FORT MILL, S.C. – When you cut right to the heart of the matter, it’s pretty fitting that the Pawtucket Red Sox completed their ascension to the top of the International League mountain in the very same stadium that served as the launching point for a two-plus week stretch of unprecedented success.
It was at Knights Stadium where the PawSox on Saturday, Aug. 25 launched a six-game winning streak that went a long way in solidifying a postseason spot. On Thursday night, Pawtucket once again felt right at home with Charlotte’s home ballpark serving as the backdrop. Taking full advantage of the Knights’ southern hospitality, the PawSox went on to snag the ultimate league accomplishment – the Governors’ Cup Championship – by virtue of their 4-1 vanquishing of the Knights in Game Three of the finals.
The league title is Pawtucket’s first since 1984 and third overall in franchise history dating back to 1973 – the first year the PawSox became the Triple-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox.
The PawSox capped off the three-game sweep of the Knights by adhering to the same formula that’s served them well during this playoff run – strong starting pitching along with the right mix of timely hitting and stellar relief pitching. Pawtucket starter Nelson Figueroa delivered six innings of one-run ball as the veteran right-hander was able to wiggle his way out of several tight spots.
Offensively, Pawtucket notched all of the runs it would need in the second inning, when it plated a pair. A one-out double by Andy LaRoche advanced Danny Valencia to third. Making his second start of the playoffs, catcher Mike Rivera plated Valencia with a soft single. A sacrifice fly off the bat of Che-Hsuan Lin produced the frame’s second run.
Figueroa made the two-run advantage stand up, pitching around a leadoff single in the fourth inning. The Knights got on the scoreboard in the fifth inning as Carlos Sanchez singled with two down. That snapped a 19 1/3-inning scoreless streak for Charlotte dating back to the fourth inning of Game One.
One of 69 players used by the PawSox this season, Figueroa was able to worm his way out of a two-on, two-out jam in the sixth. He struck out back-to-back Charlotte batters – two of seven punchouts he recorded – before getting Trayce Thompson to fly out to deep centerfield.
The seventh inning saw the PawSox pad to their lead with Jeremy Hazelbaker tripling in Lin to make it 3-1. Outfielder J.C. Linares, who threw out a runner at the plate in the first inning, singled in Hazelbaker for Pawtucket’s fourth and final run.
Three PawSox relievers made Figueroa’s work stand up as Will Inman, Jose De La Torre and Josh Fields combined to toss three scoreless – and hitless – innings that featured four strikeouts. Fields nailed down the final three outs en route to picking up the save.
Now winners of 13 of their last 17 games, Pawtucket will now head to Durham, N.C. for next Tuesday’s one-game, winner-take-all Triple-A Baseball National Championship Game against the survivor of the Pacific Coast League Championship Series between Omaha (Kansas City) and Reno (Arizona).
Pawtucket 020 000 200 – 4-7-1
Charlotte 000 010 000 – 1-7-1
Nelson Figueroa, Will Inman (7), Jose De La Torre (8), Josh Fields (9) and Mike Rivera. Scott Carroll, Santos Rodriguez (7), Brandon Kloess (9) and Josh Phegley. 2B: Andy LaRoche; Greg Golson. 3B: Jeremy Hazelbaker.
WP: Figueroa (2-0). LP: Carroll (0-2). Save: Fields (1). Time: 2:54. Attendance: 1,102.