By BRENDAN McGAIR
PAWTUCKET â€“ For five innings Monday night, Anthony Ranaudo was on easy street. Or so it seemed.
Yes, Ranaudo held the Toledo Mud Hens off the scoreboard through five frames, yet an interesting development took place in the fifth that may help explain why the tall right-hander struggled in the sixth inning.
As much as Ranaudoâ€™s fastball was working earlier in the contest, it disappeared in the fifth. Luckily, he was able to dip into his breaking pitches, most notably his curveball, and work his way around a leadoff walk.
"It's huge. It's not going to be the last time something like that happens where I go to another pitch and use that as my strength,â€ť Ranaudo said after the PawSox held on for a 6-4 victory over the Mud Hens. â€śFortunately I was able to do that, I was able to command the curveball and got a few outs with it in that fifth inning.â€ť
â€śI thought it was great recognition by (catcher Dan) Butler. The command was suspect later in his outing, but the use of his breaking ball started to increase. He was throwing it for strikes tonight and it really helped him out,â€ť noted PawSox manager Kevin Boles.
Ranaudo was not able to regain control of his fastball in the sixth. He was pulled after the first four Toledo batters in the frame reached via two walks, a single and a double.
"Personally, I think it's release point. It's still early in the year, and that consistency of that release point is still unfortunately a work in progress.,â€ť said Ranaudo when asked for an explanation as to why his fastball pulled a vanishing act, thus rendering him a pitcher with only a changeup and a curveball at his disposal. â€śI'm still figuring some things out. It's just something I've got to work out in between starts and do a better job of. Thatâ€™s ultimately what it comes down to.â€ť
In the end, Ranaudo registered his third win of the season. The path, however, is one he would like to avoid in future outings.
"It was pretty difficult in Lehigh Valley. The conditions were pretty tough. Tonight it seemed like all the conditions were finally perfect for me,â€ť said Ranuado, referencing Pawtucketâ€™s rain-shortened game in Allentown, Pa. last Wednesday. â€śI got out to a good start but I didnâ€™t finish strong. Thatâ€™s something I need to do a better job of especially when I have a low pitch count and on a night that I might be able to pick up the bullpen and go a little deeper. The offense did a great job putting us in a good position early, and fortunately we were able to pull out the win enough.â€ť
Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03