And Then There was Four

Two playoff tickets have been punched with Durham clinching the South on Monday and Columbus securing the West Tuesday. So those two teams will match up against each other in the Divisional round.

The other two playoff spots? Well, those are still up for grabs with four teams in the mix, including the PawSox. With just four games to go, Syracuse leads the North by 2.5 games over Pawtucket, with the Sox hosting the Chiefs over the next two nights.

Pawtucket owns the lead in the wild card by the smallest of margins, 1.5 games over Buffalo and 2 games over Rochester. While the Red Wings cannot win the division, they’re still alive in the wild card hunt. Both Syracuse and Buffalo will only play 143 games as each had a contest cancelled this season. So they’ll either win the division/wild card outright or not at all. If the season ends and the wild card is tied between Rochester and the PawSox, there would be no playoff game. The tiebreaker is head to head record (which is currently tied), divisional record (also tied right now), record against 1st place teams (tied too), then run differential (PawSox have the edge at the moment)…and if it’s still even, a coin flip would determine who wins the wild card. That scenario, crazily enough, is still in play if Pawtucket loses two against Syracuse, Rochester sweeps Buffalo and then the two split their final two games Sunday/Monday.
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Syracuse had a chance to clinch at least a playoff berth yesterday, but lost to Rochester 6-3. The Sox, meanwhile, picked up an 8-5 win over Lehigh Valley in a brisk 3:52 to gain a game in division and stave off the charging Herd (Buffalo), who beat Scranton/WB 11-3.

Today marks the 85th straight day the Chiefs have been in 1st place in the IL North. Syracuse has a magic number of just one to officially beat out Buffalo and clinch at least the Wild Card, while the Chiefs’ magic number to secure the division over Pawtucket remains at two. One other team has a clear path to the postseason if it can win out, and that is the Rochester Red Wings. Rochester would own the tiebreaker with Pawtucket if the Red Wings sweep the PawSox in the two-game series at Pawtucket this Sunday and Monday (the teams have split their previous 14 meetings this season). Rochester is no stranger to late-season dramatics, having clinched the final entry into the 2013 playoffs on the final day of the regular season. Last September, Gene Glynn’s club had to win its last three games and do a little scoreboard watching before finally capturing the Wild Card on Labor Day.
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With all that said, if the PawSox take care of their own business at McCoy over the weekend, they’ll be playoff punching for a franchise record 4th straight season.

The PawSox pitching staff, which has not had a clean turn through the rotation since July, is set up for a good run despite the tired bullpen arms (5 spot starts in August). Brandon Workman slides into Anthony Ranaudo’s vacant rotation seat (he’ll be pitching for Boston tonight in Tampa Bay, his 3rd big league start) to start tonight, Matt Barnes (arguably the best pitcher in the IL since the All_Star Break) goes Saturday, Henry Owens is on schedule to start Sunday in the series opener against Rochester and Steven Wright would start the regular season finale on Monday afternoon. All of this, of course as we have learned in August, is subject to change. Pawtucket has now made 66 roster transactions in August and 194 overall on the season.

It’ll be a wild weekend at McCoy with playoff spots on the line for every team in town over the weekend. Playoff tickets for all possible 2014 PawSox playoff games at McCoy Stadium are on sale at the Box Office at McCoy, just in case. Fans can also order by phone by calling the PawSox at (401) 724-7300 or by visiting pawsox.com.

Thanks for reading…#Its4theCup

Jeff
@jlevering4
jlevering@pawsox.com

Anthony Ranaudo Named IL Pitcher of the Year

On the strength of his League-leading 14 wins and a 2.61ERA over 24 starts, Pawtucket’s Anthony Ranaudo has been named the 2014 International League Most Valuable Pitcher.

Ranaudo is currently 2nd in the League in ERA to Liam Hendriks of Buffalo, who is now pitching in the Pacific Coast League following a trade and won’t accumulate enough innings to qualify for the ERA title. Opposing batters are hitting just .223 against Ranaudo, the lowest average against any IL starter.
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The 6’7″ righthander is in his rookie season at the Triple-A level after going 3-1 in six appearances last year in limited action for Pawtucket. He also made his Major League debut earlier this month, picking up a win for Boston against the Yankees on August 1 and another at Cincinnati on August 13 in his second career MLB start. He leads all of professional baseball with 16 total wins.
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Ranaudo was a “sandwich pick” for the Red Sox between the 1st and 2nd rounds of the 2010 draft. He was the Double-A Eastern League’s Pitcher of the Year last season. The 24-year-old Ranaudo becomes the seventh IL Most Valuable Pitcher in PawSox history and the first since Charlie Zink in 2008.

