The Pawtucket Red Sox bailed Brandon Duckworth out of what may have been his first losing decision in 2012, deleting a 5-3 deficit in the bottom of the fifth right before Alex Wilson stepped on in relief of the 4-0 starter.
One pitching change and another deficit later, Will Inman did enough to keep the PawSox within one run of the Rochester Red Wings, who would spill their lead for good in the bottom half of the eighth.
Lars Anderson reached first base and advanced to second on former Sox infielder Joe Thurston’s throwing error, nudging Jose Iglesias to third base on the process. Mauro Gomez would step up next and double to the right-center wall, authorizing the tying and winning run in a 7-6 final at McCoy Stadium Thursday afternoon.
Inman, who garnered credit for the victory, would leave with one out remaining after letting Rochester runners reach the corners in the ninth. But Mark Melancon got his lone adversary, Pedro Florimon, to whiff on a 2-2 pitch to end the game.
Getting Florimon out when he easily could have restored the visitor’s lead at the last minute was a rather symbolic suppression of one of Rochester’s most radiant batters of late.
Florimon, whose career with the Red Wings is only as old as this series, wasted little time raising the initial upper hand for the visitors. The No. 2-slotted batter belted a 1-0 pitch over the right-field wall in the first inning for his second solo homer of the series.
After Rochester starter Luke French threw seven of his 10 first-inning pitches for strikes, the PawSox patience reaped rapid rewards in the second as they took 13 of 21 offerings for balls. The result was four unanswered baserunners on a pattern of double-walk-double-walk.
Nate Spears drew a 1-1 knot with a one-out double that scored Josh Kroeger to second and nudged Alex Hassan to third. Mike Rivera drew a walk to load the bases and a subsequent balk with Tony Thomas at the plate scored Hassan.
Thomas proceeded to hit a sacrifice grounder that scored Spears for a 3-1 advantage, though it also led to Rivera being nabbed at third base to end the inning.
Regrettably for the Sox, Duckworth emulated French’s faultiness and handed the lead back to the Wings before there a single out in the third. J.R. Towles doubled to score leadoff man Joe Thurston, moved to third on the same play, then constituted the equalizer ahead of Ben Revere’s single to left-center.
Revere flew home courtesy of Matt Carson’s double to the left-center wall, cracking open a 4-3 lead for the visitors.
After a scoreless fourth inning, a two-out double in the fifth from Clete Thomas scored Matt Carson all the way from first and augmented that lead to 5-3. But Tony Thomas retorted in the bottom half with a one-out triple that scored Spears from second, then drew a 5-5 knot with the help of Che-Hsuan Lin’s sacrifice fly to deep center.
Revere restored Rochester’s lead to 6-5 in the seventh when bunted his way on board, stole second then finished the trip in one lap ahead of Florimon’s single.
But the PawSox perked up as soon as they were down to their final four outs, beginning with Iglesias’ two-out single in the eighth.
A perfect 3-for-3 on the day at the plate, Spears accounted for 37.5 percent of Pawtucket’s eight hits and doubled in each of two encounters with French, ultimately scoring from second base on both occasions.
The greatest testament to Duckworth’s shortage of command on Thursday was likely in the top of the fifth, when he was one strike away from what could have been his only 1-2-3 shift. He ended up walking Carson on four unanswered balls, then worked Clete Thomas to his own 0-2 count, only to let him double Carson home on a 2-2 delivery.
Red Wings notes
Left fielder and top batter Darin Mastroianni was called up to the parent Minnesota Twins Thursday morning. He was joined on the journey to The Show by starting pitcher P.J. Walters.
Designated hitter J.R. Tosoni was the only batter on either side not to reach base in any fashion Thursday afternoon, going 0-for-4 with a pair of strikeouts.
Florimon hit safely at least once in all four installments of this series, hitting 6-for-17 overall with three runs batted in.
Reliever Esmerling Vasquez was credited with his second hold of the season, allowing one run on two hits while working the entire seventh inning and two-thirds of the eighth.
Rochester made two pitching changes within the bottom of the eighth with Anderson being Tyler Robertson’s only challenger before Robertson gave way to Anthony Slama, who yielded Gomez’s winning hit.
Melancon garnered his third save of the season while Robertson was tagged for his second loss in as many decisions.