Friday, April 4, 2014

Post-game Pop-ups: PawSox 9, IronPigs 4 (7.5 Innings)

Swift Summation
It took a game-and-a-half off their schedule for the Pawtucket Red Sox’ carbonation to reach critical mass. When it did, virtually the entire batting order had a hand in a fifth-inning frenzy that flip-flopped a 4-0 deficit into an 8-4 lead en route to a 9-4 triumph over the Lehigh Valley IronPigs at McCoy Stadium Friday night.

It took eight-and-a-half innings for Mother Nature to spill over her own outpouring, which meant declaring the victor three outs early.

In the tone-setting stages, it appeared Groundhog Day was coming for seconds two months later. Several statistical elements from Thursday’s Part I of this season-opening four-game set surfaced yet again.

To start, the IronPigs reaped their second 4-0 advantage in as many nights all within the third inning. Ronny Cedeno plated Clete Thomas on a single, then flew home with Reid Brignac and Cameron Rupp, whose second dinger of the season quadrupled the difference.

Entering the bottom of the fifth, Pawtucket had likewise matched its opening-night output of zero runs on two hits. That was when Christian Vazquez and Mike McCoy dislodged the cork with doubles to sandwich Corey Brown’s walk and whittle the deficit in half.

With still no outs in the frame, Brock Holt singled and Alex Hassan and Ryan Lavarnway walked. McCoy tallied the Sox’ third run on a wild pitch during Hassan’s at-bat before Lavarnway loaded the bases.

All three came back to the dugout safely with a walk to Bryce Brentz and a two-bagger by Garin Cecchini. Vazquez’s liner to left finished the round trip for those two and augmented the newfangled Pawtucket edge to 8-4.

Holt led off the home half of the sixth with a double and constituted his team’s ninth run with the aid of a Brentz base hit.

PawSox Pluses
Although he authorized the four-run outburst in the third inning and did not make it to the fourth, pitcher Anthony Ranaudo did bench seven IronPigs on strikes. The formidable Maikel Franco went down on a combined nine pitches in his two encounters with the PawSox’ starter.

Holt piloted the PawSox’ eruption with two runs-scored on three hits and a walk while Brentz, Cecchini, Vazquez and McCoy charged up two RBIs apiece.

Sox Stains
Designated hitter Dan Butler had the lonesome distinction of being the lone Pawtucket player not to cross the plate. In fact, he constituted the first out of the fifth with one of his three strikeouts on the night.

Butler got caught looking at the deciding strike in both his fifth- and sixth-inning plate appearance. In so doing, he left Cecchini to clear the bases in the former sequence and left Brentz hanging to close the sixth in the latter.

IronPigs Notes
Starter Barry Enright and reliever Kyle Simon split the albatross of the fateful fifth, accruing four earned runs on their respective tabs. Simon would muster only one out (one of Butler’s “Ks”), along with a wild pitch, three walks and two hits, before giving way to Cesar Jimenez.

The parent Boston Red Sox doled out their 2013 World Series championship rings at Fenway Park’s season opener Friday afternoon. Eight active PawSox players—Drake Britton, Rubby De La Rosa, Holt, Lavarnway, Brandon Snyder, Brayan Villarreal, Allen Webster and Alex Wilson—each made a cameo to receive their rings and darted back across the state border for the Triple-A game.

With “credit” for four earned runs within an even four innings of work, Ranaudo and Enright each exited their first starts of 2014 with identical 9.00 ERAs.

Resilience was rampant on the Rhode Island sports scene Friday night as the Providence Bruins, who were home at the Dunkin Donuts Center, deleted a 2-0 deficit to top the Worcester Sharks in a shootout, 3-2.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Post-game Pop-ups: IronPigs 4, PawSox 0

Swift Summation
Save for a hit and a walk apiece to Brock Holt and Garin Cecchini, the Pawtucket Red Sox reaped nothing from Lehigh Valley IronPigs starter David Buchanan. The home bat rack cultivated nothing at all from the visiting bullpen in the last three innings and consequently brooked a 4-0 loss at McCoy Stadium to open the 2014 season at McCoy Stadium.

Touted Philadelphia Phillies prospect Maikel Franco, putting in his Triple-A debut with the Pigs, plated the first run in his first at-bat. His one-out single to centerfield nudged Clete Thomas home from third and set the stage for cleanup hitter Jim Murphy’s RBI double, making it 2-0 after half an inning.

