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Unlike their brethren at Fenway, the Pawtucket Red Sox ended the unofficial first half of the season on a high note, sweeping Syracuse at McCoy to cut the IL North deficit in half. It was a pretty eventful week, with Clay Buchholz and Jacoby Ellsbury making rehab appearances for Pawtucket.
Mark Prior and Ronald Bermudez were activated from the DL, but Tony Thomas and Jason Repko went on it themselves.
Jason Repko celebrated Independence Day with his third home run of the year in the first to put Pawtucket on top 2-0. Jon Hee followed up with some fireworks of his own, hitting his first homer of the year in the second to increase the lead to 5-1. Later in the inning, Lars Anderson singled home Repko to chase Rochester starter Luke French after only 1.1 innings. Matt Carson went deep in the fourth to cut the lead in half to two runs, but Will Inman and Junichi Tazawa each contributed two scoreless innings to seal the victory.
Starters Tony Pena, Jr. and Jeff Manship kept the game scoreless through four, but Jason Repko hit his fourth home run in the fifth to open the scoring. Then, the Blowtorch Brothers of Pawtucket got to work. Pena allowed a walk and two singles before being lifted in favor of Daniel Bard.
Bard proceeded to bean the first batter he faced to load the bases. A Matt Carson double gave Rochester a 3-1 lead, and Bard hit Sean Burroughs to re-load the sacks. Two wild pitches brought another two Red Wings home, and Danny Valencia singled to drive in the Wings’ sixth run of the inning.
Alex Wilson and Will Latimer then combined to throw four shutout innings. The Red Sox fought back in the ninth as Alex Hassan doubled home Lavarnway and Anderson to put the tying run on base, but Che-Hsuan Lin struck out on three pitches to drop the Sox to 49-40.
Billy Buckner continued his resurgence with a strong outing, allowing one run on seven hits over 5.2 innings. Unfortunately, the Red Sox couldn’t bunch together their five hits against Rochester starter P.J. Walters and Buckner was tagged with his third loss. Pawtucket pushed a run across in the eighth against Wings reliever Bobby Lanigan on back-t0-back-to-back singles from Lin, Anderson, and LaRoche. Solo homers from Clete Thomas and Danny Valencia off of Garrett Mock provided the margin of victory for the Red Wings.
Zach Stewart turned in another excellent start, allowing two runs on seven hits over 6.2 innings. Pawtucket loaded the bases in the bottom of the seventh with nobody out, and tied the game at two apiece on a fielding error by Carlos Rivero on a would-be double-play ball. Jose Iglesias singled home Linares to give the Sox a 3-2 lead, and Will Inman tossed two scoreless frames to earn his fifth save. Jacoby Ellsbury made his 2012 debut and went 0/4 from the leadoff spot.
Clay Buchholz made his first Pawtucket start since 2010 and struck out three over just 2.1 shutout innings. I asked him why he was taken out so soon, and he said he didn’t know and that he tried to talk Rich Sauveur into letting him stay in the game. (Manager Arnie Beyeler was in Kansas City for the Futures Game.) Granted, all pitchers want to stay in games, but it shows that Clay feels good and couldn’t wait to get back on a diamond, something which you can’t say about Carl Crawford.
Nate Spears hit his sixth home run of the year in the fourth against Syracuse starter Yunesky Maya to increase Pawtucket’s lead to 4-0. Brandon Duckworth pitched well in relief, giving up one run on four hits over 4.2 innings to improve his record to 8-2.
Daniel Bard bounced back with a perfect eighth inning, and Junichi Tazawa struck out the side in order in the ninth to receive his fourth save.
Jacoby Ellsbury hit a bloop single in the third and came around to score, raising his batting average to .125.