Double-A Bowie, Clark won his season debut with the Tides and garnered his first victorious decision at the Triple-A level since 2008. 

Although he saw no action, centerfielder Che-Hsuan Lin was optioned back from the parent Boston Red Sox earlier in the day. He batted 1-for-5 with a run-scored and two strikeouts in five games-played during his eight-day promotion.

In relief of Mathis, Mock and Alex Wilson combined to allow zero runs on three hits and strike out five of the Tides over 3.2 innings.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Post-game Pop-ups: PawSox 7, Mud Hens 4

Swift summation
The visiting Toledo Mud Hens garnered 12 hits, their most in any of eight individual meetings with the Pawtucket Red Sox in the 2012 season. But PawSox cleanup man Lars Anderson was the most influential batter in McCoy Stadium Sunday evening. 

Piloted by Anderson’s 3-for-3 night, complete with two of the team’s five home runs, three runs-scored and three runs batted in, Pawtucket wrested away a 7-4 decision, claiming three out of four games during the Hens’ visit.

Toledo charged up 11 of its 12 hits within the first six innings and had a baserunner in each stanza but the seventh and ninth. But the visitors would only lead in the wee phases of the night, playing catch-up for the subsequent eight frames.

An early jam had Mud Hens at the corners with one out in the top of the first. Cleanup man Brad Eldred subsequently lobbed a deep sacrifice fly to right field, scoring Justin Henry from third for an early 1-0 advantage.

Only nine pitches into the home half, though, the PawSox usurped a 2-1 lead on back-to-back solo homers by Pedro Ciriaco to left and Nate Spears to right. And with still only one out in the stanza, Anderson deposited a dinger over the right-field wall himself.

Spears and Anderson collaborated in the bottom of the third to augment the lead to 4-1. Spears led off with a full-count walk and then advanced to second on a wild pitch to Darnell McDonald and to third on McDonald’s sacrifice fly. Anderson’s first-pitch rolling single into shallow right brought Spears home without much further hesitation.

Toledo whittled the deficit back down to 4-2 in the fourth, when a one-out, bases-loaded single by Jeff Frazier scored Brad Eldred.

With Clayton Mortenson on in relief of starter Brandon Duckworth to commence the sixth, the Hens drew a 4-4 knot. Frazier followed Bryan Holaday’s one-out single with a double to the corner in left field, watched his teammate score on Argenis Diaz’s sacrifice grounder, then hustled home for the equalizer with the help of Ben Guez’s straightaway single.

But in the home half, Anderson’s second solo blast to right field swiftly renewed Pawtucket’s lead to 5-4.

Two innings later, Anderson went on board for the fourth consecutive time with a leadoff walk, advanced to second on a wild pitch, then rode home with Alex Hassan after the latter belted a two-run laser to left-center off of Matt Hoffman.

Each taking one inning in succession of Mortensen, Tony Pena, Jr. and Will Inman combined to bring down six straight Mud Hens, salvaging the victory in the weekend series and the split of the season series.

PawSox pluses
The first two homers of the night stoked a pair of PawSox hot streaks. Ciriaco’s leadoff longball, his second home run of the season and first since April 25, assured him a six-game hitting streak and a run scored in each of his last five outings. Meanwhile, Spears has extended his hitting streak to seven games and went 4-for-10 in the series.

In the bottom of the second, Tony Thomas stole a base for the third time in as many games-played this homestand and advanced to third on the Toledo catcher Holaday’s throwing error. Although, he would be stranded by Ciriaco’s flyout to left.

Quick thinking and quick feet helped to bail Duckworth out of the Mud Hens’ half of the third inning. With two aggressive runners at the corners and nobody out, Duckworth collaborated with Anderson at first and Ciriaco at short to catch Ben Guez in a rundown. Once Guez was deleted, Ciriaco relayed the ball back to Duckworth, whose throw to Mike Rivera at home cut down Henry.

Sox stains
Easy come, easy go for Josh Kroeger, who was benched on strikes in each of three showdowns with Toledo starter Thad Weber. This coming after he had gone 2-for-7 in the previous two games, an improvement on his 0-for-13 showing when the PawSox visited the Mud Hens at the beginning of the month.

In his fourth at-bat, with Anderson in scoring position and the Sox looking for insurance in the eighth, Kroeger was caught looking at a payoff pitch for his fourth whiff.

