Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Post-game Pop-ups: PawSox 7, Red Wings 6

Swift Summation
Subsisting on an early stash of passive-aggressive batting and ambitious baserunning, the Pawtucket Red Sox warded off the Rochester Red Wings Wednesday afternoon. They sculpted an initial 7-0 lead that morphed into a 7-6 final at Frontier Field.

The first two pitches of Pawtucket’s third inning yielded two baserunners and eventual scorers. Heiker Meneses dropped an infield single to the right of the mound and Brock Holt followed up with a base hit to shallow left.

Alex Hassan’s opposite-field double to right knocked Meneses home for a 1-0 advantage and still no outs. Holt completed his round-trip with the help of Brandon Snyder’s sacrifice fly in the same direction. 

Two plays later, Hassan hustled home from second on Bryce Brentz’s single up the middle for a 3-0 lead.

The Sox tacked on two more runs on four more hits before using any outs in the fourth.

McCoy led off by working the count full and then chopping the payoff pitch to the left-center lawn for a single. He advanced to third via Meneses’ double and then scored Pawtucket’s fourth run on Holt’s base hit. Hassan’s two-bagger to the right-field corner plated Meneses and put himself and Holt in scoring position.

After an intentional walk to Ryan Lavarnway loaded the bases, Dan Butler bumped in two more runs for a 7-0 runaway.

Rochester ratcheted its offense in the bottom of the stanza. Wilkin Ramirez’ double to the left-field wall put Eduardo Nunez on third base and Brad Nelson walked to load the bases.

Eric Farris kept the maximum three baserunners at hand with a one-out single off reliever Chris Resop, putting the Wings on the board. Dan Rohlfing proceeded to drive home two teammates with a liner to right-center and Doug Bernier dropped in an RBI single, whittling the PawSox’ lead down to 7-4.

Nelson’s sacrifice fly scored Nunez in the fifth and Bernier constituted the day’s final run amidst a force-out play in the sixth.

PawSox Pluses
The Sox started swelling Scott Diamond’s pitch count in the second, largely by fouling off two-strike tosses. Butler flied out to shallow straightaway center on the seventh pitch of his at bat with two on and no outs in the second. On the next sequence, Corey Brown worked a 3-1 count before fouling off four straight and then fanning on the ninth bid.

The Red Wings starter had reached 40 pitches by the conclusion of the second inning. That mollified him enough for Pawtucket to pounce and prey beginning in the third.

Four visiting batters—Holt, Hassan, Lavarnway and Meneses—logged three hits apiece in their raid on Diamond and his bullpen. Holt, Hassan and Meneses each scored two runs apiece while Holt drove one in, Hassan two others.

If there was a way for a position player to gain credit for a save, which went to pitcher Drake Britton, it would have to go to Brentz. His toss from right field to the plate foiled Santana’s bid for a 7-7 equalizer and finalized an inning-ending double play in the eighth.

Sox Stains
After three sound stanzas, starter Brandon Workman lost his crispness in the fourth, bringing on a premature end to his outing. He faced four batters during the inning in question, throwing 13 balls, including four in the dirt and loading the bases on a single, double and walk. After letting Nelson on board, he gave way to Resop with a mere 3.1 IP to his credit.

Brown did not join the afternoon’s hit club until he doubled in the ninth. Before that, he struck out four times in as many plate appearances, stranding two teammates on base each of the first three times.

Red Wings Notes
Diamond, a fourth-year Triple-A regular in the Minnesota Twins system, endured his first loss in three career decisions against the PawSox.

Ramirez and Rohlfing (two RBIs) fueled the Rochester offense with three hits apiece, giving them half of the home team’s dozen total hits on the day.

Tommy Layne improved to 2-1 with credit for the victory after throwing two scoreless innings on two hits, a walk and a strikeout in the sixth and seventh.

The Sox slugged out a new single-game season-high with 17 hits.

Video courtesy of the minorleaguebaseball YouTube channel

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Personal Column: Staying Strong With Boston, The Head Of The New England Family

Three years ago, in an act of mild tough love, Boston tugged me out of my comfort zone. I let that fact sink in when Amtrak carried my back to that sector of normalcy in Providence.

I was a senior at Providence College and serving as the Women’s Hockey East columnist for Beyond The Dashers. I had just spent three nights at the Hotel Commonwealth — a convenient Green Line ride away from Boston University’s Walter Brown Arena, where I was covering the 2011 WHEA playoffs.

The Monday morning after the ice chips settled, I hopped on a subway congested with BU students and retraced the rails to PC. Shortly after departing South Station, I scanned the skyline and reflected on this revolutionary weekend in my life.

