It was a busy weekend for pre-game ceremonies at Fenway Park. Not only was Derek Jeter honored (over and over again), but the Boston Red Sox also announced their minor league award winners Saturday.
LHP Brian Johnson won the prestigious Pitcher of the Year award. In a year where he had very stiff competition within the system with standout seasons by Henry Owens, Anthony Ranaudo and Matt Barnes, Johnson stood above the rest.
The 23-year-old Johnson went 13-3 with a 2.13 ERA (34 ER/143.2 IP) and 132 strikeouts compared to 39 walks in 25 starts combined between high Class A Salem and Double-A Portland. He posted the best ERA among qualifying Red Sox farmhands and ranked among organization leaders in wins (3rd) and strikeouts (2nd). He finished off his stellar season with a start in the Game 2 of the Governors’ Cup Finals against Durham tossing six innings of two run ball while allowing just four hits and striking out seven. Not a bad Triple-A Debut.
Shortstop Deven Marrero received the Defensive Player of the Year Award, and was at Fenway on the day Derek Jeter was playing in his second-to-last Major League game.
“It’s awesome. That’s someone who I want to be,” said Marrero to MLB.com’s Ian Browne. “I want to be the Derek Jeter of the Red Sox. That’s my goal. He does everything right. He plays the game hard. He’s a champion. That’s all I want to be. To see him finish out like this is so cool. I really wish I could have played with him on the same field, but I just want to continue his legacy. I hope I can continue that in Boston.”
Marrero played in 50 games with the PawSox, all at shortstop, and committed just six errors in 219 total chances. He also took part in 34 double plays. In Portland, Marrero played in 66 games making, again, just 6 errors in 271 chances. All told, in 116 games his fielding percentage was .976.
Mookie Betts, who excelled for the Red Sox over the final six weeks of the season, earned the club’s Offensive Player of the Year. Kind of a no brainer here as the 21-year-old (22 next Tuesday) combined between Portland and Pawtucket hit .346 with 11 homers, 30 doubles, 5 triples, 65 RBI, 87 runs scored and 33 stolen bases. He walked 61 times and struck out only 50 times in 399 at bats over 99 minor league games.
Promoted to Boston three different times, his first June 28th, Betts hit .291 in 52 games with 5 HR, 18 RBI and 34 runs scored.
More importantly, when he was with the PawSox, the team was 30-15 in his 45 games including winning 20 of their last 26 with him in the lineup. His .335 average, 31 runs, 31 RBI and 5 homers in such a short amount of time with the club garnered him team MVP honors.
This one swing of the bat, the day before going up to the big leagues for a 2nd time, might have been his most notable with the team.
Manuel Margot is the Baserunner of the Year. Outfielder Rawinson Lameda is the Latin Program Player of the Year, while righty Daniel Gonzalez earned the Latin Program Pitcher of the Year.
Catcher Dan Butler, who finished the season in the Majors, got the Lou Gorman Award, given annually to a player who demonstrated dedication and perseverance. For a guy who was not drafted and signed as a minor league free agent after Red Sox scouts saw him in the Cape Cod summer league, he made his big league debut August 10th in Los Angeles against the Angels. Butler went 4-for-19 (.211) in his 7 games with Boston and got his first big league hit Sept. 10 at Fenway against Baltimore. He was the PawSox team MVP in 2013.
Steven Wright won the Lou Gorman award last year.
Congrats to all the award winners. Very well deserved.
Thanks for reading!
If you’ve watched the Red Sox this year, and judging by the folks that read this blog consistently you have, you’ve noticed the influx of players from Pawtucket that have made a LARGE impact on the big league club this season.
In fact, in Wednesday night’s game against Tampa Bay, 13 of the 15 players that played in the game, spent time in a PawSox uniform this year. Of the starting 10 (starting pitcher included), 8 were in Pawtucket.
Here was the starting lineup
The only two that weren’t with Pawtucket at any time were Bogaerts and Cespedes. Craig rehabbed for two games. Nava spent a month with the PawSox in late April and into May and the others were key members to the PawSox Governors’ Cup Championship.
The Red Sox also used Drake Britton (still yet to allow a run in the big leagues this year) and PawSox playoff start Edwin Escobar out of the bullpen. Ryan Lavarnway entered that game as a sub as did Dan Butler and Jackie Bradley Jr.
13 out of 15…that’s representing!
Anthony Ranaudo earned his 18th victory of 2014 (14 with Pawtucket and 4 with Boston now). An impressive season of a talented guy. And a PawSox…ahem, I mean a Red Sox 11-3 victory.
