PawSox let Game Two slip away

Already up 1-0 in their best of five Governors’ Cup series, Pawtucket would have to get a game two win with someone who has never pitched in Triple-A.

Brian Johnson, who spent most of this year dominating in Portland, was summoned to make his Triple-A debut when Matt Barnes was called up to Boston on Monday. He faced off against Alex Colome who has spent time in the big leagues this season for the Rays.

Johnson pitched strong, but the PawSox lost 4-3 after letting a late lead slip away. Their series is now tied 1-1.

For the second consecutive game, Pawtucket struck quickly with runs in the first two innings. The team loaded the bases with no outs in the first, though only managed one run on a groundout from Ryan Lavarnway. Ivan DeJesus Jr. started off the second with a triple and Corey Brown launched a two-run home run giving Pawtucket a 3-0 lead.

That would chase the ineffective Colome from the game after an inning and a third, marking the second time in as many games a Durham starter didn’t make it past three innings.

Durham responded with a two run home run in the third inning by Mike Mahtook to make it 3-2, but that would be all the offense until the later innings. Pawtucket had plenty of scoring chances early, though didn’t capitalize nearly enough on them.

“We had a chance to blow it open,” Manager Kevin Boles said. “We missed some opportunities. I liked how we burned through their starter and get opportunities but we just couldn’t push runs across.”

Johnson looked solid in his six innings of work, allowing two runs on four hits and three walks while striking out seven. He flashed an impressive curveball, though did not factor in the decision.

“He pitched well,” Boles said. “He settled in with a good pitch mix and he gave us what we needed tonight.”

“I was excited to get out there,” Johnson said of his debut. “I got on the same page as Lavarnway pretty quick. This year has been fun for sure and hopefully we finish on the right note.”

Heath Hembree, who was shaky in last night’s appearance despite recording the save, came out for the ninth but gave up a game tying solo home run to Vince Belnome making the score 3-3. Brown led off the ninth with a double for Pawtucket, but was stranded at third.

Pawtucket again squandered a golden chance to win it in the 10th, loading the bases with two outs for Brown who struck out.

The Bulls would not waste their chance to win in the 11th. With runners on first and second, Mike Fontenot lined an RBI single to right off John Ely, giving the Bulls a 4-3 lead. The PawSox limited the damage, but Pawtucket wouldn’t score in their half and fell by that final.

The Rusney Castillo watch continued, as he went 1-4 with a walk in his second Triple-A game. He had a chance to win the game in the ninth, however popped out weakly with a runner on third and one out. Once the game went into extras, he was removed as the plan was for him to play nine innings. He has shown that he will continue to be an aggressive player and when watching him play it is tough not to see flashes of fellow Cuban Yasiel Puig. Boles said that it is doubtful he plays in game three.

Pawtucket will hope to regain their series lead tomorrow as Henry Owens takes the mound against Matt Andriese.

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Castillo, PawSox lead Governors’ Cup

Tuesday marked Game One of the 2014 Governors’ Cup at McCoy Stadium, but more importantly for Red Sox fans it marked the Triple-A debut of Rusney Castillo. The 27 year old outfielder has come with plenty of hype, even though many aren’t quite sure what to expect from the Cuban. Though not a tall guy, reports indicate that he is fully capable of playing centerfield in the big leagues right now with the ability to have gap power and good speed. If this is the case, the organization is looking not only at their centerfielder of the future, but a potential leadoff or number two hitter.

Though he has already played in some games within the organization, this will be the highest level of baseball he has competed in. Not to mention it comes in the most crucial series the PawSox have played in all season.

For the third straight season (second against the Durham Bulls) the Pawtucket Red Sox will play in the Governors’ Cup Finals, though they will be without one of their star pitchers Matt Barnes. Barnes was called up to Boston for the first time on Monday after a great outing in the semi-finals. Edwin Escobar, coming off a brilliant semi-final effort as well, took the ball in game one against hard throwing Rays prospect Enny Romero.

Behind another strong outing from Escobar, Pawtucket won 3-2 to take the lead in this best of five series.