“I could definitely live here,” I whispered to myself, confirming a long-standing notion with the help of authentic experience.

I still feel that way today, even as someone who has not lived in decidedly urban environments for much of my life. I feel that way as someone who will always specify himself as a Rhode Islander and someone who has spent more time away from New England than he wishes.

Love conquers fear. That was how I was able to enjoy my extended stay in the Hub more than survive it. That was how I emerged all but craving more of the same.

Based on the buildup to next week’s Boston Marathon, it appears my approach is an acquired one. It is a psychological strength embedded in a city that has a unique sphere of influence around six states.

Spend enough time anywhere in New England, and you should grow to relate. If Boston does not first bring you over in person a la a revered relative, it will start by gripping your attention from afar. It has too much in its storeroom not to find something for you.

Boston’s size, location and history make it a natural nucleus for an extended geographic family. While they have enough separation to facilitate individual traits, the citizens of Rhode Island, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine also have their times and spaces to acknowledge the connection.

That was why, during my early childhood in Portsmouth, R.I., family outings took place in the capital of Massachusetts almost as often as our own state capital. It did not matter if we went to a sporting event, a museum, a theater or a shopping center.

It is why the MBTA elongates its rails to serve the needs of business and leisure travelers beyond the 617 area code.

It was why, late in the summer of 2007, my orientation week at Providence College culminated in a sightseeing day trip to Boston.

It is why a regional comedian like Steve Sweeney can elicit a genuine chuckle from an Ocean Stater like me.

It is why, for the last couple of Christmas seasons, I have gorged on online listens to the Boston-based WODS, where one of the interstitials sings, “The holiday feeling, the Christmas spirit, you can feel it, all over New England…”

It is why I grew up rooting for teams like the Red Sox and Bruins. The latter’s Spoked-B logo might as well symbolize the club’s fandom fever spreading across Massachusetts and each state on its southern and northern borders.

Both of the market’s sports channels accentuate that reach by answering to the names “New England Sports Network” and “Comcast Sportsnet New England” when counterparts elsewhere tend to go for the city or state dateline.

And it is why, on this date last year, I felt an unshakable chill during the day and evening of tragedy and turmoil. But it was also why I later felt no surprise, but an equally potent injection of inspiration, watching the city’s resilience.

Again, love conquers fear. By all accounts, the former emotion won the clash for sole possession of incumbent Bostonians’ and New Englanders’ hearts.

Natural-born and naturalized New Englanders will remember Martin Richard, Lu Lingzi, Krystle Campbell and Sean Collier for one common thread or another. They variously enjoyed the same services, opportunities, attractions and abstract amenities of Boston, Greater Boston and New England that we do.

They were among the region’s sports fans, students, customers and neighbors. So are those who remain in the community and continue to honor the memories of four fallen friends.

Ditto those who are rebuilding their lives a year after sustaining physical wounds. Ditto the public safety personnel whose dauntless deeds outdo what the dictionary and thesaurus allot.

Those groups are unmistakably poised to unite again on the next Marathon Monday: April 21, 2014. It will be the 118th day of its kind, and it will reveal more of the same familial elements than its predecessors may have.

Boston, its citizens, its New England-born relatives, its adopted New England relatives and extended global guests will convene again. They will pursue the same recreation and atmosphere and appreciate the diligence and dedication of the local public safety officials.

In turn, they will continue the same remembrances of those who will not be joining in those activities this time. They will enter the Marathon spotlight to punctuate the active commemorations that have defined the past 365 days.

Love of those taken too soon and the shared fondness for the city between the remembered and the remembering will keep conquering fear. This time, though, it will happen on a platform that will punctuate the phrase “Boston Strong.”

It will be an exercise in everything that, when properly absorbed, Boston instills to its extended family. This Rhode Islander could not be prouder to have a piece of that New England lineage. 

Videos from the WPRI and clutch1278 YouTube channels

Monday, April 14, 2014

Post-game Pop-ups: PawSox 9, Red Wings 5 (8 Innings)

Swift Summation
The Pawtucket Red Sox slugged a season-high 15 hits with six going for extra bases off Rochester Red Wings relief pitchers Monday night. By the time Brandon Snyder doubled to the centerfield gap to lead off the eighth, all nine PawSox batters had picked up a hit.

As such, the fact that starter Trevor May stifled them for a pair of 1-2-3 innings (the first and fourth) went down as strange-but-true trivia in a 9-5 road win at Frontier Field. That fact rivaled the trivial nature of the rainfall that escalated late in the evening, all but symbolizing the PawSox’ outpouring and shortening the contest by a full inning.