Kroeger was joined in the 0-for-4 department by McDonald and Mauro Gomez, who is 0-for-11 over the last three games and has struck out five times in the last two.

Mud Hens notes
Playing his only game of the series in left field and batting eighth, Frazier hit 4-for-4 with an RBI and run scored. Joining him in his team’s multi-hit club were Guez, Henry and Holaday.

Diaz ended two innings by hitting into a double-play. One of them, a liner to Duckworth that also caught Frazier in the basepaths, ended the second. The other, an old-fashioned 4-6-3 eliminated himself and Frazier in the eighth.

Weber, who lasted six innings, was tagged with the loss and dropped to 3-3 on the year. 

Rivera played his first game of the homestand, giving top catcher Ryan Lavarnway the night off.

Ronald Bermudez succeeded McDonald in right field as a defensive replacement to commence the eighth inning.

Mortensen followed Junichi Tazawa as Pawtucket’s second pitcher in as many nights to record both a blown save and a win. Pena earned his first hold of the 2012 campaign while Inman earned his third save. 

The PawSox will welcome in the Norfolk Tides for the second half of the homestand, beginning with a 4:05 game Monday afternoon.

This Date In Providence Bruins History: May 27

2005: Four different goal-getters chase Philadelphia Phantoms goaltender Antero Niittymaki before the halfway mark of regulation and help Providence claim Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals, 6-4, at The Dunk. The Phantoms delete a 4-1 deficit before Brad Boyes scores his second game-winner of the series for the P-Bruins with 70 seconds to spare in regulation.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Post-game Pop-ups: PawSox 8, Mud Hens 5

Swift summation
Two could play at this game, and they did Saturday night at McCoy Stadium.

First, the Pawtucket Red Sox bullpen―more specifically, Junichi Tazawa―egregiously squandered a rehabbing Daisuke Matsuzaka’s bid for a victory over the Toledo Mud Hens, letting a 1-0 lead devolved into a 5-1 pothole.

That put an equally sharp Toledo starter, Casey Crosby in a position to win his second decision in as many bouts with the PawSox this season. But the Mud Hens bullpen―more specifically, Luke Putkonen―only needed four batters-faced to let the 5-1 lead devolve into a 7-5 PawSox lead in the bottom of the eighth.

That 7-5 advantage eventually turned into an 8-5 victory for Pawtucket, hardly the type of finish either starting hurler had arranged through six innings of one-run baseball. (If only this were Little League, the two must have thought.)

Crosby nearly matched Matsuzaka’s feat of back-to-back 1-2-3 innings in the second before Josh Kroeger slugged the first pitch he faced over the right-field wall. Following that play, Tony Thomas smelled an open wound in the water, snuck in an infield single to short and promptly stole second base on the first pitch to Ronald Bermudez, though his teammate would strand him there.

The Mud Hens got to the bottom of their batting order before achieving their first baserunner, Argenis Diaz, who dropped a two-out single to shallow ground in straightaway center.

Other than that and a fourth-inning walk to Matt Young, Matsuzaka would not let anyone on base through his five innings of work. Although, neither did Crosby through the fourth, fifth and sixth stanzas.

Crosby’s continued proficiency after the third-inning blemish held up the Hens long enough to exploit Tazawa and usurp the lead in the top of the seventh. Young led off with a single, advanced to second on Brad Eldred’s walk, then came home on Eric Patterson’s one-out base hit.

Eldred found his way to third on Omir Santos’ sacrifice fly to centerfield, then came home on Tazawa’s balk with a 2-1 count on Audy Ciriaco, giving the visitors an identical 2-1 advantage.

One inning later, designated hitter Brad Eldred belted a three-run shot off Tazawa to right-center, carrying Justin Henry and Young home to break open a 5-1 lead.

Crosby gave way to Putkonen after letting his first two challengers on base in the bottom of the eighth. Putkonen’s first batter, a pinch-hitter in Nate Spears, doubled to center to score Thomas and put Ronald Bermudez on third. 

Pedro Ciriaco’s own two-bagger whittled the deficit down to 5-4. And two batters later, with Alex Hassan on first, Ryan Lavarnway thrust Putkonen’s first pitch over the left-field wall, restoring Pawtucket’s advantage at 7-5 with still no outs.