And Then There was None

As in wiggle room for the Pawtucket Red Sox.

Well…There are still eight games to go (four on the road, four at home) for the PawSox in 2014, but their lead in the Wild Card is now gone after three straight losses.

Coming into this four game set with Buffalo, Pawtucket held a two game lead on the Bisons. Losses of 15-2 Saturday and 10-6 in extra inning Sunday dwindled that advantage to nil.

The back to back games allowing double digit runs is a first this season for the PawSox staff. In fact, Pawtucket had allowed double digits TWICE the whole season before the weekend. It was the first time since June 28 and June 29, 2013 that the pitching staff had allowed 10 runs or more in consecutive games. Another note about the weekend, in particular the Saturday loss, it was the first time the PawSox had allowed more than 14 runs since May 22, 2010 when the Sox lost to Durham 18-1.

Back to Sunday. A 0-0 game into the 5th, PawSox ace Anthony Ranaudo gave up solo homers to Brett Wallace and George Kottaras (both acquired by Buufalo within the last two months, Kottaras at the beginning of August, Wallace after the All-Star break). Those would be the only runs he would allow while he was physically on the hill.
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Ranuado battled command issues all afternoon, especially with his fastball (a rarity). Of his 95 pitches, only 53 were strikes, one of his lowest strike percentages of the season. The former 1st rounder would end up going 6.1 innings and allowed 4 ER (he left with two men on base and Dalier Hinojosa allowed a game tying three-run homer to Anthony Gose in the 7th). But his dominance over Buffalo in his career is still rather incredible. Since making his debut in Buffalo August 4th, 2013, Ranaudo has started 5 times against the Bisons. He is 3-0 with a 1.42 ERA (5 ER/31.2 IP). And four of those runs were scored Sunday. He had a chance to add to his IL leading win total, but, as mentioned prior, Hinojosa squandered the lead.

Dalier, who had not allowed a single run in the month of August before Sunday, coughed up a pair of leads, one in the 7th and one in the 8th, on two homers (the Gose 3-run shot and Wallace’ 2nd of the game).

A bright spot on the hill in this series has been Drake Britton. He fired a season high 2.2 innings and retired all 8 batters he faced, including 3 strikeouts. Over his last three outings, Britton has not been scored upon. It;s the 1st time since May that Drake has had a stretch of scoreless relief..and it is GREAT to see his confidence back again.

On the offensive side of things, Bryce Brentz continues to blast homers and drive in runs since returning from the disabled list (hamstring) August 2nd. In 17 games in August, Brentz is hitting .261 (18-for-69) with 3 doubles, a triple (really was a homer, but the umpires missed it) and 5 homers with 19 RBI. He drove in four runs in Sunday’s loss in Buffalo matching a season high (previously done April 29 @ Lehigh Valley on a grand slam).
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Dan Butler had three more hits, his second straight game with three knocks and is 6-for-12 since his return from the big leagues. He also gunned down a runner at 2nd base and back picked a runner at 1st base Sunday afternoon.

Garin Cecchini also continues to turn around his season in August. Since his average hit a low water mark of .236 August 7th, Garin has hits in 12 of 14 games and his average is up to .257 after another 3 hits game Sunday. His RBI double in the 8th had given the PawSox a 6-5 lead for the moment, but it also gave him the team lead in the RBI department with 51. On the season, Cecchini has played 107 games and has reached base with a hit or a walk in 92 of them.
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The PawSox will have to turn things around quickly and they’ll have an opportunity to do so Monday at 7:05. Matt Barnes takes the mound and he has been one of the best pitchers in the IL since the All-Star Break. Overall, he’s 7-8 with a 3.89 ERA, but since the break he’s 3-1 with a 1.63 ERA (7ER/38.2 IP) and opponents are hitting just .150 against him in 6 starts. His K/BB ratio is also 32/13…Oh, and he’s given up just 3 runs over 4 starts in August.

The Wild Card lead is up for grabs tonight…should be a fun one in Buffalo.

And since we’re in the land of Buffalo Wings…I had to partake. Duff’s…might have taken the cake for the best I’ve ever had.
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Thanks for reading,

Jeff
@jlevering4
jlevering@pawsox.com

More Movement For PawSox Roster

Another day and another move for the PawSox here in August. Since the trade deadline July 31, the PawSox have already been involved in 47 player transactions.

