Swift summationEven 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.
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.
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.
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.