PAWTUCKET — It’s hard to believe, but for the first time this season, the Pawtucket Red Sox have lost three straight games.
The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders made the most out of eight extra-base hits (and their second straight game with four home runs) and overcame a big afternoon from PawSox third baseman Will Middlebrooks on Sunday in producing a 9-6 victory before the fourth largest crowd at McCoy Stadium.
Middlebrooks, who was sent down to Pawtucket by the Boston Red Sox earlier last week, enjoyed his best game since the demotion. He belted a pair of two-run homers, with his second shot of the day coming in the bottom of the seventh inning and tying a back-and-forth game at 6-6.
But in the top of the eighth, the RailRiders used two of their extra-base hits – neither one of them hard hit – to take a lead they never relinquished.
No. 9 batter Bobby Wilson broke the tie with a bloop double that dropped near the right-field line, and Walter Ibarra tapped a grounder that bounced past the reach first baseman Alex Hassan (an outfielder who was making his first start at that position) and down the right-field line for a two-run double.
The news wasn’t very good for PawSox starter Brandon Workman, who after enjoying an excellent two months with the Double-A Portland Sea Dogs (5-1 with a 3.43 ERA and 74 strikeouts in 65 2/3 innings) and rolling through the first five Triple-A starts of his young career, hit a speedbump on Sunday.
The 24-year-old righthander, a fourth-round selection of the Boston Red Sox in the 2011 MLB draft, came into the day with a 3-1 record and a 2.16 ERA, striking out 23 batters and walking nine in 25 innings.
He also gave up just two home runs during those starts, but in Sunday’s game against the RailRiders, he was touched up for all four of their homers in an outing that saw Workman strike out six batters and yield eight hits, six runs (five earned), and two walks.
Workman’s afternoon immediately got off to a rocky start. His fourth pitch of the day to leadoff batter (and ex-Chicago Cubs and Baltimore Orioles center fielder) Corey Patterson was deposited into the picnic area in right field for a home run.
But the PawSox answered back in the bottom of the inning on a two-out, two-run homer by Middlebrooks. After Jackie Bradley Jr. led off with a double into the gap in left-center field and sped to third on a long fly to center by Justin Henry, Middlebrooks crushed a 1-2 pitch from RailRiders starter Jose Ramirez into the parking lot in left.
In the third, the longball hurt Workman again. Patterson led off with a ringing double that hit the bottom of the wall in right-center, and with two gone, Randy Ruiz crushed the first pitch he saw deep into the berm in center for his fifth homer in 16 games with the RailRiders.
The hosts then reclaimed their lead with a pair of runs in their half of the frame on a throwing error by third baseman Josh Bell. With two gone and Bradley Jr. and Middlebrooks on first and second via walks, Jeremy Hazelbaker hit a grounder in the hole that Bell snagged to his left, but bounced a throw past first baseman Dan Johnson that allowed both runners to score.
But Bell made up for his miscue in the fourth by hammering Workman’s first pitch of the inning into the bleachers in right-center to tie the score at 4-4.
And the visitors weren’t done. The next batter, Addison Maruszak, gave the RailRiders back the lead by belting a 0-1 pitch from Workman deep into the berm in left for just his second home run in 217 at-bats.
Wilson followed that shot with a hard-hit double down the left-field line, and Patterson drove home Wilson with a sharp single to right.
The RailRiders clinged to their two-run lead until the seventh, when with two gone, Alex Hassan drew a walk and Middlebrooks followed with a two-run homer to center that fell between the shed in straightaway center and the nearby bleachers in right-center.
After the RailRiders seized the lead in the top of the eighth, the PawSox did their best to get back into the game in the bottom half. A leadoff walk to Xander Bogaerts and one-out base hits to left by Ronald Bermudez and Alberto Rosario loaded the bases for the top of the order.
But Bradley Jr. popped out to shallow left field, with left fielder Thomas Neal making a sliding catch on the fly ball, and Justin Henry flew out to right to end the threat.
New RailRiders closer Jim Miller then struck out the side in order in the ninth to record his fourth save in as many chances.
Bermudez was playing in his first contest since June 1. The right fielder, who entered the day batting .240 in 20 games, landed on the disabled list after suffering a back contusion following an outfield collision, but was activated before the game, bringing the PawSox back to the roster limit of 25 players.
Also before the game, the PawSox placed outfielder Mitch Maier on the disabled list with an oblique injury that he suffered in the third inning of Saturday night’s 12-4 loss to the RailRiders. Replacing Maier on the roster is outfielder Mark Hamilton, who had been on the DL since May 16 with a right wrist fracture.
EXTRA BASES: Middlebrooks has hit safely in all five of his games since his demotion and is 6-for-21 during that stretch. … The PawSox have allowed 31 runs during their three-game skid. … The RailRiders began the day with 13 players on the DL. … The announced attendance was 8,460. ... PawSox reliever Jose De La Torre set down all five batters he faced in Sunday’s game, striking out three of them. … First-year PawSox radio broadcaster Bob Socci was honored on the field before the game, his final in the McCoy Stadium booth. Socci will be starting his new job as the New England Patriots’ play-by-play broadcaster this week, replacing longtime announcer Gil Santos. … Knuckleballer Steve Wright will take a 3-5 record into tonight’s 6:15 p.m. game against the RailRiders, the third of their five-game series. Wright will be opposed by southpaw David Huff (3-3). Tonight also marks the first of three straight firework nights at the ballpark, and Tuesday and Wednesday’s games will also begin at 6:15 p.m.