By the time there were two outs, Lars Anderson was on second and primed to come home on Thomas’ double to left, making it 8-5. 

PawSox pluses
Perhaps a change of scenery was all Kroeger needed to get the hang of the Pawtucket-Toledo matchup. After going 0-for-13 earlier this month during the team’s four-night stay in northwest Ohio, he is now a comparatively better (2-for-7) in this series with a pair of extra-base hits.

And besides getting the dinger, Kroeger was one of only two Pawtucket batters not to endure a strikeout from Crosby. The other was Lavarnway, who also drew a four-pitch walk on the Mud Hens southpaw to lead off the seventh.

Although the visiting starter’s arm was on its last ounces in their final encounter, Thomas stood out by getting half of Pawtucket’s four hits off of Crosby, the second being a leadoff single in the eighth. And both times he was on board, Thomas’ aggressive baserunning was undeniable, which only made it fitting that he had the honor of starting the epic eighth-inning rally.

Between Matsuzaka and Tazawa, Choryne Spoone was just as sharp as Matsuzaka was in his relief stint, pitching a 1-2-3 sixth inning. Mark Melancon was likewise swift to suppress the Mud Hens in the ninth, garnering his third straight save in a span of five days.

Sox stains
It only took Tazawa two challengers to match his countryman Matsuzaka’s total baserunners as he yielded a single and a walk to start his relief outing in the seventh. Two batters and six pitches later, Matsuzaka’s bid for a Triple-A rehab victory was once again squandered.

By inning’s end, Tazawa had thrown only 11 of his 21 pitches for strikes and incurred two hits, two earned runs and a lead-spilling balk on his tab.

Given a chance to make amends in the eighth, Tazawa instead quadrupled the deficit and swelled his line up to five runs, five hits and only 24 strikes out of 41 pitches.

Ironically, even with the blown save, the eighth-inning eruption by the PawSox meant Tazawa got credit for the win on a night when he was pretty much the lone occupant of the third-base clubhouse who didn’t deserve victory. On Saturday, he was Curt Schilling and the PawSox offense was the local state government. 

Mud Hens notes
When he benched Mauro Gomez in the bottom of the seventh, Crosby had thrown a season-high 10 strikeouts in a single start.

Ben Guez, called up from the Double-A Erie Seawolves at the start of this series, struck out against three different Pawtucket hurlers: Matsuzaka in the first, Spoone in the sixth and Tazawa in the eighth.

Young whittled a single off Tazawa in back-to-back innings, which on top of his walk against Matsuaka made him the only Toledo player to reach base twice, let alone three times, up to the two-out mark of the eighth inning. Eldred would promptly join his multi-hit company with his three-run blast in the eighth.

Between Crosby, Putkonen and Darin Downs, the Mud Hens pitching staff combined to deal with 11 PawSox batters in the bottom of the eighth. 

Rain pushed Saturday’s first pitch back by a little less than 15 minutes.

With his third no-decision in as many rehab starts at McCoy this season, Matsuzaka’s Triple-A record remains 0-1 in 2012 and 3-2 in his career with the Red Sox.

The Hens left only two men stranded on base, the Sox three.

On a night when it looked like the PawSox would lose for the seventh time when scoring first, they instead improved to 23-6 in that scenario.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Post-game pop-ups: PawSox 4, Mud Hens 1

Swift summation
On a night when his performance earned it for him the most, Ross Ohlendorf ended his five-start winless skid and garnered his first victory since April 21 as the Pawtucket Red Sox held off the Toledo Mud Hens, 4-1, at McCoy Stadium Thursday night.

Ohlendorf threw a season-high 97 pitches over six scoreless innings, his first scoreless outing since his debut with the team April 10 versus Lehigh Valley. He allowed only three hits and one walk while striking out six and throwing three 1-2-3 stanzas.

In between, while facing an equally tricky Toledo left in Adam Wilk, the Sox whittled off two runs worth of support for their pitcher.

Nate Spears drew first blood on Pawtucket’s first hit of the night, slugging a solo shot to right field in the bottom of the second. Two innings later, Ryan Lavarnway augmented the lead to 2-0 by lacing a leadoff double to left, advancing to third on Lars Anderson’s sacrifice grounder and scoring via Mauro Gomez’s single.

