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.
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.
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.
MiscellanyRivera 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.