PAWTUCKET – Pawtucket Red Sox manager Arnie Beyeler had only request of his starting pitcher Monday night – pitch deep into the game.
Tony Pena Jr. heeded the wishes of his skipper, the right-hander tossing 6 2/3 innings of one-run ball Monday night as Pawtucket held on for a 3-2 win against Syracuse. The victory enables the PawSox to move into sole possession of first place in the I.L. North after Lehigh Valley was shut out by Indianapolis, 2-0.
Che-Hsuan Lin delivered the game’s big hit, a two-run home run that came in the fifth inning against losing pitcher Craig Stammen (9-7). The blast was Lin’s second with the PawSox.
“He put a nice swing on there,” said manager Arnie Beyeler about Lin, who collected two hits. “I was thinking about putting a hit-and-run on at that point but I’m glad I didn’t.”
Pena Jr. took the mound one day after Felix Doubront struggled to get out of the second inning, a frame that saw the lefty become unhinged in a hurry, allowing six runs without recording an out.
Four pitchers followed Doubront, hence why Beyeler was hoping to get some serious length out of last night’s starter.
“That was definitely big for Tony to get us in the game a little bit because we were definitely short (in the bullpen),” Beyeler said. “He did more than that … he did a great job. I guess that’s why he was named the Most Valuable Pitcher on the team.”
A 4-6-3 double play got Pena Jr. and the PawSox out of the first inning. The second saw the visiting Chiefs load the bases with one down but Pena Jr. bared down, striking out Jeff Frazier swinging and getting No. 9 hitter Corey Brown to pop up to short.
Syracuse’s lone run against Pena Jr. came in the fifth as Frazier started things with a double. A sacrifice bunt by Brown pushed Frazier to third with Steve Lombardozzi next up. The Syracuse leadoff hitter was part of a 1-4-3 putout that allowed Frazier to tie the game at 1-1.
Pena Jr. retired the first two batters he faced in the seventh – the centerfielder Lin aiding the cause with a nice running grab that occurred just shy of the warning track – before Beyeler took him out. The righty finished with 97 pitches, 57 for strikes, to go along with three strikeouts and two walks.
On came Tommy Hottovy, who promptly served up a home run to the first batter he faced. Brown deposited a Hottovy offering into the picnic area located in right-center, making it a one-run game still in favor of the home team.
The good news is that Will Middlebrooks was finally able to get off the snide. The third base prospect, hitless in his first 11 Triple-A at-bats, chopped a ball up the middle that Syracuse shortstop Seth Bynum was able to knock down. That’s how Middlebrooks, who spent time chatting with hitting coach Chili Davis following batting practice, wound up getting his first hit in a PawSox uniform.
Middlebrooks’ second hit of the game came in the fourth, a groundball single through the left side of the infield. He was off on contract when Brett Carroll lined a shot into the left field corner as Middlebrooks scampered home with the game’s first run. Carroll was credited with a double.
Hottovy was in the midst of warming up when Syracuse manager Randy Knorr called back Tug Hulett, a lefty. Righty Jesus Valdez went out to stand in the on-deck circle, which prompted Beyeler to make a countermove and bring in closer Michael Bowden.
“We had Bowden ready but if they’re going to send Tug back out there, then Hottovy is going to face him,” Beyeler said. “You’ve got to play the game. I’ve got to let them announce the hitter. You kind of see who you would rather face, but we’d rather play the matchup there.”
Bowden needed 14 pitches to set down the Chiefs in order on his way to registering his 16th save.
Syracuse 000 010 100 – 2-5-0
Pawtucket 000 120 00x – 3-8-0
Craig Stammen, Ryan Tatusko (6), Zech Zinicola (8) and Jhonatan Solano. Tony Pena Jr., Tommy Hottovy (7), Michael Bowden (9) and Luis Exposito. 2B: Jhonatan Solano, Jeff Frazier; Hector Luna, Brett Carroll. HR: Corey Brown; Che-Hsuan Lin.
WP: Pena Jr. (9-5). LP: Stammen (9-7). Save: Bowden (16). Time: 3:02. Attendance: 6,227.