The Mud Hens finally got a man past second base and tacked a run on the scoreboard once Clayton Mortensen took over the mound. With two outs in the seventh, Audy Ciriaco rolled a single into left, far enough for Ryan Strieby to score from second.

Mortensen went on to walk the bases loaded, but was bailed out with the 2-1 lead intact when Ben Guez flied out to centerfielder Ronald Bermudez.

Toledo’s first reliever, Rob Waite, was less fortunate in the bottom half. Tony Thomas reached first base on a fielding error, stole second, advanced to third on Bermudez’s sacrifice grounder, then scored ahead of Pedro Ciriaco’s base hit to make it 3-1.

The PawSox reaped one additional dose of insurance out of Waite in the eighth as Alex Hassan singled to center, scoring Lavarnway from second base. Waite promptly gave way to Darin Downs after that.

On the other side of the ball, pitching the eighth and ninth innings, respectively, Will Inman and Mark Melancon yielded nothing beyond a walk apiece. With the off day Wednesday, Melancon was able to save his second straight PawSox victory.

PawSox pluses
Ohlendorf bent, but didn’t break in his final inning of work. He was facing the troublesome top of Toledo’s batting order, which constituted all of the baserunners he authorized on the night, and surrendered his first extra-base hit to Guez. But he left Guez stranded on second base by getting top slugger and designated hitter Brad Eldred to whiff on a payoff pitch.

That would be Eldred’s second K in three bouts with Ohlendorf, who then sat down and turned things over to the bullpen.

Gomez hit 2-for-3 against Wilk and joined Anderson and Hassan as the only three PawSox batters not brook a strikeout from the Mud Hens’ southpaw starter.

Sox stains
All things considered, the only reprehensible actions on the part of any PawSox players was Mortensen spilling the shutout bid and Spears’ fielding error at third base that helped to prolong Mortensen’s drama in the seventh. In other words, it was all quite trivial at night’s end.

Mud Hens notes
Former Sox infielder Brent Dlugach was reactivated from the seven-day disabled list and batted ninth while attending second base for the Mud Hens in his first visit to McCoy since his offseason transfer.

And apart from his attire and the dugout he sat in, Dlugach didn’t look much different to the McCoy masses when it came to facing Ohlendorf. He struck out in each of his first two plate appearances.

Like Ohlendorf, Wilk lasted an even six innings, striking out seven but allowing two extra baserunners and two extra runs.

Bermudez was promoted from Double-A Portland earlier in the day for his Triple-A debut in the 2012 season. He started in centerfield and batted ninth in the PawSox order. Bermudez spent the bulk of the 2011 campaign in Pawtucket, putting in 57 appearances.

Ohlendorf was beaned by Matt Young’s line drive in the top of the first, allowing an infield hit to constitute the night’s first baserunner. Momentarily sore, Ohlendorf remained in the game.

Lavarnway’s fourth-inning double was his fourth two-bagger in his last seven games played. Gomez’s double nudged him into the team lead with 12 on the year, one more than Anderson and Josh Kroeger.

The PawSox will send Justin Germano out to counter Toledo’s Jacob Turner in Part II of this series Friday night.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Starting Nine: 9 Notable Facts Entering the PawSox-Mud Hens Series

After a league-wide off-day, the Pawtucket Red Sox will return home Thursday for a four-game set with the Toledo Mud Hens. By Sunday night, the teams will have completed their season series all within one calendar month, the Hens having taken three out of four at Fifth Third Field three weeks ago.

Although the Hens are in the middle of the International League pack with an exact .500 record (23-23) and are reeling on a 3-7 cold spell, they boast the circuit’s best road record at 11-7. The PawSox will counteract that with a league-leading 14-6 transcript at McCoy Stadium.

Here are nine other pregame pop-ups worth noting ahead of Thursday night’s first pitch.

·         Toledo boasts two of the top nine International League batting average leaders in outfielder Justin Henry (.322) and designated hitter Brad Eldred (.304).

·         Mud Hens starter Thad Weber is seventh in the league with a 2.54 earned run average, though he brooked the blame for Toledo’s only loss during Pawtucket’s visit May 1-4. But odds are the PawSox will not be dealing with him in this series as he just threw six innings and took the loss in Toledo’s last outing on Tuesday at Syracuse.

·         Only the Louisville Bats, who have consumed one more game off their schedule, have seen more of their batters strike out (385) than Toledo (373). But the Hens also lead the league with 200 walks.

