PAWTUCKET â€“ If you werenâ€™t settled into your seat at McCoy Stadium until the second inning Thursday night, you missed a lot.
A five-run first inning highlighted by Garin Cecchiniâ€™s grand slam propelled Pawtucket to a 7-3 victory over Norfolk before 5,297. Cecchini turned on a 2-1 offering from Jason Gurka and deposited it into the right-field bullpen for his third home run of the season.
The homer enabled Cecchini to take over the club lead in RBI with 30. The previous leader was Bryce Brentz with 28. Brentz hasnâ€™t appeared in a game for the PawSox since May 15.
The win over the Tides also enables Pawtucket to reach the .500 mark for the third time this month. At 41-41, the PawSox are one of four teams in the North Division to sport a .500 or better record.
Mookie Betts wasted no time extending his on-base streak to 22 straight games with the PawSox. Playing right field for the first time as a professional, Betts led off the first inning with a walk before coming around to score on a single by Carlos Rivero.
In the field, Betts threw out a runner at third base after bobbling the ball in shallow right. The play resulted in the final out in the fifth. At the plate, Betts went 0-for-2 with two walks and two runs.
Matt Barnes picked up his third win after allowing two runs â€“ one coming on a solo home run in the fourth â€“ in 5.2 innings. The right-hander struck out five while walking three.
Andres Torres played all nine innings in center field and went 0-for-3 in his first game with Pawtucket.
Another day, another no go for Will Middlebrooks in his quest to return to the majors.
According to manager Kevin Boles, the reason why Middlebrooks was not in the lineup for the fourth consecutive game stems from â€śtenderness and swollennessâ€ť in his fractured right finger.
â€śThe fingerâ€™s a little bit swollen, so weâ€™re giving him a few days off and see how he bounces back,â€ť said Boles.
Middlebrooks was present at McCoy for the second straight day, playing catch on the field before a quick-hitting rainstorm canceled batting practice.
â€śWe need to see how he bounces back the next day. Thatâ€™s the biggest task. Weâ€™ve just got to monitor the workload, especially moving him around a little bit, doing the outfield work,â€ť Boles said. â€śIt doesnâ€™t hurt him swinging. Itâ€™s just something thatâ€™s testing him when he throws.â€ť
EXTRA BASES: The series with the Tides wraps up Friday with Allen Webster (3-4, 2.97) on the mound for Pawtucket. â€¦ Also Friday, former New England Patriots offensive lineman Joe Andruzzi will be present to sign autographs from 7:15-8:30 in the Verizon Fan Center.
Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03