Pawtucket struck quickly in the first when Ivan De Jesus Jr. singled to right and eventually scored on an RBI single from Travis Shaw. They added to their lead in the second after Blake Swihart doubled and scored on an opposite field single from Deven Marrero to make it 2-0 PawSox.

Durham responded with two in the third on a two out, two run single by Mike Mahtook but Pawtucket quickly regained the lead on an 11 pitch sacrifice fly from Garin Cecchini.

The early theme for the PawSox offense was working counts as they were able to chase Romero from the game by making him throw 77 pitches through three innings.

Doug Mathis was called upon to silence the Pawtucket bats, and he did a good job of that in the middle innings. However Escobar was able to the same to the Bulls’ bats, keeping them off balance and limiting chances. He had to give way to the bullpen in the eighth inning, but they were able to close it out and secure the 3-2 PawSox win.

Escobar picked up the win, going seven innings giving up two runs on six hits and five strikeouts. For the second consecutive postseason start he didn’t walk a batter. Hembree earned a four out save, escaping trouble in the eighth and ninth innings. This included getting out of a bases loaded, one out jam to close the game.

“He was impressive and had a good mix,” Manager Kevin Boles said of his starter. “The tempo with him and Swihart was good and he did a good job keeping the defense involved.”

Castillo ended his debut going 1-4 with two strikeouts. His first Triple-A hit came on a sharp single past the third baseman, however he was quickly erased on a caught stealing. Both strikeouts came on 96 mph fastballs, one looking and one swinging. Though it’s tough to judge on just one game, his swing has some resemblance to fellow Cuban Yasiel Puig.

“He expanded the zone a couple of times but he’s an athlete and you can tell,” Boles said. “It stands out. We’re going let him play his game and be himself. There’s a lot to like.”

“I felt good,” Castillo said through his translator. “It was nice to pull out the win in a tight game but I felt more comfortable as the game progressed. I may have been a little over aggressive at first but I tried to be more patient after my third at bat.”

Pawtucket looks to take a commanding 2-0 series lead tomorrow night when Brian Johnson makes his Triple-A debut against Alex Colome.

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Barnes, PawSox take 2-0 lead

Coming off a walk off victory last night, the Pawtucket Red Sox looked to take a commanding 2-0 lead in their best of five series against the Syracuse Chiefs. Matt Barnes took the hill for the Wild Card Champion PawSox looking to build upon his strong campaign while Scott McGregor got the start for the I.L. North Champion Chiefs.

Barnes was able to follow up Edwin Escobar’s tremendous start with a great outing of his own, leading the PawSox to an 8-2 victory.

After both offenses started out cold in game one, Pawtucket wasted no time striking first in game two. Jackie Bradley Jr. singled to start the first and scored on a Travis Shaw double. After a Ryan Lavarnway ground out plated another run, last night’s hero Garin Cecchini singled home Shaw giving the Sox a 3-0 lead.

The pitching dominance then picked up right where it left off, as neither team would see many scoring chances through five innings. The closest Syracuse came to Barnes was a one out double by Jeff Kobernus in the sixth, but that’s all Pawtucket’s young hurler would allow.

Pawtucket opened it up in the bottom half of the inning, taking advantage of the Chief’s bullpen. Shaw and Cecchini reached to begin the inning and moved into scoring position on a balk from Felipe Rivero. Ryan Roberts drove them home with a two run double and scored on Devin Marrero’s single to make the score 6-0 after six.

“We had a lot of quality at bats, and if we made an out it was a tough out,” manager Kevin Boles explained. “Cecchini has turned a corner and he’s back to the guy we know. He’s using the whole field and impacting the baseball.”

The PawSox added two more in the seventh on a Cecchini triple and a Roberts single, winning by the final of 8-2.

Barnes earned the win pitching seven strong innings, scattering three hits while striking out six and walking no one.

“I felt pretty good,” Barnes said after the game. “I was able to establish my fastball early and let the change up play off of that. Being here last year for the playoffs got me used to the atmosphere and what its like. You know you have to go out there, put up zeros, and pitch as deep as possible.”

“He was terrific,” Boles said of his pitcher. “Not walking anyone was a huge key for him. He was able to attack this lineup and that was huge.”

