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.
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.
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.
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.
MiscellanyPitchers 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.