PAWTUCKET -- Brandon Duckworth’s frustrating two-month stretch without a victory came to a merciful end on Thursday night.
The veteran Pawtucket Red Sox starting pitcher handcuffed the Durham Bulls to seven hits in 6 2/3 innings of work and his teammates did all their offensive damage in the fourth inning to grab a 3-2 triumph at McCoy Stadium.
The victory was the fourth in a row and the eighth in the last 10 teams for the surging PawSox, who are now a season-high 10 games over .500 (51-41) and tied for the International League wild card lead with the Gwinnett Braves.
As for the 35-year-old Duckworth, who pitched in the big leagues from 2001-08 for the Philadelphia Phillies, Houston Astros, and Kansas City Royals, the win was the first in his last 10 outings -- a difficult stretch that saw him go 0-5 with a 5.06 ERA.
Throwing a season-high 99 pitches (63 for strikes), Duckworth struck out five batters and walked none to improve his record to 5-6.
Scott Atchison relieved Duckworth with two outs in the seventh and set down all four batters he faced, and Michael Bowden threw the ninth and overcame a pair of two-out walks to pick up his 10th save.
“He did a nice job, especially deep in the game,” said PawSox manager Arnie Beyeler. “He was up a little bit early, rushing himself a little bit, but he made a nice adjustment, and the guys played good defense behind him and got two big double plays.”
The Bulls grabbed a 2-0 lead off Duckworth in the second inning on a home run by Felipe Lopez, who after a leadoff base hit to left field by Dan Johnson, belted his shot into the bleachers in right-center.
But the PawSox, who collected eight hits in the game, produced half of them in the fourth to score their three runs and take a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
After singles to left by Daniel Nava and Ryan Lavarnway opened the inning, Lars Anderson ripped a double to right to plate Nava and send Lavarnway to third. Hector Luna then drove in Lavarnway with a sacrifice fly to deep right, and Nate Spears followed with a bloop single to score Anderson.
“Luckily, that was enough (runs),” added Beyeler, whose team was unable to advance a runner past second in the other seven innings it batted. “(Durham) pitched really well tonight, but our guys did too.”
Lavarnway and Spears each ended the night with a pair of base hits, and for Lavarnway, who is batting .350, it was just another game in a hot stretch that has seen him bat .386 (17-for-44) in his last 12 games with four homers and 10 runs batted in.
EXTRA BASES: Anderson has 17 hits and 11 RBIs in his last 16 games. … Last night’s game began a stretch that will see the PawSox play their final 52 games of the season over the next 54 days. … The PawSox’s defense leads the I.L. with 102 double plays. … Another veteran PawSox pitcher, Kevin Millwood, will take a 4-0 record (4.50 ERA) into tonight’s 7:05 p.m. game against the Bulls and lefty Alexander Torres (6-6, 3.30).
Durham 020 000 000--2-7-0
Pawtucket 000 300 00x--3-8-0
Alex Cobb, Andy Sonnastine (3), Mike Edstrom (7), R.J. Swindle (8) and Robinson Chirinos; Brandon Duckworth, Scott Atchison (7), Michael Bowden (9) and Ryan Lavarnway. 2B -- Lars Anderson (P), Hector Luna (P), Russ Canzler (D). HR -- Felipe Lopez (D).
W -- Brandon Duckworth (5-6). L -- Andy Sonnastine (0-1). SV -- Michael Bowden (10).