Oh and Garin Cecchini did this…
Fast forward to Thursday night and the same starting 9 were out there…Betts, Bogaerts, Nava, Cespedes, Craig, Cecchini, Castillo, Brentz and Vazquez with Allen Webster starting on the mound. Then manager John Farrell used Alex Wilson and Koji out of the bullpen and Bradley Jr and Lavarnway off the bench…only 3 did not spend time in Pawtucket…11 out of 14.
And the rookies, AGAIN, did work.
That’s three rookies in two days to hit their first career big league dinger; Cecchini, Castillo and Vazquez. Impressive stuff and certainly at the right time with a flurry of moves expected in the offseason.
In the game Thursday, Castillo (2-for-4, 3 RBI), Brentz (2-for-4, RBI) and Vazquez (4-for-4, 3 RBI) combined to go 8-for-12 with 2 HR, 2 2B, 7 RBI and 6 runs scored for the 7-8-9 spots in the order. And an 11-1 win behind seven dominant innings from Allen Webster.
Brentz is now hitting .400 (6-for-15) in 6 games since his call up, still waiting for his first homer.
Of all the guys that could have been called up after the PawSox season ended, I was happiest to see Bryce get his first chance. A player riddled with injuries the last two seasons, he came on strong in August this year and was a key cog in the PawSox lineup in the playoffs.
Now the Yankees come to Fenway for the final three days of the regular season. Not much to play for other than pride AND Derek Jeter’s final hurrah. Pretty nice way to go out at Yankee Stadium though. A walk off winner for the Captain. Impressive.
Baby watch 2014 still continues (for now) and today is our due date and Little Levo is still subletting mama’s high rent apartment! Eviction notice is coming soon.
Enjoy the final weekend of Red Sox baseball for the 2014 season. Should be a fun race for the teams still in the hunt!
Thanks for reading,
As is the tradition with every baseball team over the years, the Rookies get to strut their stuff at the end of the season in the major leagues.
For the most part, rookies, especially bullpen guys, have to carry the bullpen bag (the bag with snacks, gum and other things) and that’s extent to their hazing, at least publicly.
But, at the end of the year, all team’s rookies get dressed up for their final road trip.
The veterans pick out the most embarrassing outfits for the newbies, make them change into their new gear in the clubhouse and get on and off the plane still dressed up like it’s a “Bad Costume Halloween Party”.
Just as an example, here are former PawSox OF Bryce Brentz and C Dan Butler
— bryce brentz (@Bbrentz7) September 21, 2014
Here’s IL Pitcher of the Year Anthony Ranaudo and the rest of the rookies.
Rookie Dress Up Day! 😳 pic.twitter.com/uA7ARUMHc1
— Anthony Ranaudo (@anthony_ranaudo) September 21, 2014
This is from 2013…
Here's what a few of us look like… pic.twitter.com/YOLYYatU87
— Ryan Lavarnway (@RyanLavarnway) September 23, 2013
And if you thought this was just only a Red Sox thing…
Here are the Blue Jays Rookies
— Brendan Kennedy (@BKennedyStar) September 14, 2014
— Marcus Stroman (@MStrooo7) September 14, 2014
The Tampa Bay Rays in Mario Kart outfits.
— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) September 12, 2014
— Justin Verlander (@JustinVerlander) September 14, 2014
— Nikole Marie (@NikoleMarieee) September 8, 2014
The rookies got the chance to dress up like their favorite superhero for the trip to Washington. pic.twitter.com/CAJZwtPPDR
— New York Mets (@Mets) September 21, 2014
The Mets from 2013…
— New York Mets (@Mets) September 22, 2013
The Diamondbacks from 2013…
— Sir Didi Gregorius (@DidiG18) September 22, 2013
Great stuff, huh?!
It must be the offseason, doing a blog about the rookie dress up day.
Hope you enjoyed your first PawSox-less weekend since March. It was tough not going to a ballpark to go to work on the weekend, but certainly was nice to relax a bit before the newest edition of the Levering family is set to debut sometime this week (due Friday).
Thanks for reading!
The winner take all Game 5 was never in doubt.
The PawSox rode their momentum from their thrilling, 13-inning Game 4 victory into Saturday night’s game in Durham and led wire to wire.
Bryce Brentz, who’d had just one hit in the Finals, ripped an RBI double into the left field corner to give the Sox a 1-0 lead in the 1st inning.
In the 3rd, Rusney Castillo hit a ground-rule double to right center, stole third (after being picked off and got out of a run down safely) and scored on Ivan De Jesus sacrifice fly.
Ryan Lavarnway continued his hot hitting in the finals by blasting a solo homer in the 5th to go up 3-0.
Keith Couch, working on 17 days rest, showed ZERO rust. He dominated the Bulls lineup with his array of sinkers, sliders, changeups and curveballs for 6.2 scoreless and 1 hit innings. Only four men reached against him the whole night (2 BB and a HBP) and only one batter/runner reached scoring position.