Today, the PawSox added Dan Butler after he was optioned from Boston earlier with C David Ross coming off the DL for the Red Sox. In the clubhouse now sit four catchers, Blake Swihart, Butler, Ryan Lavarnway and Matt Spring who is currently on the disabled list. Butler was recalled to Boston on August 2 when Ross went on the DL and he made his Major League debut with the Red Sox on August 10 in Anaheim. In 3 games for the Red Sox (all as catcher) he was 0-for-11 with a walk. In 76 games for the PawSox (47 as catcher) he is hitting .227 with 17 2B, 4 HR and 28 RBI.
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This move is on the heels of Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr. swapping spots, in essence, on Monday. The numbers on JBJ in Boston this year have been well documented, as have Betts’ in Double-A and Triple-A for that matter, and this promotion for Betts gives him a two-week, uninterrupted opportunity with the Red Sox. For Bradley, it’s a chance to get his bat going before September hits. JBJ was hitting just .216 in 112 games with Boston before being optioned. He hit .275 in 80 games with a career high 10 homers in 2013 with the PawSox.

A PawSox roster spot for Butler became available late this afternoon when Alex Hassan was recalled to Boston (the Red Sox optioned RHP Steven Wright back to Pawtucket – although Wright has not yet been added to the PawSox roster). Hassan will be making his second trip to Boston this season as he was recalled on May 30 and made his big league debut with the Red Sox on June 1 going 1-for-3 vs. Tampa Bay at Fenway. In 2 games with the Red Sox (both in the outfield) he was 1-for-7 before being optioned back to Pawtucket on June 9. Hassan has been one of Pawtucket’s hottest hitters since his return batting .367 in June, .330 in July, and .290 in August. Overall in 104 games for the PawSox he is hitting .282 with a team-high 29 doubles along with 8 HR & 50 RBI (his 50 RBI tied for the PawSox lead with Garin Cecchini).
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Rehabbing Red Sox OF/1B Allen Craig did not play last night but will play RF and bat 2nd tonight. He was Pawtucket’s DH Monday night going 0-for-2 with a walk. Craig, 30, who was placed on the disabled list on August 5 (retro to August 2) with a left foot sprain, injured his foot while running the bases in the 8th-inning during the Red Sox game against the Yankees on August 1 at Fenway Park (he hit first base awkwardly). Acquired from St. Louis along with RHP Joe Kelly for RHP John Lackey on July 31, Craig went 1-for-4 with a double in his Red Sox debut on August 1 (his only game played to date with Boston). In 97 games for the Cardinals and 1 game for the Red Sox this season he is hitting .237 with 18 2B, 1 3B, 7 HR and 44 RBI.

A 2013 National League All-Star, Craig ranked 4th in the NL with a .312 batting average combined over the last three seasons (2011-13) while helping St. Louis reach the post-season in all three years – including the World Series title in 2011 and a World Series loss to the Red Sox in 2013.

INF Ryan Roberts was also activated from the PawSox DL two days ago (left ankle sprain) and INF Mike McCoy was placed on the disabled list with a left calf strain.

Get all that? There may even be more moves in the coming days as well.

Matt Barnes will get the start for the PawSox Wednesday night against Lehigh Valley. He has been spectacular since the All-Star break going 2-1 with a 1.95 ERA (7ER/32.1IP) allowing just 18 hits, 10 BB while striking out 25 batters. Opponents are hitting just .161 against him in that time as well.
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Only 13 games to go and the PawSox are just 3 games back in the North Division behind Syracuse and 2 games up on Rochester in the Wild Card.

Thanks for reading,

Jeff
@jlevering4
jlevering@pawsox.com

Sunday News and Notes

The PawSox look to end a brief two-game losing streak against the RailRiders this afternoon at 1:05pm, but they won’t have knuckleballer Steven Wright on the mound. Originally scheduled to start this afternoon, Wright was recalled to Boston prior to the game to provide bullpen depth for the Red Sox. As a result, lefty Ryan Verdugo will make his 2nd “spot” start of the season and his 8th overall appearance with the PawSox. Verdugo has picked up a win and two saves out of the bullpen in his last three games. He made a spot start back on August 3rd, the day Wright was recalled the 1st time this season.

A few long games up in Boston has them scrambling for available arms. Alex Wilson, recalled while the team was in Gwinnett, picked up the win for the Red Sox last night tossing 2.1 scoreless innings.

To fill Wright’s spot on the roster, RHP Jose Valdez (sidelined with a shin contusion) was activated from the disabled list.

It has also been reported that INF/OF Allen Craig will begin a rehab assignment with the PawSox on Monday. Battling a sprained left foot, Craig was one of the key members of the John Lackey trade with the Cardinals, the other, today’s Red Sox starter Joe Kelly. It is believed that Craig will be with Pawtucket for about three days.