Monday’s four-game series opener featured three lead changes with the Red Wings raising a pair of early upper hands. None of Pawtucket’s first three hitters could bump the ball beyond the infield. Each of Rochester’s first three could and did, the first two collaborating for first blood.

Shortstop Danny Santana led off the home half of the first by dropping a payoff pitch into centerfield for a triple. He came home on James Beresford’s follow-up single to left.

The PawSox perked up to claim their first lead in the second. Christian Vazquez stretched an RBI single to extra bases and then went home with the help of Mike McCoy’s base hit.

Eduardo Nunez, Eric Farris and Eric Fryer nailed successive hits to commence the bottom half and all made the round trip to renew Rochester’s lead to 4-2. Sox DH Ryan Lavarnway retorted in the third by singling Justin Henry home from second, halving the deficit to 4-3 through three stanzas.

Pawtucket usurped a 5-4 advantage in the fifth. Alex Hassan’s double rushed Henry in from first base and morphed into an unofficial homer with Santana’s throwing error. Lavarnway and Bryce Brentz followed that with back-to-back two-out singles before Garin Cecchini’s double plated Lavarnway for the Sox’ first multi-run lead.

With Chris Parmelee and Wilkin Ramirez at the corners and one out, Farris got one run back for Rochester by grounding into a force at second. Hassan, however, chopped an RBI single to left Pawtucket’s next time up, bringing home Heiker Meneses (triple) for a 7-5 difference.

Brentz one-upped Hassan with a legitimate home run over the left-field wall to lead off the seventh. McCoy’s two-out double to the left-center warning track and two straight four-pitch walks loaded the bases before Hassan’s lineout to deep left stopped the bleeding.

The Sox simply started over on their next turn. Lavarnway nudged Snyder to third on a single before Brentz bounced into a sacrifice double play that made Snyder the visitors’ ninth run.

PawSox Pluses
Lavarnway’s second multi-hit performance and first three-hit effort of 2014 was also his second in as many days. After starting his fourth career Triple-A campaign on a slump by going hitless in a four-game set with Lehigh Valley, the touted slugger has rebuilt his form. Lavarnway has seen action in seven of Pawtucket’s last nine ventures, hitting safely at least once in seven of those games.

Similarly, Brentz bounced back from a recent mini-slump of three straight hitless performances. He went on a (3-for-5) tear with (two) runs scored and (one) driven in.

Hassan warrants recognition for batting in a run on two separate occasions and scoring one himself.

Reliever Rich Hill muddied up Rochester’s rally effort with a pair of 1-2-3 stanzas, a feat that starter Anthony Ranaudo could not muster in any of his five full innings of work. Hill retired each of his first eight challengers before authorizing Fryer’s pop-up single to second with two away in the eighth.

Sox Stains
When one’s team is safeguarding a four-run lead and one inning away from wrapping things up, there is no cause to incur an ejection. Yet that is exactly what Sox skipper Kevin Boles did by disputing the decision to delay the ninth with third-base umpire Brad Myers (per Rochester Democrat and Chronicle reporter Jim Mandelaro via Twitter).

It amounted to no eventual damage, but Meseses’ team-worst third error of the season, a misplaced toss to Snyder at first, placed Santana in scoring position with two away in the fourth.

Red Wings Notes
Santana tripled in each of his first two plate appearances, factoring into a run for each sequence. Besides constituting the first-inning icebreaker, he drove Fryer home in the second. To put that into perspective, the Louisville Bats and Syracuse Chiefs each have one triple as a team and the Columbus Clippers zero through their first 10 respective games.

Designated hitter Deibinson Romero had a vinegary 0-for-4 outing, making him the lone Wing not to reach base or factor in to the scoring in any fashion. The only other Rochester batter not to successfully bolt the plate was No. 9 man Chris Rahl, who garnered credit for an RBI on a sacrifice fly in the second. 

Hassan was the first batter to face each of Rochester’s first three relievers. He greeted Brooks Raley with his fifth-inning double and, singled off Edgar Ibarra in the sixth and lined out to end an eight-pitch tussle with A.J. Achter.

Ranaudo incurred five earned runs on eight hits, but also fanned five Red Wings batters en route to his first win in three starts.

With a 1-for-4 effort Monday night, Cecchini has hit safely in 10 of his first 11 career outings at the Triple-A level.

At 7-5 on the year, the Sox have more wins than any of their I.L. North cohabitants. However, the Red Wings (6-4) and Buffalo Bisons (6-3) remain ahead by virtue of games in hand.

Inclement weather has prevented two of Pawtucket’s seven victories from reaching the ninth inning. The other was a 9-4 romp over the IronPigs on April 4.