Pawtucket added another run to their total in the 8th as Garin Cecchini doubled and Corey Brown doubled him home to grab a 4-0 lead with just six more outs to get.
The 4-0 lead felt like 10-0 the way that Couch was pitching. Miguel Celestino entered with two outs in the 7th and gave up a base hit to put runners on the corners before striking out Wilson Betamit looking to end the lone Durham threat in the game. Celestino would allow a solo homer in the 9th, but the Sox needed just two more outs to get.
A ground ball to Garin Cecchini…out number two.
Then…one pitch later…
The Cup returns to Pawtucket!
What was almost eerie was that is was EXACTLY two years to the day that the PawSox ended their 28 year Cup winning drought by beating Charlotte in 2012 in a sweep. The score of that game…Also 4-1.
And this is what ensued on the Durham Bulls home field (a year after the Bulls celebrated a title at McCoy a year ago today)
What a way to end the season…on top of the International League!
Needing to win two in a row, the PawSox did it.
Pawtucket was down to their final strike in Game 4 (Castillo game tying single) and final inch (Brentz throwing out winning run at the plate in the 10th) and they found a way to win.
Now they get to hoist the cup for the second time in three years and their fourth overall in Franchise History (1973, 1984, 2012, and now 2014).
What a team…what a staff…what a ride! I’m just honored to have been a part of it for every nail biting pitch.
Now it’s on to the Triple-A Championship Game in Charlotte. Pawtucket against the winner of the PCL, the Omaha Storm Chasers, for a one game showdown for Triple-A supremacy. The PawSox have never won the National Title. Reno won it 2012, Omaha in 2013. The PawSox are hoping for a win to bring the trophy back to the International League.
Pawtucket will send LHP Edwin Escobar, who has been unreal in the playoffs (1-0, 1.72 ERA, 3 ER in 15.2 IP with 12 strikeouts and no walks), to the hill Tuesday night.
This National Championship game will be televised nationally on the NBC Sports network at 7pm Tuesday night and will also be available along the PawSox Radio Network.
Hope you’ve enjoyed the 2014 season as much as I have…It has been a wild ride!
Thanks for reading and listening!
Well, Game 4 was fun, huh?! Wow! The win extended their season and there were three absolutely key reasons why.
According to PawSox Manager, “One of the single best games I’ve ever been a part of”.
I can’t disagree.
Pawtucket was down to their finals strike…
Rusney Castillo keeps the season alive.
All square 2-2 in the 10th after 2.1 scoreless innings of relief from Dalier Hinojosa out of the bullpen, Ryan Verdugo issued a four pitch walk to Cole Figueroa. Then it was closer Heath Hembree in to pitch. Figueroa stole 2nd to set up Hembree vs. Mikie Mahtook, Durham’s team leader in RBI.
If my call didn’t describe it well enough, here’s the video.
The most impressive part to me was Swihart’s pick at the plate. Take nothing away from the great throw by Brentz, but the pick and tag was what made the play happen and AGAIN saved the PawSox season.
Pawtucket failed to score in both the 11th and 12th innings, but in the 13th, they finally broke through thanks to Ivan De Jesus.
For Ivan, a guy traded to Boston from Baltimore on the second to last day of the regular season, it was his first homer of the playoffs and his first pair of RBI in the series.
Don’t let the fantastic start by Eddy Rodriguez go by the way side either. The 21-year-old was dazzling in his Triple-A debut allowing just two runs (all in the 4th) on six hits with six strikeouts. All those who were really frustrated with the trade of Andrew Miller, to get Rodriguez in return was a terrific return. 94-96 MPH from the left side with a great changeup and slider…Nasty!
Pawtucket’s bullpen continued to be outstanding in the series. They’ve allowed just 2 ER in the first four games of the series and have allowed just 1 run in the last two games; none last night in 6 innings.
So now it comes down to this. Game Five TONIGHT!
Pawtucket turns to Keith Couch who has made exactly 1 Triple-A appearance in his career (8/6/13 at Buffalo). He was 8-2 with a 2.96 ERA in 18 games with Portland, but has not made an appearance in 17 days, Aug. 27 vs. Reading.
This will be the PawSox first postseason Game 5 since last year’s Semi-Final round against Rochester…which Pawtucket won. It’s their first Game 5 in the finals since 1984 when the PawSox beat Maine for their 2nd Governors’ Cup Title in franchise history.
For Durham, they lost their last Game 5 in the finals in 2007 to Richmond, also the last Game 5 in the Championship Round. They also lost in 1998 to Buffalo in a Game 5.
It’s win or go home time…and the players aren’t ready to go home yet!
Let’s go PawSox!
