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.