Cecchini paced the offensive attack going 4-4 with two RBIs while Roberts went 3-4 with three RBIs. Bradley and Marrero each added two hits of their own.

Pawtucket looks to end the series tomorrow in Syracuse, as top prospect Henry Owens takes the mound against Mitch Lively.

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PawSox win Game One in extras

It came down to the last series of the year but the Pawtucket Red Sox clinched their fourth consecutive playoff berth with a win over the Rochester Red Wings. In a game featuring over two hours of rain delays the PawSox were able to weather the storm, winning 10-4 to secure the I.L. Wild Card and set up a playoff series with the I.L. North Champion Syracuse Chiefs.

They got their postseason off to a good start, taking game one of this best of five series 2-1.

Minor league rosters are impacted by Major League September call-ups, as clubs want to see if some of the young talent they have can make an impact at the highest level. Pawtucket will be without Anthony Ranaudo (I.L. most valuable pitcher), Brandon Workman, Mookie Betts (2014 PawSox MVP), Steven Wright, and Dan Butler (2013 PawSox MVP) as they were all promoted to Boston in recent days. However, the depth of the Boston organization is on display as Pawtucket’s roster is still formidable for the postseason.

The lineup features top prospects and players with MLB experience, most notably Jackie Bradley Jr. Their rotation in particular features tremendous talent, as top prospects Henry Owens and Matt Barnes will be anchoring the staff. It also features Edwin Escobar, another young pitcher acquired in the Jake Peavy trade who took the mound for game one.

The 22 year old Escobar showed why he is highly thought of in his start, dominating the Syracuse lineup. His fastball topped out at 95 mph while showing very good off speed pitches. He also showed good command, not walking a batter and not giving Chiefs hitters many good pitches to hit.

Meanwhile, Pawtucket’s hitters were equally quiet offensively. Though the team had some early chances off Chiefs starter Taylor Hill, they were unable to push home any runs through the first five innings.

That would change in the sixth, as Travis Shaw launched the first pitch of the inning into the Chiefs bullpen to give the PawSox a 1-0 lead.

That would remain the score until the ninth, when Syracuse would fight back to tie the game at one. Down to their last out, Brandon Laird hit a towering home run to left field chasing Escobar from the game.

The game went into extra innings, and the middle of Pawtucket’s offense did not disappoint. Bryce Brentz doubled to lead off the inning and got to third on a wild pitch. Shaw and Ryan Lavarnway walked to set up Garin Cecchini for the heroics, and he delivered a walk off single up the middle to give the Sox a 2-1 win.

In his best start with Pawtucket Escobar fired 8.2 innings allowing one run on five hits while allowing no walks and striking out seven.

“Everything was working,” joked Escobar. “The defense was good, the catcher was good. I feel strong right now.”

Heath Hembree earned the win, pitching 1.1 innings of perfect ball out of the bullpen. Former PawSox pitcher Manny Delcarmen was charged with the loss.

Shaw finished the game 2-3 with a pair of walks while Blake Swihart went 3-4. Bradley Jr. continued his slump going 0-5 with two strikeouts. Laird finished 1-4 while Jhonatan Solano went 3-3 with a double.

To see Manager Kevin Boles talk about the victory, go to https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/223562408/20140903_221454.mp4 or https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d50WqeA9XYk&list=UUJGUYa3IGT6SeKFVskP3Jiw

Pawtucket looks to take a commanding 2-0 series lead tomorrow night at McCoy as Matt Barnes will face off against Scott McGregor.

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PawSox in playoff position

The Minor League baseball season is in its final weeks and the Pawtucket Red Sox are right in the mix of the playoff picture. The PawSox are just three games behind first place Syracuse and have a three game lead over Rochester for the Wild Card. As is usually the case at the Triple-A level roster additions and subtractions down the stretch can make a huge impact on the standings, and with Pawtucket playing both the Chiefs and Red Wings to close out their season they could be a deciding factor.

