Buffalo 2, Pawtucket 0: McHugh Tops Hernandez in Pitching Duel as Bisons Complete “Futures” Opponent Sweep
BOSTON – One of New England’s favorite days of the baseball season ended on a sour note on Saturday at Fenway Park as the Pawtucket Red Sox dropped a 2-0 shutout decision to the Buffalo Bisons (NYM) in the opener of a brief two-game weekend series.
After two victories in their first two “Futures” doubleheader appearances, the PawSox have now dropped their last three Boston contests as Collin McHugh allowed just five hits in the victory.
McHugh, who began the season with 12 starts for Double-A Binghamton in 2012, twirled a gem inside “America’s Most Beloved Ballpark” last season, allowing just four hits in six innings against the Portland Sea Dogs. The 2008 18th-round Draft selection was the B-Mets Pitcher of the Year last season, going 8-2 with a 2.89 ERA in 18 appearances.
“He did a great job,” said first-year Buffalo manager and former Major Leaguer Wally Backman said. “He’s definitely on the radar. I know the people above us in New York are watching him pretty close.”
“He’s had some real hard luck…[and] come out of a lot of games with [a lead we've coughed up]. But he’s pitched much better than that 2-4.”
SS Jose Iglesias dropped down a beautiful bunt down the first base line with one out in the first inning but was able to escape the minor threat without any damage in the run column. McHugh settled in very nicely and retired eight in a row, before 1B Andy LaRoche knocked a base hit in the fourth inning.
Lefty Chris Hernandez made the start for the PawSox and pitched fairly well in his own right, despite walking three and allowing two runs and four hits overall.
The 23-year-old Miami native is in just his second full season as a pro and was the sixth-best statistical pitcher in the Eastern League – with a 3.13 ERA – before becoming the first 2010 Sox draftee to reach Pawtucket.
“Today, he didn’t pitch well enough to win,” PawSox skipper Arnie Beyeler said following the game. “We needed zeros, I guess…If you go out there and throw six innings and give up two runs every time out, that’s a pretty good start. He got us deep into the game like he’s supposed to do.”
LF Lucas Duda singled with two outs in the first but the visitors took a 1-0 lead as 2B Brad Emaus poked an RBI grounder to second base to score DH Josh Satin.
Despite not being able to crack the scoreboard and managing just five hits, the PawSox were able to make solid contact on the ball throughout the game but were simply unable to manufacture any scoring. They tallied one base hit in the fourth through seventh innings but McHugh worked out of the jam each time.
The Bisons tagged Hernandez for a second run to open the seventh inning as SS Josh Rodriguez lined a solo home run into the front row of the Green Monster for his seventh of the season and just the second surrendered by Hernandez this season for the PawSox.
Of Pawtucket’s five hits, only 2B Jon Hee’s fifth-inning double went for extra bases, as the team could not manage more than one knock in any frame. Ironically, the PawSox were tied for the best offense in the International League at .269 entering the game – a spot they have found themselves in for the majority of the season.
McHugh departed the game after 95 pitches and the Buffalo bullpen pitched two hitless innings, including a ten-pitch ninth from former PawSox and current Bison closer Fernando Cabrera, who earned his 21st save to lead all Mets minor leaguers and IL pitching qualifiers.
Following Hernandez’s exit, the bullpen tandem of Josh Fields and Chris Carpenter brought the heat over three scoreless innings. Carpenter, who will forever be known as the compensation for former Sox general manager Theo Epstein, pitched a perfect ninth inning with one strikeout.
Hernandez, who has not won since his second appearance on July 27 at Indianapolis (PIT), fell to 1-3 on the season with the loss but has still allowed just 12 earned runs over 30.2 innings at Triple-A. McHugh improved to 2-4, earning his first victory in eight appearances.
The PawSox dropped three of their five decisions to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre over the past four nights, and with Lehigh Valley (PHI), dropped into a second-place tie with the IronPigs.
Billy Bucker takes the ball in the final Sunday afternoon home game of the season at McCoy Stadium, opposing Buffalo righty Jeurys Familia. The Bisons are now in the midst of a brief two-game winning streak, sending the PawSox to their sixth loss in the last ten contests.