Ian Browne of mlb.com did a fine piece on lefty reliever Tommy Layne, who is proving to be a key piece to the Boston bullpen since he was recalled for a 2nd time at the beginning of the month. http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20140816&content_id=89940370&notebook_id=89956664&vkey=notebook_bos&c_id=bos
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Layne was lights out in his time with PawSox…it’s no surprise that hes pitching as well as he is in Boston.

And while the PawSox are in the think of a playoff push with just 17 game to go in the season (trailing in the North by 2.5 games and leading the Wild Card by 2.5 games over both Buffalo and Rochester), the Double-A Portland Sea Dogs have a magic number of TWO entering their game today. Good luck to the fellas in Portland as they vie for a playoff position in the Eastern League.

Home Cooking? The PawSox are 1-6 at home this month but 7-1 on the road thus far in August. The Sox have lost three in a row at home (the past two nights to the RailRiders and the finale of their last homestand on August 5 to Columbus) and they have dropped 6 of their last 7 at McCoy since August 1 after ending July on a 6-game home winning streak. In contrast to their home struggles, the PawSox are coming off a 7-1 roadtrip, have won 14 of their last 17 away games since July 13, and they own the best road record in the International League at 38-28. We’ll see if their luck will change this afternoon against a club that has already clinched a season-series victory over Pawtucket.

The RailRiders, by the way, are doing to the PawSox what the PawSox did to them in 2013…Win on the opposition’s home turf. In the first year of the newly minted PNC in Moosic, PA, the PawSox took 7 of 8 from the ‘Riders. This season, Scranton/WB has redemption on their minds having won 5 of their first 6 games at McCoy.

Thanks for reading and enjoy your Sunday!

Jeff
@jlevering4
jlevering@pawsox.com

Hoping to End the Road Trip in Style

A win tonight and the PawSox will go 7-1 on the 8-game southern swing.

After yet another come from behind victory last night, thanks to another go-ahead RBI 2B by Blake Swihart in the 9th inning, Pawtucket has come from behind to win in 6 of their last 7 games. Tied 3-3 in the 9th, Swihart delivered another clutch 2-out RBI to give the PawSox the lead for good (the second time he’s done so on the road trip).
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The 22-year-old switch hitter is batting .276 (8-for-29) with a homer and 6 RBI through his first 7 Triple-A games. Most of his damage has come from the right side of the plate as he’s 4-for-8 with a homer, a triple, a double and 5 RBI.

Pawtucket also got another impressive start from lefty Edwin Escobar who fired 7 innings allowing just two runs (one on a lead-off solo homer on the 2nd pitch he threw) on 5 hits while striking out 6 Wednesday night in Gwinnett. He walked only one. So far in his 3 starts with the Red Sox organization, Escobar still is without a decision, but owns a 1.89 ERA (4 ER/19 IP) with 16 strikeouts against just 4 walks. He was even recalled by Boston over the weekend as bullpen insurance after their 19 inning game in Anaheim. Despite not appearing in a game, it was his 1st major league recall of his career.
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Now, after tonight’s game (and hopefully another victory), the PawSox will return home to McCoy Stadium for their final long homestand of the regular season, an 8-gamer starting Friday night at 7:05pm. Lefty Henry Owens is expected to make the start, his 2nd at home, against the RailRiders.

Not only is “Big Hank” starting, but a ton of specialty nights are coming as well.

Friday night, the first 4,000 fans coming to McCoy to see the PawSox play Scranton/Wilkes-Barre at 7:05 pm will receive a PawSox Cap. This quality 100% cotton red cap comes compliments of the Rhode Island Lottery & WEEI-FM.

Saturday, the final Free Youth Clinic of the season at McCoy Stadium will take place from 2:00-3:15 pm. The clinic is open to youngsters of all ages free of charge. PawSox manager Kevin Boles, pitching coach Rich Sauveur, hitting coach Dave Joppie, coach Bruce Crabbe, and several players will be on the field at McCoy to offer youngsters instructions and tips on the game of baseball. The 6:05 pm game against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre follows.

Immediately after the conclusion of this Sunday afternoon’s game, the PawSox invite all fans to join us for our 17th Annual PawSox Fan Appreciation Fan Festival at McCoy Stadium. The FanFest will feature PawSox Player Autograph Booths, a chance to meet PAWS & SOX, free samples & coupons, music, games for kids, and other surprise treats. The FanFest is available to all fans free of charge after the game on Sunday at McCoy.

With school starting soon, the first 4,000 youngsters (aged 14 & under) coming to McCoy on TUESDAY when the PawSox play Lehigh Valley at 7:05pm will take home a PawSox back-to-school kit compliments of Citizens Bank, Pepsi, and LITE Rock 105. The kit contains PawSox items such as a ruler, pencil, eraser and other back-to-school items.

