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PAWTUCKET â€” Despite a 6-3 matinee loss to the Syracuse Chiefs on Thursday afternoon, Pawtucket Red Sox skipper Arnie Beyeler sat in his McCoy Stadium clubhouse office afterward explaining his pleasure with three relieversâ€™ respective outings.
In a rehab assignment with Pawtucket, righty Andrew Bailey allowed just one hit and fanned two in a single-inning stint (20 pitches, 14 strikes), while Daniel Bard took over in the seventh and yielded a hit, run and two walks while whiffing one. (In the process, he hit 97 mph on the radar gun, and threw 22 pitches, 12 for strikes).
Then there was fellow righthander Jose De La Torre, who finished the final two frames with a lone hit and three strikeouts.
â€śDaniel made a nice adjustment out there (after walking the first two Chiefs and allowing three stolen bags),â€ť Beyeler stated. â€śJust the fact he got through that inning without us having to go out and get him is a plus. He got through it, and thatâ€™s progress.
â€śWe wanted to control the running game, and I thought (Bard) made that adjustment (later in the frame). I also thought he was better when he got on top of the ball.â€ť
When told he had reached 97 mph, Beyeler noted, â€śHe wasnâ€™t at 97 (on Wednesday). I mean, his stuff looks better than what the gun says. When a guy is locating, the hitters will let you know how a guy looks. You can tell by how they look, how theyâ€™re swinging.â€ť
It could be said starter Billy Buckner didnâ€™t look bad, either. He did suffer a tough five-run third inning, but scattered just five hits and two walks (with a hit batsman) while striking out a trio.
In addition, not one of those five runs was earned, and he didnâ€™t yield a hit in his other four frames.
â€śYouâ€™ve got to minimize the damage in an inning like that,â€ť Beyeler explained. â€śStill, youâ€™ve got to give him credit for going back out there and battling. He threw some zeroes up on the scoreboard after they scored those runs.â€ť
With the loss, the PawSox fell to 65-54; they dropped two straight to Syracuse, the first a dismal 10-2 thumping on Wednesday night. That was the worse defeat Pawtucket had experienced all year, and â€“ after it â€“ it fell a half-game behind International League/Northern Division-leading Scranton/Wilkes Barre, who was to face Rochester on the road later Thursday.
Jeff Mandel improved to 3-4 with the triumph. All told, he lasted seven innings and allowed four hits, two runs (both earned) and two walks while striking out four. He had 87 tosses, 52 for strikes.
It seemed Pawtucket, trailing 6-2, just might find its way back into the game in the eighth, after Mitch Atkins had replaced Mandel. With one down, Che-Hsuan Lin reached on a bunt single, then took third on Jose Iglesiasâ€™ soft base hit to right.
Lin tagged for home after J.C. Linares lined out to left fielder Corey Brown, who made a nice running catch toward the line, but reliever Mitch Atkins struck out Mauro Gomez to end the rally.
That was the closest it would come on this day.
Only Nate Spears registered two hits for the Sox, while both Brown and Carlos Rivero went 1-for-4 with two RBI and a run scored for the Chiefs (58-61).
Buckner had been perfect in his first two frames; in fact, he fanned three of the six he faced. He wasnâ€™t as fortunate in the third, however, as the Chiefs sent 10 to the plate and snagged the 5-0 advantage.
Jarrett Hoffpauir led off the frame, whacking a double down the left-field line, and â€“ with one out â€“ Brett Carroll reached on an error by new PawSox third baseman Danny Valencia.
Buckner then hit Eury Perez to fill the bags, and designated hitter Jim Negrych roped a single to center to plate Hoffpauir. Brown followed with a hard grounder up the middle to score Carroll, but shortstop Jose Iglesias made an outstanding diving stop and threw to second baseman Nate Spears for the second out.
Brown immediately robbed second to place him and Pere in scoring position, and both raced in on Riveroâ€™s two-bagger to left.
(The red-hot Rivero, by the way, ranked second in the entire I.L. with a .310 batting average in 106 contests prior to the game. He also was third in on-base average and third in slugging percentage. He had assembled a 10-game hit streak prior to Wednesday nightâ€™s Syracuse win, though it was snapped.).
Mark Teahenâ€™s hit to the right-center gap plated Rivero, and Zach Waltersâ€™ single to the same spot moved him to third, but Buckner got Hoffpauir to fly to center to end the rally.
Pawtucket took a run back in the back half when No. 9 hitter Spears drilled Mandelâ€™s one-out pitch just over the right-field fence, good for his ninth blast of the campaign.
Surprisingly, Buckner didnâ€™t allow another hit in his five-inning stint. He scattered those five hits, yielding five runs (none earned) and two walks while whiffing a trio. He threw 84 pitches, 53 for strikes.
The Sox mustered a mini-flurry in the sixth after Spears bunted for a single, took second on Iglesiasâ€™ one-out walk and scored on Mauro Gomezâ€™ ground hit to center. With runners at the corners, however, Mandel forced Danny Valencia to ground into a fielderâ€™s choice.
Syracuse cushioned its lead at 6-2 in the seventh off of Bard, who walked leadoff batter Perez, and he immediately stole second. Bard also issued a free pass to Negrych, and the pair robbed third and second, respectively.
Brown followed with a softly-lined single to center, scoring Perez, but Bardâ€™s backstop, Rivera, threw out Brown in his attempt to steal. Bard then got Teahen to ground to the mound to close it.
EXTRA BASES: Call it an inauspicious start for third baseman Danny Valencia, whom Boston acquired in a trade with Minnesota on Sunday.
In his first-ever game in a PawSox uniform, Valencia grounded to second in his initial at-bat in the second inning, then bobbled a ground ball off the bat of Syracuse right fielder Brett Carroll in the third.
The parent club sent outfielder Jeremias Pineda to the Twins for Valencia, 27, who had appeared in 34 games for Minnesota and his .198 with two homers and 17 RBI. In 69 tilts with Rochester, he batted .250 with seven dingers and 37 RBI.
He had played in 53 contests at third, and 13 as the designated hitter.
PawSox officials have announced that tickets to all upcoming playoff games at McCoy Stadium are now on sale at the box office. Fans may purchase them in person, or charge them to any major credit card by calling (401) 724-7300. They also may buy them on-line at www.pawsox.com.
After suffering a 10-2 loss to the Chiefs on Wednesday night, Pawtucket dropped Â˝-game behind International League/North Division-leading Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. However, if the season had ended before Thursdayâ€™s matinee, the Sox wouldâ€™ve clinch the IL wild card berth, though they are being chased by Lehigh Valley, which sat 1 Â˝ games back, and Columbus, 2 Â˝ behind.
Not long after Thursdayâ€™s tilt, the PawSox trekked to Rochester for a two-game set against the Red Wings. Daisuke Matsuzaka (0-2, 3.21 ERA) is slated to face fellow righty Eric Hurley (0-0, 11.25) at 7:05 tonight, while righthander Steven Wright (no record) will take on southpaw Pedro Hernandez (0-1, 27.00) at 7:05 p.m., Saturday.
Pawtucket then will travel to Buffalo for another abbreviated two-game series. Righty Zach Stewart (3-2, 3.32) will battle the Bisonsâ€™ Jenrry Mejia (1-2, 3.22) at 6:05 p.m., Sunday, and lefty Chris Hernandez (1-2, 4.34) will face righthander Collin McHugh (1-4, 3.99) at 7:05 Sunday. That tilt will be televised live on NESN.