Cameron Rupp led off the fourth with a home run to left. Murphy later belted another extra-base hit, a triple, and finalized the 4-0 upshot on a wild pitch in the seventh.

From there, Mike Nesseth, Jeremy Horst and Luis Garcia each took a full inning keeping the PawSox mute. The Lehigh Valley bullpen combined for five strikeouts on nine challengers.

PawSox Pluses
Bryce Brentz terminated Lehigh Valley’s half of the third inning when he hustled and leaped to his right to snare Reid Brignac’s would-be deposit on the right-center lawn. While that hit the highlight reel, the previous play was just as pivotal. Brentz factored into the second out when he cut down Ronny Cedeno at third base.

Holt was the only Pawtucket batter to reach scoring position without the aid of a wild pitch or a fielder’s choice, and he did it twice. The leadoff man walked and stole second in the opening stanza and then doubled in his second plate appearance.

Sox Stains
Starting pitcher Allen Webster let the aforementioned Thomas, the Lehigh Valley leadoff man, reach third on a wild pitch before Franco sent him home. Likewise, reliever Dalier Hinojosa let Murphy finalize the scoring with his own toss past batterymate Christian Vazquez.

Webster would last a mere 3.2 innings, authorizing three earned runs on seven hits and two walks.

Three straight relievers—Craig Breslow, Tmmy Layne and Hinojosa—struggled to keep their strike-ball ratio 50-50. Breslow chucked merely 10 strikes out of 20 pitches, Layne 11 of 21 and Hinojosa 17 of 35.

Centerfielder Corey Brown struck out in all three of his plate appearances and did not swing at the deciding strike in the latter two cases. His second “K” came in the fifth inning when Cecchini was on second base with one out.

IronPigs Notes
Brignac, Rupp and Tyler Henson walked two times apiece. Brignac and Henson each stole a base.

Designated hitter Steve Susdorf was the lone visiting batter not to reach base, going 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and five teammates stranded.

Thursday’s result amounts to Pawtucket’s first loss in a home opener since 2007, when the Sox dropped a 6-2 decision to the Scranton-Wilkes/Barre Yankees. The PawSox have started their overall slate on a losing note for the first time since 2005, when they lost five straight out of the gate.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Starting 9: Nine Facts To Take Into The PawSox-IronPigs Series

The Pawtucket Red Sox and North Division rival Lehigh Valley IronPigs will bookend April with a four-game visit to each other’s parks. The Sox will play host to the first set to commence the 2014 season Thursday through Sunday and later drop in on Coca-Cola Park April 26-29.

All April contests will stay within the division for first-year manager Kevin Boles’ pupils. The two Lehigh Valley series will sandwich a three-game bout with Syracuse and eight engagements apiece with Buffalo and Rochester.

Dating back to Sept. 1 and 2 of last season, Lehigh Valley is nursing a carry-over scoring drought due to stingy Pawtucket defense. The PawSox blanked the Pigs 5-0 and 4-0 to sweep a two-game mini-series at the conclusion of the 2013 regular season, although rain confined the first game to six innings.

IronPigs third baseman Maikel Franco, who is the parent Philadelphia Phillies’ top prospect in the eyes of Baseball America, figures to make his Triple-A debut this weekend. He posted a .339 batting average in 69 Double-A appearances for Reading last summer. Baseball America also specifies Franco as the Philadelphia farm system’s “best power hitter” and “best infield arm.”

Presumptive PawSox starting pitcher Allen Webster (8-4) and Lehigh Valley counterpart David Buchanan (4-2) carry identical career Triple-A winning percentages of .667 into the season. Webster has no prior decisions against the Pigs while Buchanan brooked a loss in the aforementioned 5-0 decision Sept. 1.

Seven of the currently rostered IronPigs, including five members of the pitching staff, saw MLB action with Philadelphia in 2013. Six others suited up for The Show with other organizations.

Lehigh Valley’s outfield is arguably its most seasoned sector. Leandro Castro and Steve Susdorf are the team’s only returnees who made 100 or more appearances last season while Clete Thomas played 92 games for the Minnesota Twins and 36 for Rochester.

This is the first time the Lehigh Valley franchise (established in 2008) will have entertained Pawtucket’s home opener.
The PawSox will seek their ninth consecutive opening-day victory, home or away.