The PawSox held on to win Game 1 of the Governors’ Cup Finals over Durham, 3-2. (Nice, blanket opening statement…)
The game within the game saw Pawtucket snap their 29-inning scoreless streak in Cup play, a stretch that went back to the 3rd inning of Game 2 of the 2013 Finals against these same Bulls. Travis Shaw broke that inauspicious run in the 1st inning with his 2-out RBI single back up the middle.
Shaw continues his torrid postseason at the plate as he’s hit .462 (6-for-13) with 2 doubles, a homer, 4 walks, 3 RBI and 5 runs scored. He has at least one hit in all four games Pawtucket has played thus far (all four wins).
Pawtucket added to their lead in the 2nd after Blake Swihart (5-for-10 in the playoffs) doubled and scored on Deven Marrero’s RBI single.
PawSox starter Edwin Escobar picked up right were he left off from his Game 1 start in the Semi-Finals against Syracuse where he went 8.2 innings and fell just an out short of a complete game shutout.
Through the first two frames, Escobar allowed just a bloop single and had struck out three. He did, however, run into a little trouble in the 3rd, his lone “rough” inning of his start. With one out, Escobar allowed back to back singles before a softly hit ground ball advanced runners to second and third with two out. Mikie Mahtook, a former 1st round out of LSU and Post Season All-Star in IL, singled back up the middle to plate both runners and tie the game 2-2.
One common theme to this 2014 PawSox club is that they respond quickly after giving up runs. Game 1 of the Finals was no different. Again, with one out, Ryan Lavarnway singled and Alex Hassan singled putting runners on the corners. Garin Cecchini, who has been a big time run producer in the playoffs and led the team in the regular season, battled with starter Enny Romero for 11 pitches before lifting a sacrifice fly to deep left to put Pawtucket in front 3-2.
Escobar, after his hiccup in the 3rd, dominated over the his final 4 innings. He allowed just a pair of singles and did not allow any Bull to reach scoring position. In all, the 22-year-old lefty (acquired in the Jake Peavy trade in July with San Francisco) went 7 innings allowing 2 ER, on 6 hits (all singles) and 5 strikeouts. He did not walk a batter, the second straight start he had not issued a free pass. Now his total Playoff numbers are 15.2 IP, 3 ER (1.72 ERA), 12 hits, ZERO walks, and 12 strikeouts. That’s what you like to see out of your Game 1 starter.
The bullpen came in still leading by just a run in the 8th. Dalier Hinojosa got a fly out for the 1st out, before issuing a walk. He then struck out Mahtook for the second out. With a lefty coming to the plate, Manager Kevin Boles went to lefty Ryan Verdugo out of the bullpen, who hadn’t pitched since the 28th of August in Lehigh Valley. After getting ahead, Verdugo issued a walk to put the tying run in scoring position. Those, by the way, were the first walks in the game. Heath Hembree was summoned from the bullpen, the 3rd pitcher used in the frame, to face former 1st overall pick in the 2008 draft, Tim Beckham. The two battled for 8 pitches before Hembree finally blew him away with a high fastball to end the 8th, stranding a pair of runners.
In the 9th, Hembree went out to convert a four out save. On the first pitch, Vince Belnome singled. After a strikeout, Wilson Betemit drew a walk. Ray Olmedo, the 33-year-old veteran, singled to right field. Bulls’ Manager Charlie Montoyo had a choice, send the runner from second and try to tie the game, or hold him up. After initially waving the runner home, Montoyo put up an emphatic stop sign as his runner touched third leaving the bases loaded.
Hindsight is always 20/20…but had he sent the runner, the play at the plate would have been really close. Alex Hassan’s throw was on line, but was deflected by the cut-off man Shaw. Had it gone all the way through…your guess is as good as mine.
When the goin’ got tough, Hembree got goin’. He struck out his former teammate in the Giants Organization, Justin Christian on three pitches, two sliders then some high cheese for the second out. One more man to get, the pesky Cole Figueroa…
Game 1 was in the books…albeit a sweaty palmed, drama filled 3-2 victory.
Brian Johnson will make his Triple-A debut tonight in Game 2. He was 13-3 with an organization leading 2.13 ERA in his time with both Salem and Portland. He won the Eastern League ERA title putting up a 1.75 ERA in 20 starts with the Sea Dogs. Johnson will be opposed by RHP Alex Colome, who tossed 8 shutout innings against Pawtucket June 5th in Durham.
It’s the final game at McCoy Stadium, no matter what…So if you haven’t seen a game in 2014, tonight is your last chance!
Thanks for reading and Go PawSox!