Wednesday, the first 3,000 youngsters (aged 14 & under) entering McCoy on August 20 when the PawSox play the Lehigh Valley IronPigs at 7:05 pm will receive a PawSox back-to-school notebook compliments of the Rhode Island Shrine, 630 WPRO and 99.7 FM . The notebook features PawSox & Red Sox pitcher Anthony Ranaudo and catcher Christian Vazquez on the cover.

Sounds too good to be true, right?!

Lots going on at McCoy when the club returns Friday, you won’t want to miss it!

Thanks for reading and for supporting the PawSox and their 2014 playoff push.

Jeff
@jlevering4
jlevering@pawsox.com

Another Week and Another Streak

The PawSox have done it again. They’ve put together another long winning streak, this one is currently at 5 games and could be 6 after tonight’s game against Gwinnett.

Monday night’s 15-9 win against the G-Braves was both frustrating and impressive.

After jumping out to a 9-0 in the 5th, the PawSox led 9-1 into the 8th. That’s when the G-Braves’ bats woke up. They scored 8 runs on 6 hits while scoring runs on a bases load walk and a wild pitch to tie the game 9-9.

Now, some other teams would throw in the towel after giving up a nine run lead. Not this club. Pawtucket responded with six runs of their own in the top of the 9th. Here’s how the 9th went down:

Cecchini ground out (1 out)
Marrero single
Swihart double
Gibson RBI single (10-9)
Betts double (11-9)
McCoy intentional walk, bases loaded
Brentz 2-run single (13-9)
Shaw strikeout (2 out)
Rivero walk
Cecchini 2-run single (15-9)
Marrero walk
Swihart strike out (3 outs)

In all, 6 runs on 6 hits and 12 batters came to the plate. That doesn’t sound like a roll over at all. The result was another win; their 5th straight to begin their final 8-game road trip of the season. Pawtucket has now plated the go-ahead runs in the 9th inning in 3 consecutive games and have scored a total of 12 runs in the final frame in that time span. In fact, of their 5 straight victories, the PawSox have gone ahead in the 8th inning or later in 4 of the 5.

Even better, the offense has come alive again. During the streak, the PawSox are hitting .333 as a team and averaging 9 runs a game. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the offensive production spiked with the return of Mookie Betts. He’s hitting .409 (9-for22) with 5 RBI and 6 runs scored since his return from the Red Sox. When he’s in the lineup, Pawtucket has won 18 of their last 20 games. That’s a catalyst.
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3B/OF Garin Cecchini has also come to life of late and Monday night was no exception. A 3-for-6 night with a pair of doubles and matching a career high with 5 RBI. The last time he had accomplished that was May 26th, 2012 when he was with Greenville. He’s got 7 hits in his last 14 at-bats over his last 3 games and has driven in 7 runs. He’s going to be a key to the PawSox offense down the stretch.
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The PawSox now own the best road record in the league, 36-27, and are in a 1st place tie with Syracuse atop the North Division. Their lead in the Wild Card is 2 games over Rochester and 3.5 over Buffalo. Also, their 69 wins are the most in the International League. Not bad for a team that was not above .500 for a month from May 25 to June 23. And for all the roster turmoil since the trade deadline, Pawtucket has remained consistent.

A few notes about the PawSox against the Gwinnett Braves heading into tonight’s 6:35pm game. Pawtucket has won 14 of the last 18 games vs. Gwinnett dating back to the 2012 season. The PawSox won the final five games vs. Gwinnett during the 2012 season (finishing 6-2) and the first five meetings of the 2013 season (also finishing 6-2) to compile a 10-game winning streak against Gwinnett. They are 3-2 vs. the Braves thus far this season. And, the PawSox have not lost a game at Coolray Stadium since August 13, 2011 (11 straight wins)…Well, today is the 12th of August, we might as well stretch this streak to 3 years without a loss in Georgia by winning tonight!

Thanks for reading and rooting!

Jeff
@jlevering4
jlevering@pawsox.com

On The Road Again; Welcome to Charlotte

It’s time for the last LONG road trip of the year; an 8-day, 2-city trip to Charlotte and Gwinnett.

We’ve been waiting all season for this one because of the brand, spanking new park in Uptown Charlotte (it’s not Downtown in south, it’s Uptown).

Uptown Charlotte, North Carolina

Uptown Charlotte, North Carolina


Previously located in Ft. Mill, South Carolina, the Knights made the move to Uptown in April 2014 to open the season. The 10,200 seat stadium cost roughly $54 million to complete and it could not have been placed in a better location in the heart of Charlotte with the best skyline in the league (and arguably anywhere in the minor leagues)

Here is a photo tour of the park starting from behind the plate to the Home Run Porch in right field. Sadly, the weather didn’t cooperate today, thus the gloomy skies.

