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PAWTUCKET â€” After a dismal previous 13 offensive frames to open this 2014 campaign, the Pawtucket Red Sox finally broke out of their collective offensive funk on drizzly Friday night..
Lehigh Valley had seemed destined to record another â€ścrooked numberâ€ť triumph after jumping out to a 4-0 cushion, but the PawSox manufactured eight runs in the back half of the fifth and cruised to a 9-4 victory before a sparse crowd of 2,652 at McCoy Stadium.
Umpires had halted the game after the top of the eighth due to rain, but the tilt was quickly called official after a 15-minute delay.
The fifth-inning surge fell far short of the franchise mark of 14 runs in a frame, one dating back to a contest in Ottawa (third inning) on April 27, 2004; and the 11 notched on July 9, 2003 at home against Charlotte (eighth).
It did, however, come mighty close to the nine runs registered against Syracuse (third) on April 21, 2011.
Catcher Christian Vazquez paced the hosts, going 3-for-4 with two doubles, two RBI and a run scored, while Brock Holt went 3-for-4 with a two-bagger and two runs; Gavin Cecchini 1-for-4 with a double, two RBI and a run; and No. 9 hitter Mike McCoy 1-for-4 with a pair of RBI and a run.
The win moved Pawtucket to 1-1 in this season-opening, seven-game home set.
Southpaw Craig Breslow may have lonely pitched the top of the fifth, but his dozen pitches earned him his first win.
Simon (0-1) took the loss.
As for the rally, one that sent a dozen to the batterâ€™s box, Vazquez opened with a double to right off of righty starter Barry Enright, and Corey Brown walked before McCoyâ€™s double down the left-field stripe plated both.
Holtâ€™s hit to center pushed McCoy to third, and he scored on a wild pitch; that knotted the game at 4-all..
At that point, LV skipper Dave Brundage opted to replace Enright with righthander Kyle Simon; it would be his Triple-A debut.
Simon quickly walked Alex Hassan and Lavarnway to fill the bags, then walked Brentz to plate Holt. Simon eventually whiffed DH Dan Butler, but Cecchini rapped a two-run double to the hole in right-center and Vazquez brought home Brentz and Cecchini with a laced hit to left to propel Pawtucket to the 8-4 advantage.
All told, Simon lasted just one-third of an inning; he gave up two hits, four runs (all earned) and three walks while striking out one. His ERA ballooned to a whopping 108.0.
Heralded Pawtucket starter Anthony Ranaudo mustered an up-and-down outing. Through the first four, he allowed four hits, four runs (one earned) and four walks, but he did strike out seven. In the process, he tossed 73 pitches, 43 for strikes.
Breslow, on a rehab assignment from Boston, needed just 12 offerings (eight Ks) to yield just a hit and fan one in the fifth, and he became the pitcher of record after Pawtucketâ€™s offense stunned its foe.
And righty Rich Hill tossed two superb innings (two walks, one whiff) before Alex Wilson came on in the eighth.
The Sox added another in the sixth when Holt doubled and Brentzâ€™ two-out hit brought him in for the 9-4 lead.
All looked good for the Sox even in the back half of the first; thatâ€™s when leadoff batter Holt singled to left, but Enright stoned the next three hitters.
Designated hitter Reid Brignac opened the second with a double to the right-center gap, though Ranaudo whiffed Cameron Rupp before walking Steve Susdorf.
The hurler, however, got out of the jam when he struck out Nos. 8 and 9 batters Leandro Castro and Andres Blanco.
All that changed in the top of the fourth; thatâ€™s when Lehigh Valley rallied for four while sending eight to the plate. Clete Thomas led the frame with a walk, then stole second before Ronny Cedeno singled him in took second on the throw home.
Ranaudo mustered two quick outs, but then walked Brignac. Thatâ€™s when Rupp crushed a full-count fastball onto the left-field berm, and the IronPigs led, 4-0.
Amazingly, through the first three innings and including the 4-0 defeat on Thursday â€“ while dating back to the opening of last seasonâ€™s Governorsâ€™ Cup finals â€“ Pawtucket had been outscored, 17-0, through 35 total frames.
But then came that stellar flurry in the fifth. The rest was history.
EXTRA BASES: Prior to the tilt, eight Pawtucket players were honored for their contributions to the parent club and its incredible journey to the 2013 World Series championship during a brief ceremony at McCoy Stadium.
They included pitchers Drake Britton, Rubby De La Rosa, Brayan Villareal, Allen Webster and Alex Wilson; catcher Ryan Lavarnway; and infielders Brock Holt and Brandon Snyder.
Those PawSox had left their ball yard at 9 a.m., Friday to make the trip to Fenway Park. There they accepted their World Series rings at the special fete before the Red Sox took on Milwaukee.
Boston reliever Craig Breslow came to the PawSox on a 30-day injury rehab assignment on Thursday evening. In the 4-0 loss to the IronPigs, he came on in relief to start the fifth and sandwiched two walks around two outs. Breslow tossed 20 pitches, with half going for strikes.
He had been placed on the disabled list on March 27 (retroactive to March 21) with a left shoulder strain. In fact, he didnâ€™t pitch in a major-league contest this spring.
With the weather supposed to be warming this weekend, fans may want to attend one or both upcoming games this weekend. Today at 1:05 p.m., De La Rosa will face fellow righty Sean Oâ€™Sullivan, while two more righthanders, Pawtucketâ€™s Jeremy Kehrt and Lehigh Valleyâ€™s Jonathan Pettibone, will take to the hill at the same time Sunday afternoon.
For those interested, the PawSox organization will conduct its third annual â€śPetSmart Bark in the Park Dayâ€ť today. All fans who purchase a general admission ticket will be allowed to bring their dogs to the game. Canines and their owners will be invited to participate in an on-field parade prior to the first pitch.
Following this four-game set, Syracuse will come to town for a trio of tilts beginning Monday at 6:15 p.m.
In the series opener, southpaw Chris Hernandez will battle righthander Omar Poveda. Games 2 and 3 will be held Tuesday at 6:15 p.m. and Wednesday at 12:05 p.m.