The Boston Red Sox today promoted three heralded players to Pawtucket from Double-A Portland and all three will be active and on the PawSox Governors’ Cup Roster. OF Rusney Castillo, LHP Brian Johnson, and LHP Eduardo Rodriguez will be with the PawSox when they begin the Governors’ Cup Finals vs. the Durham Bulls tonight at McCoy Stadium. Castillo will lead-off for the PawSox tonight and play CF. Johnson will start Game 2 tomorrow night in Pawtucket and Rodriguez will start Game 4 (if necessary) Friday night in Durham.
Games 1 & 2 of this best 3 out of 5 championship series will be tonight and tomorrow night both at 7:05 pm at McCoy. The series will move to Durham for Game 3 on Thursday at 7:05 pm with Games 4 & 5 if necessary on Friday & Saturday also in Durham at 7:05 pm.
Rusney Castillo, 27, signed a seven-year major league with Boston on August 23 after defecting from Cuba in December of 2013. He made his Red Sox organizational debut with the Gulf Coast Rookie Red Sox during their Championship Series victory over the Yankees playing in Games 2 and 3 of that series on August 31 and September 1 (going 1-for-5 with a walk and RBI in those two games). Rusney (pronounced roos-NAY) was assigned to Double-A Portland this past Wednesday (September 3) and he appeared in four games for the Sea Dogs during their playoff semi-final series loss to Binghamton, 3 games to 2. Castillo played in Games 1, 3, 4 and 5 going 5-for-14 (.357) with 2 2B, 1 BB, 2 RBI, 1 SB, and 4 runs scored. He played 3 games in CF and was the DH in Game 5.
The 5’9”, 205 lbs. Castillo last played in Cuba during the 2012-13 season when he hit .274 with 6 HR & 29 RBI in 68 games for Ciego de Avila in Cuba’s major league, Serie Nacional. He spent all five seasons with his hometown team, Ciego de Availa, hitting .319 with 75 2B, 11 3B, 51 HR, and 76 SB in 360 career games. In 2011-12 he hit .342 in 113 games with 21 HR to lead Ciego de Availa to the Series Nacional Championship. In 2011, Castillo also represented Cuba in the Baseball World Cup and the Pan American Games. He established residency in Haiti before signing with the Red Sox.
Brian Johnson, 23, was 10-2 with a Double-A best 1.75 ERA in 20 starts for Portland this season. His ERA was the lowest in the Eastern League since 1985 when Brad Arnsberg of Albany led the league with a 1.59 ERA. Johnson finished the season as the Sea Dogs’ franchise leader in single season and career ERA (both records were held by Jon Lester). Brian began this year with Single-A Salem (3-1, 3.86 in 5 GS) so overall was 13-3 with a 2.13 ERA in 25 starts this season. He pitched Game 1 of the Eastern League playoffs on September 3 at Binghamton leaving with a 5-2 lead after 7-innings in a game the Mets came back to win, 8-5 – 7 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 8 SO.
Johnson was a sandwich pick of the Red Sox between the 1st and 2nd rounds (31st overall) in the 2012 June draft out of the University of Florida (where he was a star pitcher and 1B/DH) as compensation for the Red Sox losing Jonathan Papelbon to free agency. Last season he posted a 2.54 ERA in 19 starts spent mainly at Single-A Greenville. This season he was brilliant for Double-A Portland allowing 2 earned runs or less in 19 of his 20 starts. From July 12 through the end of the regular-season he allowed 1 earned run or no runs in each of his final 8 starts going 3-0 with a 0.68 ERA (4 ER in 53.1 IP). His final line with Portland – 10-2, 1.75 ERA in 20 GS with 2 CG – 118 IP, 78 H, 29 R, 23 ER, 32 BB, 99 SO, .189 opponent average.
Eduardo Rodriguez, 21, was acquired by Boston from Baltimore (Double-A Bowie) on July 31 in exchange for LHP Andrew Miller. Eduardo was outstanding after joining Portland going 3-1 with a 0.96 ERA in 6 starts for the Sea Dogs (all during the month of August) – 37.1 IP, 30 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 8 BB, 39 SO – holding opponents to a .222 average. He allowed 1 run or less in all 6 starts pitching at least into the 6th-inning in all as well. Rodriguez also started Game 3 of the Eastern League semi-finals at home against Binghamton on September 5 receiving no-decision in a 6-3 Portland win – 6.2 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 6 SO.
Rodriguez entered the 2014 season as the #3 prospect in the Orioles system behind only pitchers Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman. He was the Opening Day starter for Double-A Bowie this season (April 3rd) and went 3-7 with a 4.79 ERA in 16 starts for the Baysox before being dealt to Boston. The Venezuelan native appeared for the World Team in the 2013 MLB Futures Game at Citi Field in New York. In five professional seasons he has a career ERA of 3.26 along with 418 strikeouts in 486.1 innings pitched.
For a full preview of the series, follow this link for a preview from IL Assistant to the President, Chris Sprague.