From the top row of seats in front of the VIP suite behind the plate

From the top row of seats in front of the VIP suite behind the plate

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From the front row of seats in left...the ball FLIES out to left and left center

From the front row of seats in left…the ball FLIES out to left and left center

Across the field from the bleachers in left

Across the field from the bleachers in left

Looking straight in from center.

Looking straight in from center.

The 3rd largest video board in the league behind Buffalo and Durham. Still Mighty impressive

The 3rd largest video board in the league behind Buffalo and Durham. Still Mighty impressive

From the front row in right center. Measured appx. 360 feet from home

From the front row in right center. Measured appx. 360 feet from home

The short porch in right

The short porch in right

This park directly behind the ballpark (behind right field) was built last year and is packed to the gills most evenings.

This park directly behind the ballpark (behind right field) was built last year and is packed to the gills most evenings.

only 315 feet down the right field line...enticing for left handed power bats

only 315 feet down the right field line…enticing for left handed power bats

A panoramic shot from the Home Run Porch in right. This place was ROCKIN' on Thursday night...Dollar Beer Night

A panoramic shot from the Home Run Porch in right. This place was ROCKIN’ on Thursday night…Dollar Beer Night


Visually this place is spectacular. The skyline is remarkable and the Uptown area has been revitalized thanks to the Carolina Panthers (Bank of America Stadium being just a block away) and now the Knights.

Charlotte has had a professional baseball team going back to 1892, then known as the Charlotte Hornets. The Knights did not forget their roots as they painted murals of the old teams and ballpark parks in which their clubs played on the outside of BB&T Ballpark.
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Latta Park was the first stadium in which the Hornets played before moving to Wearn Field and Hayman Park from 1908-1940.
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In 1940, Griffith Park was Built in Charlotte for $70,000 and was later named Crockett Park. Charlotte clubs played at this facility until a fire destroyed it in 1985. The Team was originally affiliated with the Washington Senators and later was affiliated with the Minnesota Twins until 1973.
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From 1946-1953 the Hornets played in the Tri-State League (Class-B Ball) before returning to the South Atlantic League in 1954. Another league shift happened in 1964 as Charlotte joined the Southern League (Double-A). Such stars like Tony Oliva, Graig Nettles, Charlie Manuel and IL Manager in Norfolk in 1997 and 1998 Rick Dempsey all played in Charlotte with the Twins.

In 1973, Baseball left the city until Frances Crockett brought it back to the Queen City in 1976. Now an Orioles affiliate, the Charlotte O’s were in existence until 1988. The O’s won titles in 1985 and 1987.

As mentioned before, a fire destroyed Crockett Park in 1985 and the O’s had to play in a temporary facility until 1987 when the team was sold. Former Orioles’ legends Cal Ripken Jr., Eddie Murray, Pete Harnisch, Curt Schilling and Steve Finley spent their summers in Charlotte on their way to the big leagues.

The city of Charlotte continued to grow in the 80’s and 90’s and their new owner, George Shinn, changed the name of the club to the Knights thanks to a “Name the Team” contest in 1989. The switched from the Orioles to the Cubs that year and moved into their new digs at “The Castle”, Knights’ Stadium in South Carolina. A handful of notable Cubs played in Ft. Mill like Steve Trachsel, Derrick May and Heathcliff Slocumb (thanks Red Sox for trading him to Seattle for Derek Lowe and Jason Varitek).

Old Knights' Stadium

Old Knights’ Stadium

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Knights' Stadium

Knights’ Stadium


The Knights’ franchise led all of Double-A (still in the Southern League) in attendance in 1991 and 1992 before the Knights’ became the Triple-A franchise for the Cleveland Indians. In their 1st year in the league, Charlotte won the Governors’ Cup in 1993 thanks to IL MVP Jim Thome (he went on the have a decent career, right?). The following year, Manny Ramirez came to town and, along with Thome, Charlotte combined to win 163 in two season as the Indians top minor league club.

In 1995, the Marlins came to town and future Red Sox stand out Brian Daubach honed his skills donning the Knights’ uniform. As did current Portland Sea Dogs manager Billy McMillon who set a franchise record batting .352 in 1996 with Charlotte. 1997 World Series standouts Livan Hernandez and Edgar Renteria (the game winner over the Indians in the series over the glove of Charles Nagy) also spent time with the Knights in the Marlins’ years.

Another Knight’s ownership change happened in December 1997 as Don Beaver (who also owned Winston-Salem, New Orleans and Hickory at the time) bought the club from Shinn and changed affiliations again in 1999 to the White Sox, a switch that has stayed intact since.

