PAWTUCKET â€“ PawSox manager Arnie Beyeler likes to point out that each playoff game has been the equivalent of a box of chocolates â€“ you just never know whoâ€™s going to play the role of hero on a given night.
Wednesday saw Pawtucketâ€™s battery of pitcher Zach Stewart and catcher Dan Butler step to the forefront and take their bows. Their induction into the clubâ€™s ever-expanding legion of primetime performers was officially cemented after PawSox silenced the Charlotte Knights, 2-0, in Game Two of the Governorsâ€™ Cup finals before an audience of 3,525.
By taking a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series, the PawSox can apply the finishing touches and earn the International League crown as soon as Thursday night in Fort Mill, S.C. Pawtucket seeks its first Governorsâ€™ Cup title since 1984.
If Pawtucket can win one more contest against Charlotte, it will advance to next to next Tuesdayâ€™s Triple-A National Championship, a one-game, winner-take-all affair against the Pacific Coast League champion that would take place in Durham, N.C.
Facing the Triple-A ball club of the organization that he used to pitch for, Stewart was the model of efficiency, tossing six innings of shutout ball. He struck out four while recording eight groundball outs. One of the players the Red Sox received from the White Sox in the Kevin Youkilis trade, Stewart was lifted after throwing 87 pitches. His final inning of work saw him toss just six pitches.
â€śYou definitely tend to focus more when going up against your former organization,â€ť said Stewart. â€śI know a lot the (Charlotte) guys and theyâ€™re good ballplayers. You know their strengths and know how they can burn you. In the back of your mind, youâ€™re saying you donâ€™t want them to get to that point where they can beat me too bad.â€ť
As for Butler, the backstop provided Pawtucket with all the offense the ballclub would need in the second inning, turning on a Charlie Shirek fastball for a solo home run. Showing some wheels, Butler scored from first on Che-Hsuan Linâ€™s double in the fifth inning to make it a 2-0 game.
â€śThat was pretty cool to see him go from first to home,â€ť said a smiling Stewart.
Pedro Beato and Alex Wilson took care of the seventh and eighth innings as Wilson stranded a runner at second base to end the eighth.
â€śI felt good and felt like I could have kept going, but Arnie made the decision and youâ€™ve got to respect that,â€ť said Stewart. â€śWeâ€™ve got a lot of good guys out in the bullpen.â€ť
As Bon Joviâ€™s â€śThis Is Our Houseâ€ť blared over the McCoy Stadium speaker system prior to the top of the ninth inning, the Knights realized that they stood three outs away from turning their home field â€“ Knights Stadium â€“ into a potential coronation site for the PawSox. Instead of fighting back, Charlotte went down quickly against Jose De La Torre, who worked around a two-out error en route to picking up his third save in as many opportunities during these playoffs.
â€śYou donâ€™t want to them sneak back in and get some momentum, and we were able to keep the momentum in our favor,â€ť said Stewart.
In a classy salute to the paying customers that took place afterwards, the PawSox players and coaches came out of the dugout and doffed their caps to show their appreciation of the fansâ€™ support.
The pitching matchup for Game Three will feature Nelson Figueroa for Pawtucket against Charlotteâ€™s Matt Zaleski. Figueroa departed for Charlotte on Wednesday, waiting for the rest of his teammates to join the veteran pitcher this morning.