PawSox fall in Marathon Pitcher’s Duel
To call game three of the Governor’s Cup Championship Series between the Pawtucket Red Sox and the Durham Bulls a “pitcher’s duel” is an understatement. Had you boarded a flight from New York to Los Angeles just as the game began, not only would you have landed in time to see the end—you wouldn’t have missed a single run. The teams clashed for five and a half hours and thirteen innings of scoreless baseball until the Bulls managed two runs in the top of the 14th to propel them to a 2-0 victory. With the win, the Bulls take a 2-1 advantage in the best-of-five series with game four scheduled for Saturday 6 p.m. at McCoy Stadium.
What the game lacked in scoring, it made up for in exciting situations and missed opportunities. The statistics speak for themselves. Pawtucket left 17 runners on base and went a combined 0-for-13 with runners in scoring position. Durham faired little better, leaving 15 runners on base and combining for a 1-for-15 mark with runners in scoring position.
When the Bulls finally broke the stalemate in the 14th, they did so not with good hitting, but rather poor fielding by the PawSox. Right fielder Bryce Brentz misjudged a line drive that bounced off his glove with one out in the inning, giving Durham’s Kevin Kiermaier an error-aided triple. Later in the inning, with runners on the corners and one out, second baseman Brock Holt fielded a bouncing ball that looked like an inning-ending double play, but he instead threw home where nobody was covering.
Holt’s blunder allowed the first run, and a groundout two batters later brought home the second. The runs were credited to Pawtucket’s eighth pitcher of the night Chris Carpenter, but neither run was earned.
The Red Sox squandered multiple scoring opportunities in the game’s first nine innings, particularly in the sixth and eighth.
In the sixth, leadoff hitter Justin Henry drew a walk followed by a hit by pitch for Jonathan Diaz. Henry and Diaz then executed a beautiful double steal to put two runners in scoring position and one out for Alex Hassan. However, the power-hitting left fielder watched strike three go by, and cleanup hitter Hamilton grounded weakly to second baseman, ending the threat.
It was a similar story in the eighth when a leadoff walk gave the Red Sox a spark of life. With one out, pinch runner Jeremy Hazelbaker stole second and Durham reliever Jeff Beliveau balked him to third, providing the PawSox with another one-out, runner on third scenario. But it was not Pawtucket’s night as the next two batters Mark Hamilton and Brentz each struck out swinging.
On two different occasions, for a few fleeting seconds, it appeared that Justin Henry had delivered a game winning hit. Both in the ninth and the twelfth, Henry batted with the potential winning run on second base. In the ninth, Henry’s line drive looked like an RBI single but was snared by the Bull’s shortstop Tim Beckham for the third out. Again in the twelfth, another frozen rope off Henry’s bat looked destined for center field glory, but the ball struck the pitcher instead, who alertly scooped up the ball and threw Henry out at first.
The loss will be particularly tough for the Pawtucket pitchers to swallow as eight of them combined to allow just 7 hits and no earned runs in 14 innings while striking out 19 Bulls. Starter Matt Barnes turned in a strong four-hit, seven-strikeout effort in his second start with the Triple-A club.
This is the second loss in a row for the PawSox, but they are far from out. They need just two wins in the next two days—both games at their home ballpark—in order to repeat as Governor’s Cup champions. Charlie Haeger takes the ball for Pawtucket in Saturday’s must-win, but all eyes will be on the offense to see if they can bounce back from the fourteen-inning goose egg they put on the scoreboard Friday.