The 2013 season was the last in the old Knights’ Stadium and the club was happy to cross over the border back to North Carolina for the opening of BB&T Ballpark, the first time the club had been in the city since 1988.

Now you know the history and I can say, unequivocally, that the new ballpark is outstanding. Great crowds, great atmosphere and the sight lines with “Uptown” as the back drop are spectacular.

It’s a shame we only come here once a year because the city is fantastic.

Oh, and it’s been good for a couple wins already…and 8-6 come-from-behind win Thursday and hanging on to an 11-8 win on Friday. Anthony Ranaudo picked up his IL Leading 13th win Friday and 22-year-old catcher Blake Swihart launched his 1st Triple-A homer in the same game.

Back to work Saturday at 7:05 where Matt Barnes looks to duplicate his previous outing against Columbus, 7 innings of no-hit ball. Should be a fun one to watch (for me) and for you to listen to (I hope).

Thanks for reading!

Jeff
@jlevering4
jlevering@pawsox.com

The Future of the Red Sox Now Star in Pawtucket

We learned a couple of days ago that lefty Henry Owens, the prized pitching prospect in the Red Sox system, was promoted to Pawtucket. He’ll make his Triple-A debut tonight against Columbus and try to get the PawSox off of their current 3-game losing skid.

Owens was 14-4 with a 2.60 ERA in 20 starts for Portland this season. He led the Eastern League in wins – his 14 victories are currently the most in all of professional baseball – and strikeouts (126 SO in 121 IP) and was 2nd in the league in ERA to teammate Brian Johnson (who has a 2.05 ERA). Owens also paced the EL in complete games (3), lowest batting average against (.201) and highest SO/9 IP ratio (9.37). He was 3rd in the league in WHIP (1.12) and 4th in fewest baserunners/9 IP ratio (10.34).

The 6’6”, 205 lbs. California native was Boston’s supplemental-round selection (#36 overall) in the 2011 June draft as compensation for the Red Sox losing Victor Martinez to free agency. He entered this season as Boston’s #2 ranked prospect and the #2 left-handed pitching prospect in baseball according to Baseball America.

Kelly O'Connor

Kelly O’Connor


In 2013, he led all full-season minor league qualifiers with a .177 opponent average against in 26 starts between Salem (high-A) and Portland (AA). He ranked 2nd among all minor leaguers with 169 strikeouts (the most by a Red Sox farmhand since Clay Buchholz had 171 SO in 2007). And Henry also topped full-season minor league Red Sox pitchers with a 2.67 ERA (going 8-5, 2.92 in 20 GS for Salem and 3-1, 1.78 in 6 GS for Portland last season).

This season, Owens helped lead 1st-place Portland to a 71-42 record as his 14 victories were already a new Portland franchise-record. He began the year with a complete-game, 6-inning no-hitter in an Opening Night victory at Reading, 5-0 on April 3 as the game was called after 6-innings due to rain. Owens struck out 9 and walked just 2 batters (both of those coming in the 1st-inning). He retired the final 16 batters he faced and did not allow a ball out of the infield. He followed that up with 6.2 scoreless innings (also with 9 SO) in a win at Trenton in his next start on April 9.

Henry posted a 9-game winning streak (a Portland record) from May 24 – July 19 and during that stretch also put together a Sea Dogs’ record 27.2 consecutive scoreless inning streak (over four starts) from May 24 – June 14. He tied his career-high with 11 strikeouts in a win vs. New Britain on July 6 when he also matched his career-high working 8-innings (allowing 1 run). Owens was a consistent 6-2, 2.54 in 9 starts at home and 8-2, 2.66 in 11 starts on the road.

Owens started the Futures Game on July 13 in Minnesota (1 IP, 1 H, 1 SO) and was named an Eastern League mid-season All-Star but did not participate in the game.

Joining Owens on the PawSox roster today is the top catching prospect in the Red Sox system, Blake Swihart. The 22-year-old began the season with Double-A Portland batting .300 with 12 HR (career high), 23 2B, 55 RBI, 47 runs and 7 SB in 92 games. He was also an Eastern League All-Star and was leading Eastern League catchers in nabbing 47.5% (28 of 59) of would be base stealers.
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The 22-year-old was rated as the 5th overall prospect in the system prior to the season and the 27th best prospect in all of baseball according to MLB.com. Owens was #23 on that same list which was produced at the All-Star Break. He was a 1st round pick (26th overall) in 2011 out of V. Sue Cleveland High School in New Mexico…10 spots ahead of Owens.

