PawSox Win First Governors’ Cup Title Since 1984
It took 28 years, but the Pawtucket Red Sox have won 2012 Governor’s Cup title with a 4-1 win over the Charlotte Knights. The team recorded their first playoff sweep in franchise history, winning 3 in a row against the Knights and had an overall postseason record of 6-1. This is the third Governors’ Cup in the history of the Pawtucket Red Sox, the others coming in 1973 and 1984.
Game 3 got started with the news that scheduled Charlotte starter Matt Zaleski would not be starting for unidentified reasons. Scott Carroll was called upon to start this win-or-go-home game for the Knights, and got off to a good start with a 1-2-3 first inning. PawSox starter Nelson Figueroa made things interesting in his half of the first, but got out of trouble. Greg Golson lined a 2-0 out double to center and Seth Loman lined a single to right. Golson belted home, and was thrown out by leftfielder JC Linares, keeping the game scoreless after one.
Pawtucket struck first in inning number two. Danny Valencia got things started with an infield single to shortstop Carlos Sanchez. After a Bryce Brentz strikeout, Andy LaRoche doubled off the left field wall that missed being a homerun by a matter of inches. With Valencia at third and LaRoche at second, Mike Rivera, in just his second game of the postseason, looped a ball that fell in left field that scored Valencia and gave Pawtucket an early 1-0 lead. Ryan Dent, in his first start of the playoffs, walked to load the bases, bringing up Che-Hsuan Lin. Lin hit a line drive to right field, but a shoestring catch robbed him of extra bases. Still, it allowed LaRoche to score, making it 2-0 Pawtucket. Jeremy Hazelbaker hit a long fly to right with 2 down, but it stayed in the yard and that was the end of the inning.
The Sox missed a great scoring chance in the fourth inning. After a Brentz strikeout, LaRoche was hit with a pitch and Rivera grounded a single up the middle. Dent would strikeout, but Lin hit a soft line drive to right field to load the bases with 2 outs. Hazelbaker couldn’t capitalize on the chance, as he grounded out weakly to the pitcher, ending the inning.
Charlotte got one run back in the bottom of the fifth. Jared Mitchell hit a leadoff single through the right side. After back to back fly outs, Mitchell stole second base with Carlos Sanchez batting. Sanchez grounded a ball sharply through to right field, scoring Mitchell. However, Brentz’s throw was cut off by the first baseman LaRoche, and they got Sanchez in a run down. He was eventually tagged out at second base, and the score was 2-1 Pawtucket after five.
The Knights missed a golden scoring chance in their next at bat. Drew Garcia singled up the middle and Greg Golson would reach on an error by Danny Valencia. With runners at the corners and no outs, Loman and Josh Phegley both struck out swinging, and Trayce Thompson flied out to centerfield, ending the threat.
Pawtucket extended its lead in the top of the 7th. With one out, Che-Hsuan Lin reached first base safely after an error by the shortstop Sanchez. Hazelbaker would then triple to right field, scoring Lin and giving the Sox a 3-1 advantage. The starter Carroll would be pulled after this hit, giving way to Santos Rodriguez. He promptly walked Tony Thomas and then allowed an RBI single to Linares, extending the lead to 4-1. Valencia then hit a groundball to third base, and Thomas was thrown out at the plate trying to score for the second out of the inning. Brentz would strikeout for the fourth time in the game, ending the inning.
Figueroa would leave after six innings, giving way to the bullpen. Will Inman was first out of the bullpen, and retired the side 1-2-3 in the seventh. Jose De La Torre came in to pitch the eighth inning, and after a leadoff walk didn’t allow another base runner, sending the game into the ninth inning. Josh Fields took the mound, looking for the final three outs of the season. Fields retired the side, clinching the coveted Governors’ Cup title for the PawSox.
Nelson Figueroa was once again recorded an important win. He went 6 innings, allowing 1 run on 7 hits and no walks while striking out 5. He remarkably has pitched in every clinching game for the PawSox this season, as he was on the mound when they clinched the Wild Card, again when they beat the Yankees, and tonight’s clinching game against Charlotte. Scott Carroll, who was supposed to pitch tomorrow, received the loss. He pitched 6.1 innings, allowing 4 runs (3 earned) on 6 hits and 3 walks, striking out 7.
What the PawSox were able to do this year was incredible. The team used a remarkable 69 players in 2012, including 23 players that were called up to Boston. Seven players from the opening day roster remained for their Championship run, and those players are Will Inman, Tony Pena, Jr., Alex Wilson, Nate Spears, Che-Hsuan Lin, Jason Repko, and Alex Hassan, who is currently on the DL. Tony Thomas has also been a PawSox all season long, but he was on the DL on opening night. This run has also been made without several key players that were called up to Boston, including I.L. MVP Mauro Gomez, all-stars Ryan Lavarnway and Jose Iglesias. Also worth mentioning are players like Pedro Ciriaco, Will Middlebrooks, and Justin Germano, who were all parts of the early success of this team and were all promoted before July 7th. This year, several players stepped up when needed, both hitting wise and pitching wise. It has been well noted that all 6 pitchers from the original starting rotation have moved on, and it is also well known that many offensive stars have also moved on form Pawtucket. So many guys on this team signed here late or were called up from Portland. It is rare that a team can get championship production from these types of players, but this was a special team and will go down as one of the greatest in Pawtucket Red Sox history.
This team won in the postseason in all the ways you would expect a team to. As with any successful team, the PawSox starting pitching was tremendous. Not only did they pitch well, but they pitched deep as every pitcher went at least five innings in each postseason game. The bullpen, with the exception of game 3 against the Yankees, was dominating. The combination of Alex Wilson, Inman, De La Torre, and Fields were untouchable in late innings, which is obviously important to a successful team. On offense, hitters were clutch when they needed to be. There were no huge run totals in the final 2 games of the series, and the Sox capitalized on the situations they needed to in order to win.
Even though the PawSox are Governor’s Cup Champions, they still have one more game to play. The team will head to Durham, NC to play the champion of the Pacific Coast League (Reno or Omaha) in the Gildan Triple-A National Championship Game. This will be played Tuesday at 7:00 at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park.