PAWTUCKET – It was about 11 a.m. Friday when Gary DiSarcina received a text message from Justin Henry, a player who according to the PawSox skipper, “has had a rough year. He was a .300 hitter in Toledo last year, but he’s one of the best teammates out there.”
Henry had a simple request. His mother was in town and was wondering if it was possible for DiSarcina to include him in the lineup for that night’s game against Syracuse.
“I had made the lineup out, but as I’ve told the guys from the very beginning of the year, whether we’re home or on the road, if you’re family or parents are in town, we’ll get you in,” was the promise DiSarcina has managed to keep. “Justin’s mom has been in town the past four days.”
With a special set of eyes looking on, Henry played the role of hero as Pawtucket is heading to the Governors’ Cup playoffs for the third straight season, a franchise first. Henry’s two-out single in the bottom of ninth plated speedster Quintin Berry with the North Division-clinching run as the PawSox gave the 11,017 fans an additional reason to cheer following a thrilling 2-1 walk-off win over the Chiefs.
The division title is the seventh in PawSox history and the second in three seasons. The defending Governors’ Cup champions will open the 2013 playoffs on the road next Wednesday at either Norfolk or Rochester. The first two games of the best-of-five opening round will take place in the other team’s ballpark before the locals return home next Friday for Game 3.
If needed, Game 4 will take place next Saturday and Game 5 a week from this coming Sunday.
As he enjoyed a cigar in his office, DiSarcina reflected on Henry’s contribution. The utility player took a .209 average into Friday’s action.
“Great team win,” he stated. “When Justin got that hit, I was thinking, ‘This is what it’s all about.’ A true professional and a great teammate.”
Berry helped set the stage for Henry’s heroics with a walk and a stolen base. With the count 1-1, Henry laced a single to center that ended the contest and set in motion a jubilant scene of enthusiastic PawSox ballplayers and coaching members.
The win goes to Anthony Ranaudo, who made his first-ever relief appearance as a professional following 59 consecutive starts. Following Clay Buchholz, Jose De La Torre and Alex Wilson, Ranaudo tossed four hitless innings with five strikeouts and one walk.
“He struggled with his fastball up in the zone in the beginning of his outing, but he settled down and absolutely pitched his heart out,” said DiSarcina.
Speaking of Wilson, the right-hander tossed a scoreless fifth inning, throwing eight of his 10 pitches for strikes. It was Wilson’s first appearance on the mound since Aug. 9. Another rehabber, Brandon Snyder, played seven innings at third base and 1-for-3.
Prior to the game, the PawSox announced that closer Anthony Carter was chosen as the team’s Most Valuable Pitcher and that catcher Dan Butler had distinguished himself enough to win Team MVP honors.
Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03