PAWTUCKET — If Will Middlebrooks is indeed activated by Boston on Friday night, he will have the good fortune of facing a pitcher that has much less zip on his fastball than the one that stymied the PawSox on Wednesday night.
Touching 99 miles per hour on the radar gun, Rochester starting pitcher Alex Meyer slowed the Pawtucket bats to a virtual crawl. Meyer struck out 11 in 6.2 innings and got Middlebrooks to go down swinging in all three of his at-bats.
Thankfully for the PawSox, the player who replaced Middlebrooks in the eighth inning came through. Stepping to the plate with one down and two on and his team trailing 1-0, Garin Cecchini roped a two-run double into the left-center field gap that helped propel Pawtucket to a come-from-behind 3-1 victory.
“That was a good job with Garin staying ready. He was watching the game the whole time and that’s a good developmental tool for him, coming off the bench like that,” said Pawtucket manager Kevin Boles. “That’s probably something he hasn’t done too often and to be ready and face a lefty on top of it … very impressive at-bat.”
Pawtucket’s rally robbed Meyer of what would have been a well-deserved victory. The 24-year-old righthander featured a fastball that generally resided in the mid to upper 90s to compliment an assortment of sneaky breaking pitches.
“He’s got a power fastball. You’ve got to be ready for 97, 98, then he drops an 86-mph hook on you,” pointed PawSox catcher Dan Butler, who as the team’s DH had one of the three hits the PawSox mustered against Meyer while striking out twice. “It makes it a little more interesting.”
Before the game Middlebrooks admitted that he wasn’t looking forward to facing Meyer, especially after facing a hard thrower in his first rehab game two nights earlier.
“Whomever I see in Toronto, I'm excited to see that,” said Middlebrooks, who if everything shakes out accordingly would face Blue Jays lefty Mark Buehrle. “It’s been a tough draw.”
Has it ever. In six at-bats with Pawtucket, Middlebrooks has fanned five times. All three of his at-bats Wednesday followed the same script. Meyer would begin the confrontation with fastballs before polishing off the rehabbing third baseman with curveballs that produced awkward swings.
Told that Meyer, who stands at 6-foot-9, touched 99 mph during his third at-bat, Middlebrooks replied, “I believe it. It’s pretty impressive and tough as far as trying to get your timing back. That’s quality stuff; I don’t care what level it is. I asked the coaches if he made someone mad. Are there five guys better than him in Minnesota? I don’t know what his deal is, but he was nasty.”
Middlebrooks saw a total of 15 pitches over the course of his three at-bats. On Boston’s disabled list with a right calf strain, Middlebrooks tentatively plans to be back at McCoy Stadium for Thursday’s matinee. Of course with the Yankees sending left-hander C.C. Sabathia to the mound Thursday night, the Red Sox could end up activating Middlebrooks for the simple reason of getting another right-handed batter in the lineup.
Regardless of what happens, Middlebrooks will be on the team’s flight to Toronto.
“I’m scheduled to play Thursday. That was the plan,” said Middlebrooks. “I know Brock (Holt) is left-handed, but if they want me to get a few more at-bats, I’ll be here.”
To be fair, Allen Webster did his part in matching Meyer zero for zero. Webster departed with one down in the seventh inning and the game scoreless. He also left with a runner on first base.
The right-hander was tagged for one earned run thanks to reliever Wilfredo Boscan, who allowed three stolen bases and a sacrifice fly that produced the game’s first run.
Pawtucket was held to one hit through six innings before Brandon Snyder and Butler stroked back-to-back singles in the seventh. That spelled the end for Meyer, but PawSox could not capitalize as Corey Brown grounded back to relief pitcher Ryan Pressley, who was saddled with the loss.
For good measure, Ryan Lavarnway followed Cecchini’s timely knock with a run-scoring single. Boscan ended up being the winning pitcher with Chris Resop pitching a scoreless ninth for the save. Rochester did have two runners aboard when Resop fanned Dan Rohlfing for the game’s final out.
Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03