·         On the other side of the ball, the Toledo pitching staff has allowed the most opposing walks to date with 211. Whether it is walks-for or walks-against, no other I.L. tenant has broken the 200 plateau in this category yet.

·         The Mud Hens’ baserunning will also be worth watching in the top half of every inning. They lead the league in total stealing attempts with 92 and have succeeded on a whopping 71 of those. Centerfielder Quintin Berry (19), shortstop Audrey Ciriaco (11) and left fielder Matt Young (10) are the team’s grand larceny ringleaders.

·         Although he only appeared in two games, Jose Iglesias led the PawSox offense in their previous series against the Mud Hens. He batted 4-for-7 with a double, a triple, two RBIs, two walks and two runs-scored.

·        Ross Ohlendorf and Doug Mathis, Pawtucket’s tentatively slated starter in the opener and finale, respectively, will both try to redeem a loss from their road bout with Toledo. Justin Germano figures to toe the rubber on Friday looking for his second straight win at the Hens’ expense.

·         The Sox are 5-7 versus the I.L. West so far, having split each of eight scheduled meetings with the Columbus Clippers. They have yet to crack open their season series with Indianapolis and Louisville.

·         The Mud Hens went 3-1 in their annual four-night stays in Pawtucket in both 2011 and 2010. The PawSox last won their season series with Toledo in 2009, when they went 5-3, a record they can match for this year with a sweep this weekend.

This Date In Providence Bruins History: May 23

1999: Terry Virtue, Eric Nickulas, Cameron Mann, Jeremy Brown and Marquis Mathieu all pitch in for a 5-3 win at Fredericton that gives Providence its eighth consecutive victory and a 3-0 series lead in the Eastern Conference Finals.

2001: Former P-Bruins captain and coach Peter Laviolette earns his first NHL head coaching job with the New York Islanders.

2005: Trailing the series, 2-0, and the game, 1-0, for nearly 35 minutes of clock time, the P-Bruins get a crucial equalizer via Keith Aucoin with 6:54 to spare in regulation. In the ensuing overtime, Brad Boyes scores the walkoff goal to cut the Philadelphia Phantoms’ lead to 2-1 in the Eastern Conference Finals. The deciding strike comes only five seconds after Philadelphia had killed a bench minor.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

This Date In Providence Bruins History: May 19

1999: After both participating teams wait over a week after sweeping their respective division finals, the P-Bruins delete an initial 2-0 deficit and top the Fredericton Canadiens, 6-3, in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals. The Providence side of the scoresheet features six individual goal-getters, including Landon Wilson, who had just returned from Boston after the parent club lost its second round series to Buffalo.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

This Date In Providence Bruins History: May 19

2009: The P-Bruins convert both of their first-period power plays to take an initial 2-0 lead and Matt Marquardt’s second-period strike proves the winner in a 3-2 decision at Hershey’s Giant Center in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals.

Monday, May 14, 2012

This Date In Providence Bruins History: May 14

2000: The Hartford Wolf Pack delete 1-0 and 2-1 deficits. But in the second overtime, second-time P-Bruin Jeff Wells scores to cement a 3-2 victory, bringing Providence to within one win of a rematch with the Rochester Americans in the Calder Cup Finals. Other highlights include a 63-save effort by John Grahame and a washout of a would-be Hartford overtime goal by future P-Bruin Tony Tuzzolino.

2005: A 5-2 win at The Dunk finishes a four-games-to-one series victory over the favored Lowell Lock Monsters, sending the P-Bruins to the AHL’s final four for the first time since 2001 and fourth time in seven seasons. Andy Hilbert pilots the offense with his third four-point playoff game with the Spoked-Ps.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

This Date In Providence Bruins History: May 13

2005: Keith Aucoin connects around the halfway mark of overtime to clinch a back-and-forth Game 4, 3-1, pushing the Lowell Lock Monsters to the brink of elimination from the Atlantic Division finals.

2009: One day after signing an entry-level contract with Boston, prospect Jamie Arniel makes his debut with the P-Bruins in Game 6 of the Atlantic Division finals. His first AHL goal at 10:05 of the opening frame proves the game- and series-clincher in a 5-1 victory that eliminates the Worcester Sharks at the DCU Center.