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More good news from Rhode Island this week, as the Pawtucket Red Sox increased their IL North lead thanks to another 4-2 week. Pawtucket had a four-game trip to Lehigh Valley shortened on both ends when both Friday’s and Monday’s games were rained out.
Daisuke Matsuzaka made what will likely end up being his final two rehab starts. When Daniel Bard was sent down to Pawtucket on Tuesday in favor of Darnell McDonald, multiple sources reported that Matsuzaka would take Bard’s spot in the Boston rotation. Reliever Mark Prior was assigned to Pawtucket from extended Spring Training when Jose Iglesias was placed on the DL with a back injury on Saturday.
Justin Germano went seven great innings, giving up two solo home runs and striking out four. Pawtucket got on the board in the fourth when Hassan hit a sacrifice fly to plate Gomez. Gomez tied it in the sixth on a ground-rule double that drove in Lin, and Hassan hit another sac fly to give the Sox the lead. The bullpen once again protected the slim lead, with Tony Pena, Jr. and Clayton Mortensen combining to strike out five over two no-hit innings.
Norfolk starter Chris Tillman was nearly unhittable, with the only hit against him coming from Lars Anderson in the second. Tillman retired the last 17 batters he faced and finished with nine strikeouts. For Pawtucket, Daisuke Matsuzaka was just a little worse, giving up only 2 hits through 5.1 innings – but one of the hits was a home run from Tides DH Lew Ford. Nate Spears singled to lead off the ninth and advanced to second on a Pedro Ciriaco sacrifice bunt, but Jon Link induced Che-Hsuan Lin to ground out to end the game.
Pawtucket jumped out to an early lead when Ryan Lavarnway doubled home Darnell McDonald in the first. A passed ball by Lehigh catcher Tuffy Gosewisch allowed Nate Spears to score in the second, and McDonald singled home Tony Thomas in the fourth to make it 4-0 Red Sox. Brandon Duckworth couldn’t hold onto the lead, however. Back-to-back-to-back singles for the IronPigs in the bottom of the inning cut the Sox lead in half. With two outs in the fifth, Ryan Lavarnway committed catcher interference to allow the inning to continue. Pigs RF Derrick Mitchell doubled to tie the game, and Duckworth was pulled in favor of Junichi Tazawa. Tazawa struck out the side in order in the sixth, and came back on for the seventh.The leadoff hitter flied out, but a two singles and a walk loaded the bases. Derrick Mitchell dropped the first pitch of his at bat in front of McDonald in left field to end the game. The loss raised Junichi’s once microscopic ERA to 3.28.
Both starters were lit up. Tony Pena, Jr. gave up six runs in three innings for Pawtucket. Lehigh starter Dave Bush left the game with a lead after going four innings and giving up five runs. Pigs reliever Tyson Brummett allowed the Sox to tie the game in the fifth on a Mike Rivera RBI single, and take the lead in the sixth on a Lars Anderson RBI single. 2003 NL All-Star Mark Prior made his first appearance of the year and threw a scoreless fourth inning for the Red Sox. Mark Melancon gave up back-to-back singles in the seventh, but struck out Cody Overbeck to escape the jam and earn his ninth save. With the victory, Pawtucket became the first team in the International League to reach 35 wins.
Doug Mathis turned in a quality outing, giving up two runs on six hits over six innings. The game was tied in the fifth when Jonathan Hee doubled home Spears to give Pawtucket a 3-2 lead. Lehigh starter Pat Misch walked Hassan with the bases loaded to increase the Sox lead to two runs. Garrett Mock struck out the side in the ninth to earn his fifth save.
The Indians scored first when Jeff Clement singled home Chase d’Arnaud, but it was all Pawtucket from then on. Ryan Kalish homered in his first at bat of the season to make it 2-1 Sox. Mauro Gomez followed it up later in the inning with a two-run blast of his own that went over everything in left field and into the parking lot. Daisuke Matsuzaka was pulled after only 40 pitches due to the fact that he will likely start for Boston on Saturday, and Mark Prior got all five of his outs by way of the K. Ryan Lavarnway tacked on three more runs in the fifth with a bomb that also left the stadium to increase the lead to 10-1. Justin Germano pitched the final six innings for the Red Sox, giving up one run of five hits to improve his record to 6-3. After the 6′ 4″, 300 lb Jose Diaz gave up two runs in the bottom of the seventh, Indianapolis turned to RF Brandon Boggs to pitch the eighth. Boggs retired the side in order, capping a 2/4 day for him at the plate.