It turns out the top-notch pitching banquet dished up by Pawtucket’s Brandon Duckworth and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre’s D.J. Mitchell was little more than the appetizer for the McCoy Stadium masses Tuesday night.
Duckworth brooked his big blemish of the night immediately after a 1-2-3 first inning and would be finished by the end of the fourth. Mitchell made it through six innings, but not before a perfect-game bid devolved into a 4-2 deficit all within the PawSox’ half of the fourth.
Josh Kroeger’s double, which nudged Will Middlebrooks home from third, completed that momentary, yet decisive eruption as the Sox held on for a 4-3 triumph. The win gives the IL-leading PawSox a 15-5 record and a nine-game winning streak, tying a franchise record.
Brandon Laird put the Yanks on top, 2-0, sending his first home run of the year to left field with Steve Pearce aboard second base.
Designated hitter Daniel Nava cut the deficit to 2-1, leading off the fireworks fourth with his own blast to right-center. Three batters later, cleanup man Mauro Gomez picked up Ryan Lavarnway on the way home to usurp a 3-2 lead for the PawSox.
A subsequent triple by Middlebrooks and double via Kroeger augmented the advantage to 4-2 with still two outs to spare. Pawtucket would fall one Tony Thomas plate appearance shy of batting around in the frame.
Alex Wilson, who abruptly switched roles with Duckworth prior to what was supposed to be his start, allowed Laird to cut the deficit to 4-3 in the seventh, his only inning of relief work. Laird led off with a single, hustled to third on Ramiro Pena’s own base hit, then scored on Doug Bernier’s sacrifice fly.
But that would be all the Baby Pinstripes could muster. Rich Hill and ex-Yankee Mark Melancon each stranded a runner in their respective innings, Melancon striking out three for his first save in Sox attire.
Pitching coach Rich Sauveur did his part to neutralize the mental storms that crept up on his pupils, paying one visit apiece to Duckworth and first reliever Clayton Mortensen. It patently paid off for Mortensen when he hit two of his first three adversaries in the top of the sixth, then struck out two straight after Sauveur sat back down to quell the threat.
Middlebrooks demonstrated equal doses of patience at the plate with two walks as well as gusto within the base paths. In addition to giving the PawSox their insurance run in the fourth by way of a triple and subsequent score, he aggressively sought more insurance in the bottom of the eighth. He stole second base after a one-out walk and then drew a pickoff attempt while in scoring position.
One of the reasons Middlebrooks could not constitute the team’s fifth run was because Che-Hsuan left him along with Kroeger stranded with an inning-ending pop-up to third base. After hitting safely in eight of his previous eleven outings and coming off a double in each half of Monday’s doubleheader, Lin went 0-for-4 on Monday.
Lin left a grand total of three runners in scoring position, the others being Kroeger to end the fourth and Middlebrooks to end the sixth. In addition, his batting average has dipped below the Mendoza Line to .193, the lowest among PawSox regulars.
Laird, Pearce and Pena all had multi-hit outings, combining for seven of the Yankees’ eight total hits on the night. Leadoff man Colin Curtis tacked on the eighth with a vain double in the top of the ninth inning.
One of those who did not so much as reach base at any point was Dewayne Wise. He entered Tuesday night’s action with a league-leading .439 batting average, but was down to .400 upon hitting 0-for-4.
Mitchell, who endured his first loss in three decisions this season, struck out four PawSox and walked two.
Mortensen was credited with the win for a 2-1 record. Wilson and Hill each took credit for their first holds of the year.
Gomez’s homer was his only offensive highlight of the night. He struck out in each of his other plate appearances.