Swihart is in the starting lineup and batting 8th tonight. Of the 10 played in the lineup, including Owens on the mound, 6 began the season in Portland (Shaw, Rivero, Marrero, Swihart, Gibson, Owens).

Should be an exciting night at McCoy!

Jeff
@jlevering4
jlevering@pawsox.com

The Aftermath of the Trade Deadline

I feel like Will Ferrell’s character, Frank “The Tank” Ricard, in “Old School” after he debated the “Ragin’ Cajun” James Carville on the role of government in supporting innovation in the field of biotechnology at the end of the movie…Very sophisticated response…”What happened? I blacked out”…

It was the MOST exciting Trade Deadline with more major moves that I can ever remember. The Tigers, wow, what a steal. The Cardinals got better with their rotation. The Rays, WHAT was that?! The Pirates, quietly made a couple big moves. And the Red Sox…some people hate it, some people love it, I think it’s a solid move and the Red Sox will be a better team, especially in 2015.

So, if you decided to take a break from technology yesterday and happened to not hear the news, well, the Red Sox are now the Boston PawSox.

Here’s a recap of yesterday’s events, JUST FROM THE RED SOX…
Acquired outfielder Yoenis Cespedes and 2015 compensatory draft pick from Athletics in exchange for Jon Lester, Jonny Gomes, and cash
Acquired righty Joe Kelly and first baseman/outfielder Allen Craig from Cardinals in exchange for righty John Lackey, lefty Corey Littrell, and cash
Acquired lefty Eduardo Rodriguez from Orioles in exchange for lefty Andrew Miller
Acquired infielder Kelly Johnson from Yankees in exchange for infielder Stephen Drew and cash
And today INF/OF Mike Carp was designated for assignment

This happened on Thursday…
Acquired player to be named later from Cubs in exchange for lefty Felix Doubront

This happened last week…
Acquired lefty Edwin Escobar and righty Heath Hembree from Giants in exchange for righty Jake Peavy

If this were the Oprah Show…Everyone would get a puppy.
IMG_6668

Did you get all that? I’m still trying to figure it all out.

What I do know is how this all effects the PawSox. Boston’s new pitching rotation, including the Major League debut of Anthony Ranaudo tonight against the Yankees is now four-fifths PawSox from this year. Clay Buchholz, Allen Webster, Rubby De La Rosa, Brandon Workman and Ranaudo. Joe Kelly will take one of those rotation spots when he reports to Boston, so someone will come back to Pawtucket. Kelly is a great player with a very good arm. I saw him as he was coming up Double-A Springfield and he sat 94-97 with the fastball with sink. Red Sox Nation should be excited to see him every 5th day.

The trade of Stephen Drew shifts Xander Bogaerts back to shortstop and allows Will Middlebrooks to finally end his rehab assignments (4 of them) and be activate for the first time since May 16.

LHP Tommy Layne and RHP Alex Wilson have been recalled to Boston to fill the spot of Andrew Miller (traded to Baltimore). INF/OF Mookie Betts was recalled earlier today…

Allen Craig, just acquired from the Cardinals, will play in the outfield and can fill in at first base when Napoli need a day off. Yoenis Cepedes is now in the outfield (RF or LF, to be determined). Kelly Johnson, when activated from the DL, can fill in at second, third and short (basically Brock Holt lite).

So who’s left and who’s coming in for the PawSox…

- INF Ryan Roberts was placed on the DL after re-aggravating his left ankle sprain.
– INF/OF Derrik Gibson transferred from Portland
– RHP Jose Valdez (who has been on the DL since July 19) was activated from the disabled list.
– RHP Mike McCarthy was transferred from Portland (9-4, 4.64 ERA in 22 games, 12 starts with the Sea Dogs) and will be available tonight out of the bullpen. He’ll more than likely piggy back with John Ely, who’s making a spot start to fill Ranaudo’s spot.
ANNNNNNNDDDD….
– Top Red Sox pitching Prospect, LHP HENRY OWENS, is Pawtucket bound. The Sea Dogs ace was leading professional baseball with 14 wins and owned 2.60 ERA in 20 starts (126 k’s in 121 IP) while holding Double-A batters to a .201 batting average. He is tentatively scheduled to pitch for Pawtucket Monday night against Columbus.

So, that’s all…whew…I’m a little tired just thinking about it.

Oh yeah…and the PawSox are now tied for 1st in the North Division after their walk-off win Thursday afternoon.

Pawtucket looks for a sweep against the Chiefs tonight at 7:05pm…and the PawSox haven’t lost a game at home since July 3rd!

Thanks for reading, keep the faith!

Jeff
@jlevering4
jlevering@pawsox.com

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