This week has seen a number of moves, the most notable of which was the demotion of Jackie Bradley Jr. The center fielder’s struggles at the plate have been well documented, and the organization finally decided that he needed more time in Triple-A. Mookie Betts was promoted to take his spot in the outfield, and a good performance from him could earn him a starting spot somewhere in the 2015 Boston outfield.

The timing of Bradley’s demotion seems odd as offensive struggles have been a problem all year, but the team will now see what Betts can do with his chance. Bradley has always been a mentally tough player, and his toughness and love for the game will get him back on track soon according to Manager Kevin Boles.

“We talked to him the first day before we even knew he was going to report.” Boles explained. “He said ‘I want to play tonight.’ His frame of mind has been terrific from the jump.”

Bradley hit just .216 with Boston, striking out at a very high rate and looking overmatched at times in the batter’s box. His glove and arm in center field may have been the best in the majors this year, but his offensive growth needed work and Pawtucket may be the best spot for him to this.

“There’s a plan with the offensive approach that’s been laid down and he’s taken to it,” Boles continued. “I’m sure he’s had some disappointment but he hasn’t shown any of that. Knowing what type of athlete he is the adjustment period should be shorter than longer.”

The coaching staff and organization constantly express their admiration for his work ethic and natural talent, so his demotion isn’t a sign that they are ready to give up on the youngster.

With David Ross being activated off the DL, it is not a surprise that Dan Butler was sent back to Pawtucket. Butler is coming off his first MLB stint, and though he failed to record a hit in his 11 at bats the fact that the undrafted catcher worked his way to the big leagues is a credit to his perseverance. Butler will likely see time at both catcher and DH while being a strong candidate for September call ups.

His time at catcher will likely be limited however, as Ryan Lavarnway and Blake Swihart will also be behind the dish. Boles said that all three would play and that they would find creative ways to play them all, but Swihart will likely get the bulk of the time. Swihart has only spent two weeks with the club, but Boles said he and the team are impressed with him.

“We’ve seen him where he can impact the baseball from both sides of the plate. We’ve seen a more consistent approach from the right side of the plate, but he has the chance to be a real impact bat. Defensively he’s shown above average arm strength and a very quick release. He’s not afraid and he’s learning the pitch plan. Guys are taking to him.”

Swihart isn’t the only youngster catching the eye of the team. Much was made of Henry Owens and his dominating debut, but his last two starts don’t look nearly as good on paper. Owens gave up four runs in each of his last two outings, though continued his impressive strikeout numbers.

“I liked his last two starts,” Boles raved. “He showed flashes of real quality stuff. The three pitch mix, being able to throw his change at any point in the count, being able to throw it left on left. The breaking ball is better than everybody advertises. He has a lot of weapons.”

When asked about managing his workload, Boles said that they would keep an eye on it but they didn’t expect it to be an issue because he has been managed well all season.

Another young player the organization is high on is Garin Cecchini. It hasn’t been the easiest season for him, as he has dealt with slumps and position changes. However, August has been a different story as he is hitting above .310 and driving in plenty of runs. Boles attributes this to his adjustments and his familiarity with Triple-A.

“Being familiar with the league he’s made the adjustments and seen how they’re trying to attack him. He’s also taken care of his business too as far as staying back and getting in a better position to hit. Younger hitters tend to drift and get out on their front foot but we are seeing him stay more balanced.”

In other PawSox news, the team welcomed back Steven Wright and said goodbye to Alex Hassan, who was promoted so Boston had more depth on their bench. With Mike Napoli ailing, having someone like Hassan who plays both OF and 1B is a valuable asset.

Matt Barnes continued rolling in his last start, going 6.1 innings giving up no runs while allowing just two hits and striking out seven. He has been dominant since the All-Star break, and on a staff of young pitchers like Anthony Ranaudo and Owens, Barnes has been their best pitcher in the second half.

“Any time you can string together a few good outings its fun,” Barnes said, “but the most important thing is going out and giving quality starts. When you have other young guys performing well it definitely motivates you. We’re all trying to go out there and do the best we can to get up to Boston as fast as we can and help them win. When you have someone pushing you it makes you work harder.”

The PawSox continue their series with the Iron Pigs Thursday as Owens will get the ball looking for his second Triple-A win.

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