PAWTUCKET -- Kyle Weiland brought out his best on Wednesday night, and the Rochester Red Wings had no answers for the rookie righthander.
Weiland struck out 12 batters and threw spectacular one-hit ball through eight innings, and the Pawtucket Red Sox rallied for three runs in the bottom of the fifth inning to help produce a 4-1 victory over their I.L. North foes at McCoy Stadium.
Weiland, who was picked by the Boston Red Sox in the third round of the ’08 MLB Draft, improved his record to 7-6 and the PawSox’s mark to 42-36 with unquestionably his finest outing of the year.
Throwing a season-high 99 pitches (70 for strikes), Weiland didn’t walk any batters for the first time this year, but he did hit three with pitches, including No. 9 batter Danny Lehman twice. Lehman ended up scoring the Red Wings’ run after getting hit for the second time.
Weiland’s dozen whiffs was the most by a PawSox pitcher since Bruce Chen struck out that many in 2003, and his first 10 punchouts came in the first five innings when his pitch count was only at 54. He has also now struck out 93 batters, which is the second most in the I.L. behind Syracuse’s Tom Milone.
“I had all four of my pitches tonight, and for the most part, I had command on all four, except for a few times when I hit guys,” added Weiland. “Other than that, it was one of those things when you come out early and when it’s there and you don’t have to find it. It’s a confidence booster and you can just get on a roll after that.”
“He’s fun to watch,” offered PawSox manager Arnie Beyeler. “He goes right at guys and gets a lot of groundball outs, and he has pretty electric stuff. He’s locating his pitches and he’s aggressive, and he’s fun to watch pitch.”
As he has done for several of his quality starts this season, Weiland doled out words of praise for his catcher, Luis Exposito, who had also been behind the plate for some of his finest outings during the 2009 season in Single-A Salem and last year in Double-A Portland.
“That’s a huge part of my success and it always has been,” Weiland noted of his relationship with Exposito. “Every time he and I are on the same page, it allows me to get into a nice rhythm and that’s a bonus. We know each other well, and he knows what I like to go to and what (pitches) I have that day.”
Weiland lost his no-hitter with two outs in the sixth inning on a sharp ground single up the middle by Dustin Martin. Second baseman Brent Dlugach tried to glove it with an all-out dive to his right, but he was only able to tip it with the webbing of his glove and deflect it into shallow center field.
“All ballplayers are aware of that,” Weiland added about his no-hit bid. “You try not to think about that too much and put any extra pressure on yourself, because that usually never leads to good things. You know it’s there, but you don’t think about it. You just try to go each pitch at a time.”
That hit knocked in Lehman and tied the score at 1-1, but the hosts answered back in their half of the inning.
They took the lead when Hector Luna led off with his eighth home run of the year. After hitting the ground on a brushback pitch by Rochester starter Eric Hacker, Luna answered back by lofting a 2-2 pitch that just made its way into the PawSox’s bullpen over the 325-foot sign.
Then with two outs and reliever Carlos Gutierrez in the contest, the PawSox took a walk on the wild side. First, Gutierrez walked Luis Exposito, and after he gave up a hard-hit single to center to Jose Iglesias, he issued free passes to Che-Hsuan Lin and Daniel Nava to force in a run.
Gutierrez, who threw 17 of his 25 pitches for balls, then hit Ryan Lavarnway with a pitch to force home another run and make it a three-run game.
The hosts scored their first run in the fourth when Luna led off with a soft line single to left, and after he stole second three pitches later, he scored on a base hit to center by Exposito.
Michael Bowden pitched the ninth for his sixth save of the season, and Nava, Iglesias, and Luna each finished the contest with multiple hits. Nava has had two or more hits in 11 of his last 19 games.
EXTRA BASES: The victory was the seventh in 11 games for the PawSox, who are three games behind Lehigh Valley in the division. … Two former PawSox first basemen/outfielders were back in uniform with the Red Wings. Jeff Bailey, who spent parts of six seasons with Pawtucket (2004-09), and Aaron Bates, who played in the last two years. … Speaking of PawSox alumni, infielder Gil Velazquez, who was a member of the PawSox from 2008 to last season, was named to the Pacific Coast League All-Star team. Velazquez, who is a career .233 hitter in 14 minor-league seasons, is batting a career-high .355. The International League will announce its All-Star team today. … Matt Fox (4-2, 3.61) gets the start for the PawSox in tonight’s 7:05 p.m. game. He will be opposed by Kyle Gibson (3-7, 3.87).
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Eric Hacker, Carlos Gutierrez (6), Jim Hoey (6), Cole DeVries (8) and Danny Lehman. Kyle Weiland, Michael Bowden (9) and Luis Exposito. 2B -- Daniel Nava (P). HR -- Hector Luna (P). W -- Kyle Weiland (7-6), L -- Eric Hacker (3-7), S -- Michael Bowden (6).