Let’s Go PawSox!
It’s a rematch…PawSox and Durham for the Governors’ Cup in 2014. These same two teams matched up in last years finals with the Bulls winning the series in four games (and celebrated at McCoy Stadium). This will be the third match-up in the finals between the two clubs, they also met in 2003, won, again, by Durham.
Before we get into the match-up between the PawSox and Bulls, we must go back to how we got to here.
In the last post, we talked about the wild 2-1, 10-inning victory for Pawtucket on Wednesday night to grab a 1-0 series lead over Syracuse.
Game 2 was utterly dominated by Pawtucket from the first pitch of the game. The PawSox offense staked starter Matt Barnes to a three run lead after the 1st inning (an RBI double by Travis Shaw, and RBI ground out by Ryan Lavarnway and an RBI single by Garin Cecchini).
That would be all the run support Barnes would need. After he allowed a lead-off infield single in the 2nd, Barnes retired the next 13 batters in a row. After a one-out 6th inning double, Barnes got the next four. In the 7th, a two out single (just the third hit for the Chiefs) led to a ground out to first which closed the book for Barnes.
The totals: 7 innings. 0 Runs. 3 hits. ZERO walks and 6 strikeouts. He retired 18 of the final 20 batters he faced and only ONE Chiefs batter reached 2nd base against him. AND he only failed to throw a 1st pitch strike to 7 of 24 batters faced. That’s working ahead and staying ahead!
Barnes’ string of excellence continued. Over his final 6 starts of the regular season, the former 1st rounder went 3-1 with a 2.16 ERA (10 ER/41.2 IP) with 38 strikeouts, only 10 walks and opponents hit just .164 against him. Those figures don’t include his playoff start Thursday.
Through the first two games of the series, PawSox starters Edwin Escboar and Matt Barnes had combined to throw 15.2 innings allowing just ONE run on 9 hits with no walks and 13 strikeouts.
For good measure, the PawSox offense built an 8-0 lead after 7 innings after plating three in the 6th and two more in the 7th.
Garin Cecchini, a day after winning Game 1 in the 10th, went 4-for-4 with a triple, 2 RBI and 2 runs scored. The man who hit behind him in the order, Ryan Roberts, went 3-for-4 with a double and 3 RBI. Combined, the two were 7-for-8 with a double, a triple, 5 RBI and three runs scored in the PawSox 8-2 blowout to take the first two games of the series.
Needing just one more win in Syracuse to clinch a berth in the Governors’ Cup Finals. Pawtucket went to lefty/mega-prospect Henry Owens to try and seal the series. Owens, coincidentally, was on the hill Sunday night (and into Monday morning) and got the win when the PawSox clinched the Wild Card.
Owens has been plagued in his brief Triple-A career big the “big inning”. In four of his six starts in August, Owens allowed 3 runs or more in an inning. BUT, for the majority, those would be the only runs he’d allow over the course of the start.
Friday night, it was the 2nd inning that would be Owens’ tough one as he allowed the Chiefs to score four times (two on a two-run double by Will Rhymes and two on a two-run homer from Manny Burriss). Entering play Friday, Syracuse had score a TOTAL of three runs in the first two games of the series. But, they held a 4-0 lead after two. Bear-in-mind that Syracuse did not lose a game that they held at least a four-run lead in ALL SEASON.
Pawtucket, as they did throughout the season, would chip away. They’d plate two in the 3rd thanks to a throwing error on a routine double-play by Will Rhymes on the rally to 1st, and a two-out RBI single by Bryce Brentz.
They’d tack on another in the 4th on a two-out RBI double by Alex Hassan (who batted lead-off for the first time since April 24th after Jackie Bradley Jr. was recalled by Boston before the game) to make it s 4-3 game.
Owens, despite the rough 2nd, got through a scoreless third before loading the bases with no outs in the 4th. To me, this was the key inning. Syracuse led by one and the PawSox could ill afford to trail by any more than two facing a tough bullpen over the final six frames. Owens, I thought, did his best pitching in this inning after the bases were loaded. He’d strike out #2 batter Michael Taylor on a change-up down in the zone before allowing a sacrifice fly to IL RBI leader Brandon Laird to make the score 5-3. Giving up just the sac-fly was key as Owens struck out Destin Hood on yet another change-up to end the inning with the PawSox still within striking distance.
Owens would leave after that strikeout allowing a Triple-A season high of 5 runs on 8 hits while walking 3 and striking out 6. He’d throw 86 pitches, 52 for strikes and only faced SIX batters out of the wind up all night. That’s a ton of high-stress pitching.
