Lawrenceville, Ga.- If there has been any cause to put the Sharpie-strong stamp on the notion that the 2011 Pawtucket Red Sox are peaking at the right time, it was out in full prominence after Monday night’s 7-3 victory over the Gwinnett Braves at Coolray Field.
With the win, decided after the bat rack and bullpen both got the better of their Gwinnett counterparts in the eighth and ninth innings, the PawSox completed their best of seven eight-game road trips at 6-2. They are also 10-3 in August at the halfway mark of the month.
Ryan Lavarnway broke the ice in a hurry for the PawSox in Monday’s first inning, catapulting a home run to straightaway center for his first and only hit of the series and a 1-0 lead.
Before there were any outs in the second, the Sox had sprinkled on additional three hits and two runs. Daniel Nava led off the stanza with his second solo shot in as many days. Brett Carroll followed up with a single up the middle, stole second with Hector Luna at the dish and scored ahead of Luna’s subsequent base hit to left.
The Braves pulled even under both the run and hit heading in the bottom of the third. Jeff Fiorentino deposited a leadoff single in right-center, advanced to third on a wild pitch to Matt Young and scored Gwinnett’s first run with the assistance of Young’s sacrifice fly to center.
With the bases cleared and two away, Ruben Gotay went on board, then flew home with Stefan Gartrell, who homered into the Braves bullpen to draw a 3-3 knot.
Starting pitchers Brandon Duckworth of Pawtucket and Erik Cordier settled things down for the latter half of their respective six-inning outings. Both teams had a runner caught stealing in the fifth―Che-Hsuan Lin in the top, Jeff Fiorentino in the bottom half―and they both stranded three runners apiece between the fourth and the sixth.
The PawSox were on the verge of yielding Gwinnett reliever Anthony Varvaro a second straight 1-2-3 stanza in the eighth. But Varvaro breathed life back into the visiting bat rack by walking Carroll and Luna on a combined nine pitches.
In turn, Nate Spears stepped up and singled to right to score Carroll from second and send Luna to third. Four pitches later, Jose Iglesias sent Luna and Spears home for a 6-3 edge as he doubled over the head of Young at the left-field warning track.
Jaye Chapman, who promptly succeeded Varvaro after Iglesias’ hit, was similarly denied a quick ninth in agonizing fashion. After getting Lavarnway and Anderson out, Chapman yielded singles to Nava and Carroll before Luna singled to right for his second RBI of the night, driving Nava home to finalize Pawtucket’s scoring.
Conversely, Tommy Hottovy took credit for the win after he relieved Duckworth to commence the seventh and retired each of his four batters on 13 pitches. He was followed by Scott Atchison and Michael Bowden, who combined for 1.2 innings pitched and allowed only one baserunner.