Monday night's chaos started when the Toledo Mud Hens started laying eggs and the Pawtucket Red Sox started breaking them with their bats. The situation grew mutually mucky when the Sox swapped habits with their visitors.
It all culminated in comparative calmness. By the time the Sox had delivered 157 pitches and faced 150, they had subsisted on an initial 6-0 lead for a 6-4 victory.
Only five and a half innings had passed by the time each team had dipped into its bullpen and each staff had combined to exceed 100 pitches (Toledo 120, Pawtucket 112). That was primarily a product of each team batting around in the bottom of the fifth and top of the sixth. Enough to make the McCoy Stadium masses forget that there were eight scoreless half-innings beforehand.
Then again, those untouched goose-eggs were an afterthought in the opening frame. The PawSox made a booming first impression in their first turn at bat, sending seven men to the plate and two across the plate.
With Toledo starter Derek Hankins’ first two challengers of the night in scoring position, Daniel Nava promptly put Pawtucket on board with a sacrifice grounder to first. Ryan Roberts supplanted Brock Holt aboard third base on that play, then followed him home via Christian Vazquez’s infield single.
Hankins and the Hens subsequently settled the storm on defense, but the PawSox matched them on the other side of the ball. A Mike Hessman single and a Jordan Lennerton walk constituted Toledo’s lone two baserunners through four innings.
The PawSox percolated a second wind in the fifth. Hankins was three tosses away from triple digits by the time Ryan Lavarnway stepped up with runners at the corners and two down. Eight throws later, Vazquez rolled a single to left, plating Holt from third for a 3-0 lead and the night’s first pitching change.
Garin Cecchini greeted Nate Robinson with a base hit to right that drove Daniel Nava home from second. He extended his single to an extra base and thus placed himself and Vazquez in scoring position.
Alex Hassan proceeded to take both out of that position the delectable way. He nailed a sharp grounder to left to augment the lead to 6-0, giving the Sox four two-out runs in the inning. Corey Brown kept the tempest twirling with a single of his own for Pawtucket’s 10th hit of the evening.
Toledo broke through on its next try. Daniel Fields led off with a four-pitch walk, hustled to third on Hernan Perez’s single and then darted home when Lennerton belted Anthony Ranaudo’s first bid over the right-field fence for a ground-rule double.
Ranaudo walked the bases full and reliever Rich Hill walked in the Mud Hens’ second and third run. Although, he at least preceded those walks with strikeouts and ultimately induced a Brandon Douglas grounder, preserving half of Pawtucket’s breathing room.
But just as the PawSox did with the first and the fifth, Toledo started to reprise its sixth inning in the seventh. Fields led off with a single before Perez deposited a double to the left-field warning track. Mike Hessman’s sacrifice fly to center allowed Fields to whittle the deficit down to 6-4.
Each team saw the rest of its batters retired thereafter, turning the score to stone.
An alternating combination of patience and persistence from the Pawtucket bat rack helped to hasten Hankins’ exit. Six home batters within the first three innings alone worked a full count, including Roberts in each of his first two plate appearances.
Before any of that, Holt set the tone by fouling off four straight 1-2 deliveries, taking a second ball and then chopping the third pitch to center for his first-inning single. He added a leadoff single in the fifth for his first multi-hit effort since being optioned back from Boston April 25. That figures to kick a little dirt on his comparatively quiet 1-for-11 showing in the Indianapolis series.
Vazquez earned his dough as the DH Monday night, charging up an RBI on each of his two hits and scoring another run himself. Hasssan matched his distinction of two hits and two runs driven in.
With a 1-2-3 eighth and ninth, reliever Dalier Hinojosa averted any and all opposing baserunners for the first time in five outings, dating back to April 13.
Ranaudo started to lose his command in the top of the fifth. Nine of his first 14 deliveries that inning were balls, as were six of his first seven in the sixth.
In the wake of losing his shutout bid and having another two adversaries in scoring position, Ranaudo threw a pair of two-strike pitches at face level past Hessman. He then dropped one in the dirt to run the count full and another high and outside to fill the bases with still no outs. Manager Kevin Boles forked him out in favor of Hill at that point.
Mud Hens Notes
Toledo’s three-run awakening in the sixth halted a skid of 19 consecutive scoreless innings dating back to Saturday in Syracuse.
Lennerton has drawn a walk in five consecutive games to start the month of May.
Perez's two-bagger was his seventh of the season, giving him sole possession of the team lead ahead of Hessman.
Robertson surrendered a run and multiple hits for his third consecutive relief outing. The previous two occurred April 26 and 29 to bookend a home set with Gwinnett. But after his rocky entrance, he mustered back-to-back 1-2-3 stanzas in the sixth and seventh.
The PawSox broke double digits in the hit column for the 10th time in 2014, but the first in seven games.
The PawSox are 10-1 on the year when leading after six innings this season.
Video from the minorleaguebaseball YouTube channel
Video from the minorleaguebaseball YouTube channel