After a scoreless 5th for both clubs, PawSox OF Corey Brown did this…
After he lead the team with 17 homers in the regular season, Brown brought Pawtucket within one again, 5-4. The Tampa, FL native, who had played parts of the 2011 thru 2013 seasons with Syracuse would up hitting five homers against his former organization during the season (that blast included). Two of those homers gave the PawSox the lead.
Syracuse, again, padded their lead, this time against reliever Dalier Hinojosa in the 6th on an RBI single by Laird to give them their two-run lead back, 6-4.
Into the 7th down and pair, the PawSox had to face lefty Matt Grace. The former UCLA Bruin had had a fantastic 2014 season between Double-A Harrisburg and Syracuse amassing a 5-1 record with a 1.17 ERA (10 ER/77 IP) and holding opponents to a .211 batting average in 50 games. Pawtucket had scored ONE run against Grace in the regular season (including 2 scoreless innings in Game 1).
Grace would strikeout the first batter in the inning. Travis Shaw followed with an infield single to shortstop. Brentz then doubled off the center field fence putting the tying run at 2nd base. Up came Ryan Lavarnway, who was 0-for-10 in the series having stranded 9 men on base. But with the game on the line and a 1-2 count…
Clutch for Lavarnway who has battled a broken Hamate bone and concussion like symptoms this season to tie the game for the first time since it was 0-0 in the 2nd.
Cecchini followed by hitting a ground ball to the right side. Will Rhymes dove into the hole between 1st and 2nd and tried to get the lead runner Lavarnway at second base. However, his throw was not a good one and it got by Burriss and all the way into foul territory down the left field line allowing Lavarwnway to move to third and Cecchini up to second.
Grace battled back to strike out Corey Brown for the second out. It was then 22-year-old Blake Swihart’s turn. He wasted no time going after the 1st pitch.
For the 1st time in the game, the PawSox held the lead, 7-6, thanks to Swihart’s speed to get up the first base line to beat Burriss’ throw from the hole.
Pawtucket went to Jose Valdez out of the bullpen for the 7th. Valdez had pitched sparingly in the regular season, just 11 games, but he was thrust into action needing to cover some critical innings after Hinojosa’s two frames (1 ER, 2 H, 2 BB).
Valdez walked the lead-off man (uh-oh)…but then got a ground out to force out the runner at 2nd base. After another walk, the PawSox 7th issued in the game, Josh Johnson strode to the plate with the tying run at 2nd base.
A unique double play…Honestly, I’d never seen anything like it in my career broadcasting OR playing. For Ryan Roberts, he was at the right place at the right time and Eury Perez, the runner at 2nd, a horrendous read of the line drive. The Chief’s loss was the PawSox gain. Six outs away from a trip to the finals and a series sweep.
Valdez then retired the first two batters in the 8th, Burriss (the first time he’d been retired all night) and Michael Taylor before giving way to closer Heath Hembree to try and get a four-out save.
Hembree made things interesting after allowing a single and a walk to, AGAIN, put the tying run at second and the go-ahead run at first. Roberts came up with another clutch play being at the right place at the right time (yours truly on the call).
Three more outs to get.
Hembree went out for the 9th. He’d get a routine fly ball to left for the first out. Eury Perez fouled out to Shaw at 1st for the second out. One more out to get and it was Will Rhymes at the plate (my call).
To get a visual of the play (Kevin Brown of Syracuse on the call)
That completed the comeback…it completed the second playoff series sweep in franchise history (2012 Governors’ Cup Finals vs. Charlotte the other)…And it completed one of the oddest games I’d ever seen. Not many times does a club get away with allowing 19 base runners (11 hits and 8 walks), but the PawSox did and earned their 3rd straight berth into the Governors’ Cup Finals.
The PawSox/Bulls finals will be the first rematch in Cup Finals since 2008-2009 when Scranton beat Durham in 2008 but Durham beat Scranton in 2009. Before that you’d have to go back to 1996-97 for a rematch in Cup Finals when Columbus beat Rochester in 1996 but then Rochester beat Columbus in 1997. So, odds are in our favor!
Game 1 of the Finals will be at McCoy Stadium Tuesday night at 7:05pm. Pitching probables are TBD. Game 2 will be Wednesday, also at 7:05pm. Great tickets are still available, so stop by the stadium, give the office a call (410) 724-7300, or visit pawsox.com to get your tickets.
Pawtucket did win the season series against Durham, 5-3. The PawSox split their four games in Durham while taking 3-of-4 at McCoy. The two teams have not seen each other since July 1st.
A more in-depth preview of the series will be coming up Monday.
What a week!
Let’s go PawSox…time to bring the cup back to Pawtucket for the second time in three years!
Thanks for reading!
It was a playoff atmosphere at McCoy Stadium on Wednesday night and the PawSox sent the faithful home happy with a 2-1 walk-off win in the 10th inning to give Pawtucket a 1-0 lead in the Best of 5 Semi-Finals against Syracuse.
