PAWTUCKET — After losing five straight games, including a 10-2 trouncing Saturday night against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, the Pawtucket Red Sox had fallen back to .500 and needed a victory badly.
They got one on Sunday, a 9-3 drubbing of the Yankees that put Pawtucket back over .500 and just 2½ games out of first place with their modest 19-18 record.
Veteran pitcher Matt Fox, a former first-round pick of the Minnesota Twins in 2004, beat Scranton for the second time in 10 days on Sunday, striking out seven in five innings while allowing all three runs.
Fox struck out the side in the first inning, then got himself out of big trouble in the third inning by fanning cleanup hitter Jorge Vazquez and No. 5 hitter Justin Maxwell, who lead the International League in homers with 14 and 13, respectively.
“He knows how to pitch,” Scranton manager Dave Miley said of Fox, a 28-year-old righthander who pitched briefly for the Twins in 2010 before getting released. “He never gave in. That’s twice he has pitched well against us and with our lineup, that’s not an easy thing to do. In the third inning, we had the right guys up with the bases loaded and he got us out.”
Fox only had two of his four pitches working against the Yankees.
“My curveball and changeup weren’t too good,” he said. “I threw mostly fastballs and cutters.”
PawSox manager Arnie Beyeler had his own take on Fox’s success.
“He did a nice job working out of jams,” Beyeler said. “He used his cutter very effectively today. I thought he was aggressive. He got some swings and misses and foul balls with his cutter. He also got ahead in the count because they were fouling his cutter off.”
Fox threw 90 pitches in five innings, necessitating an early removal with a 7-3 lead.
“I threw too many pitches,” Fox admitted. “I should have been able to go deeper into the game.”
It didn’t matter as Pawtucket’s bullpen threw four scoreless innings of relief, allowing just one baserunner while getting the final 12 outs. Jason Rice threw two hitless innings and then Scott Atchison and Michael Bowden finished up with one shutout inning apiece. Atchison allowed a single, the only Scranton baserunner against Pawtucket’s bullpen on this dank afternoon that featured a 51-minute rain delay prior to the start of the game.
Pawtucket’s offense, which batted .164 as a team during the five-game slide, collected 13 hits on Sunday, including eight in four innings along with seven runs off Scranton starter Andrew Brackman. The 6-foot-10 Brackman walked five batters while seeing his ERA balloon to 6.69.
Brackman allowed runs in every one of his four innings. Lars Anderson singled home a first-inning tally. In the second frame, Brackman botched a sacrifice bunt play to let in a run. Daniel Nava plated the second run of the inning with a groundout.
After Fox limited the damage in the top of the third, Pawtucket made it a 4-2 game in the bottom of the third on a RBI single by Luis Exposito.
The game literally got out of control for Brackman in the fourth when he walked Matt Sheely to open the inning. Nava then singled Sheely to third. Tony Thomas plated Sheely with a sacrifice fly. Brackman walked Josh Reddick before Drew Sutton, who went 3-for-4 with 4 RBI, brought home two runs with a double.
Sutton would also single home two more runs in the sixth to wrap up the scoring for the day.
Sutton, who hit a grand slam homer for the Cincinnati Reds during the 2010 major league season, raised his average to .301 with his big day at the plate. The 6-foot-3 Sutton sports a solid .880 OPS percentage this season.
Nava also enjoyed a good day swinging the bat. The switch-hitter went 2-for-4 and scored three runs. Nava is only hitting .195 this season. If he gets back to his normal .270 or so over the next couple of months, Pawtucket’s offense will look a lot better than it has over the past week.
These two teams finish their four-game series tonight at 6:15 when Kyle Weiland (2-4, 4.11) faces Scranton’s David Phelps (2-3, 3.19).