PAWTUCKET – That’s all she wrote for the 2011 edition of the Pawtucket Red Sox.
Pawtucket concluded its meek showing in the Governors’ Cup playoffs with a lackluster 3-1 loss to Lehigh Valley Saturday night at McCoy Stadium. The three-game sweep pushes the IronPigs into the finals where they will face defending champion Columbus.
Pawtucket led just once in the entire series –1-0 after the first inning of the second game – and wound up hitting 3-for-26 with runners in scoring position, including a hitless showing in six opportunities in Game 3. Collectively the PawSox hit .180.
“At this point they were the better team,” said PawSox manager Arnie Beyeler. “They played better than us and we wish them luck.”
Lehigh Valley starting pitcher Brian Bass was the primary reason why Pawtucket’s season ended with a whimper. The 29-year-old Bass went the distance while allowing one unearned run on five hits with two walks and two strikeouts.
Bass pumped his fist after getting Jose Iglesias to fly out to center field for the game’s final out. Catcher Erik Kratz embraced him, as Lehigh Valley celebrated briefly on the field before shuffling off to the clubhouse to kick up the festivities up several notches.
After holding serve at Coca-Cola Field, the IronPigs wasted little time in keeping the momentum in their dugout. Rich Thompson took the first pitch of Game 3 and sent it by pitcher Alex Wilson and into center field. Thompson stole second with Scott Podsednik at the plate and advanced to third after Podsednik grounded out to the right side. Ex-PawSox infielder Kevin Frandsen plated Thompson after bouncing out to short.
Josh Barfield made it 2-0 in favor of Lehigh Valley after the second baseman took Wilson deep in the second. Given the PawSox’ offensive futility, the two-run deficit after two frames loomed even larger, given the ballclub’s inability to deliver with runners on base.
The 24-year-old Wilson, who joined the PawSox in mid-August, delivered one final strong performance, allowing three runs on three hits in seven innings. The promising righthander, who won 10 games between Portland and Pawtucket this season, struck out six while walking one.
“You try to control what you can,” said Wilson when asked if he felt any additional strain given Pawtucket’s offensive doldrums. “From a pitcher’s standpoint it’s our job to not give up runs. I thought our guys hit the ball pretty well; it was just at guys.”
Thompson was the catalyst for Lehigh Valley’s third run, the centerfielder beginning the sixth with a double. In keeping with the standard set in the first inning, Thompson moved over to third on an out by Podsednik. Once again a grounder by Frandsen did the trick as Thompson was able to just beat the throw from third baseman Will Middlebrooks.
Lars Anderson came to bat in the home half of the first with a runner stationed at third. The first baseman ended up lofting a fly ball to left, a shot that in many instances would have been deep enough to score the run. Given there was two down, Anderson’s out was merely tacked on to the ugly RISP stat Pawtucket mustered in its short and not-so-sweet stay in the International League playoffs.
Bass allowed at least one baserunner through the first five innings. One of his better best escape acts came in the seventh, when Pawtucket had runners on first and third and two down. In keeping with the club’s frosty tendencies, Che-Hsuan Lin sent a chopper up the middle that shortstop Freddy Galvis fielded before stepping on the base to force out Iglesias.
Pawtucket had another scoring opportunity snuffed out in the eighth after placing runners on the corners with one out. Drew Sutton bounced into a 4-6-3 double play that helped the IronPigs move to within three outs of advancing to the next round.
Lehigh Valley skipper Ryne Sandberg chose to stay with Bass as the ninth started as the righty was over the 100-pitch mark. Hector Luna started Pawtucket’s last gasp with an infield single before advancing to second on a throwing error.
After stealing third, Luna scored on a sacrifice fly by Middlebrooks. Luna appeared to be in trouble as the ball arrived ahead of him but Kratz had trouble holding on.
Beyeler was asked if he felt the series outcome would have been different if Pawtucket still had Ryan Lavarnway and several of the other PawSox players Boston ended up calling up.
“You play with who you’ve got,” was Beyeler’s response.
The time of the game was two hours and 15 minutes, the shortest game of the season at McCoy Stadium. The three-game losing skid is Pawtucket’s first since July 1-2,
Lehigh Valley 110 001 000 – 3-3-3
Pawtucket 000 000 001 – 1-5-0
Brian Bass and Erik Kratz. Alex Wilson, Trever Miller (8) and Luis Exposito. 2B: Rich Thompson. HR: Josh Barfield.
WP: Bass (1-0). LP: Wilson (0-1). Time: 2:12. Attendance: 5,017.