PawSox starter, Edwin Escobar, dealt. He matched a career high with 8.2 innings of work and fell just one out short of his first career complete game shutout. But that was not the story. Escobar, who hadn’t made a start since a disastrous 2.1 IP, 9 R, 11 H effort August 23rd in Buffalo, came out dealing in the 1st inning. He threw 15 pitches and stranded a runner at 2nd base in that 1st frame, the most in any inning ALL NIGHT!
Escobar retired eight in row two different times in the game. He did not walk a batter and struck out seven. The runner that got to 2nd in the first frame, was one of only three total batters that reached scoring position in the game for the Chiefs. With Pawtucket leading 1-0 with two outs in the 9th, All-Star third baseman Brandon Laird took a 2-1 fastball and clobbered it over the left field fence to tie the game. It was Escobar’s 99th pitch and his only mistake in the game.
Overall, it was the best outing of the season for Escobar. Utterly dominant from pitch number 1 through pitch 98 (we’ll forget about the 99th). Heath Hembree would pitch the final 1.1 innings retiring all four batters he faced in order.
A big thanks needs to go to the San Francisco Giants. Without them, the PawSox don’t have either Escobar OR Hembree. Remember, those two were acquired by Boston for Jake Peavy in July this year.
The PawSox plated the games 1st run with one swing of the bat from Travis Shaw on the first pitch of the bottom of the 6th. For Shaw, who slugged 10 homers in the regular season, it was his 1st post season home run and an absolute no doubter.
Shaw finished 2-for-3 with 2 walks and that huge homer run.
Blake Swihart finished last night’s game 3-for-4 with 3 singles and caught Escobar’s gem.
Bryce Brentz had a big game going 3-for-5 with critical double that led off the bottom of the 10th inning. After his double, both Shaw and Lavarnway walked to set up Garin Cecchini’s walk-off heroics.
It was the first time since 1997 that Pawtucket had a walk-off win in the playoffs. Then it was Jason Varitek’s sacrifice fly that plated Lou Merloni to give the PawSox a 4-3 win over Rochester (their only win in that series).
Tonight’s Game 2 features Matt Barnes (8-9, 3.95 ERA) against Scott McGregor (1-2, 3.91 ERA). Barnes has arguably been the best pitcher in the IL single the All-Star Break. He’s 4-2 with a 2.38 ERA over 8 starts with 46 k’s in 53 innings while only issuing 15 BB and allowing opponents a .167 average (31-for-186). McGregor signed as a free agent with Washington in late June (after being released by St. Louis, whom he was drafted by in the 15th round of 2008 out of Memphis). The PawSox beat McGregor last Friday 2-1 on a two-run homer by Ryan Lavarnway.
After a big win last night, the PawSox need to keep the momentum tonight. With a win in Game 2, the PawSox could go up 2-0 heading to Syracuse needing just ONE victory on the road to send Pawtucket to the Governors’ Cup Finals for the third straight year.
In a 10-4 victory over Rochester in the wee hours Monday morning, following a 3:28 long game that also featured a two hour and 28 minute delay in the middle, the PawSox celebrated a berth into the International League Playoffs. It’s their 4th straight playoff appearance, a franchise record.
That’s how a playoff team celebrates…in style!
Congrats to a special bunch…It’s been quite the ride.
Pawtucket will match up with Syracuse in the Divisional Round, a best of 5. The Syracuse Chiefs, who won the IL North regular-season championship on Saturday night at McCoy Stadium, will return to McCoy in two days to start the 1st round. Pawtucket will host Syracuse in Game 1 of the IL semi-finals on Wednesday at 7:05 pm at McCoy. Game 2 will be Thursday at 7:05 pm also at McCoy. The series will then shift to NBT Bank Stadium in Syracuse for the final three games (the last two if necessary) on Friday at 7:00 pm, Saturday at 7:00 pm, and Sunday at 1:00 pm. Pawtucket and Syracuse have met just once in the playoffs and it came 20 years (since 1994) when the Chiefs defeated the PawSox, 3 games to 1 to win the IL East Championship.
Also, tickets for all possible 2014 PawSox playoff games at McCoy Stadium are on sale now at the Box Office at McCoy. Fans can also charge tickets with any major credit card by calling the PawSox at (401) 724-7300 or visiting the PawSox website at http://www.pawsox.com. If the PawSox win their semi-final series vs. Syracuse they would advance to the Governors’ Cup Finals to play the winner of the Durham vs. Columbus series. Games 1 and 2 of the Governors’ Cup Finals would be at McCoy on September 9 & 10 both at 7:05 pm.
Let’s go PawSox!
Thanks for reading