PAWTUCKET — Perhaps the only good news coming out of McCoy Stadium on Tuesday night was this: Catcher Ryan Lavarnway extended his consecutive-game hit streak to eight with a bloop single to left in the fifth.
After that? There wasn’t much for the 6,009 in attendance to get excited about, as the Pawtucket Red Sox dropped a dismal 8-0 decision to the Charlotte Knights.
In the process, Pawtucket’s losing streak increased to nine straight games, and it’s now dangerously close to eclipsing its second-longest skid in club history; that came between Aug. 12-20, 2009.
Actually, the lengthiest string of defeats dates back to July 26-Aug. 6, 1985. That’s when the PawSox suffered 13 straight.
With a 6-3 loss to Louisville on Monday night, skipper Arnie Beyeler’s bunch had dropped consecutive four-game sets, again for the first time in franchise history.
The Sox seemed like it would avoid the shutout in the bottom of the eighth, when Lars Anderson drew a one-out walk off of reliever Gregory Infante, and Mauro Gomez delivered Pawtucket’s lone extra-base hit, a double down the right-field line.
Alex Hassan walked to load the bags, but third baseman Dallas McPherson snared J.C. Linhares’ stung liner, and Che-Hsuan Lin grounded into a short-stop-unassisted fielder’s choice.
Amazingly, even with the loss, Pawtucket remained atop the International League’s North Division at 45-34. (If Lehigh Valley lost at Rochester, also Tuesday, it would stay a game in front of the Iron Pigs).
The Knights, on the other hand, improved to 45-35, and will be at least five games in front of second-place Norfolk (39-40 as of Tuesday).
They did so because of the performances of former Red Sox player Conor Jackson, who finished 3-for-5 with a double, and RBI and two runs scored; and Hector Gimenez, who went 1-for-5 with a homer, four RBI and a run. Drew Garcia helped out with two hits, a RBI and run, and Dallas McPherson went 1-for-4 with two RBI.
Pedro Ciriaco and Gomez both had two hits in the losing effort.
The PawSox – wearing camouflage tops to commemorate Armed Services Night – definitely didn’t get off to the start they had hoped, as the Knights put up a crooked number three in the top of the first.
Greg Golson roped a ground single to left to open it, moved to second on Tyler Kuhn’s groundout to second and took third on Dan Johnson’s lined hit to left. He scored easily when Jackson stroked a single to virtually the same spot as Johnson, and Johnson hustled in on McPherson’s hit to the right-center hole.
Jackson, who raced to third on the single, then scored on Gimenez’ 4-6 fielder’s choice, and Buckner fanned Josh Phegley to end the frame.
Pawtucket appeared as if it might get one back in the bottom half when leadoff batter Pedro Ciriaco singled to left off of Zaleski and reached second on Jose Iglesias’ groundout to first. With two down, Lars Anderson drilled a line drive at center fielder Golson, who made a terrific shoestring catch.
Charlotte recorded another in the second, courtesy of No. 8 batter Garcia’s second dinger of the season, one that landed in the first row of the aluminum seats stationed in right-center.
Buckner allowed Jackson a one-out double in the third, but ended up whiffing the side after dismissing McPherson and Gimenez.
With one out in the back half, No. 9 hitter Nate Spears drew a walk and Ciriaco beat out a butt single to third, though Iglesias flew to right and Lavarnway struck out for the second time.
Just an inning later, Pawtucket threatened again but failed. Gomez ripped a one-out single to left, and – after Zaleski fanned Alex Hassan – Lin whacked a grounder to third. McPherson made the stop and tried to outrun Gomez to the base; when he knew he wouldn’t, he threw across the diamond to get Lin by a step for the third out.
The Knights broke it open in the fifth, when they sent eight to the plate – and despite the fact Buckner whiffed Golson for the initial out. He walked Kuhn, then hit Johnson and allowed Jackson a bloop single to short right, one first baseman Gomez apparently misjudged.
McPherson then drilled a shot to center, one Lin caught, but Kuhn scored on the sacrifice “line drive.” That’s when Gimenez walloped a three-run homer to right-center for the 8-0 advantage, and that caused Beyeler to replace Buckner with righty reliever Tony Pena Jr.
He immediately gave up a double to Phegley, but Gomez made a premier stab of Garcia’s liner at first to shut down the flurry.
Buckner, by the way, lasted 4 2/3 innings and yielded eight hits, eight runs (all earned) and one walk while fanning six. In his 88-pitch effort (60 for strikes), he also hit a batter.
For the third time in consecutive frames, the hometowners mustered two baserunners in the fourth but couldn’t get them across. Ciriaco reached on a one-out fielder’s choice and – with two outs – Lavarnway singled him to second. Anderson, however, struck out.