PawSox lose Triple-A National Championship Game
The 2012 Pawtucket Red Sox season came to an end Tuesday night, losing the Triple-A National Championship game 10-3 to the Reno Aces. This was a one game playoff between the Pacific Coast League champion Aces and the International League Governors’ Cup champion PawSox, and was played in Durham, North Carolina.
Going into the night, it was expected to be a pitcher’s duel, as top Diamondbacks prospect Trevor Bauer would face the veteran PawSox starter Nelson Figueroa. Both pitchers were pitching very well in the playoffs, leading their team to their respected league’s championship. Neither pitcher would live up to expectations.
After Bauer recorded a quick 1-2-3 first inning, the Aces attacked Figueroa quickly. AJ Pollock took the second pitch of the game and belted it to centerfield for a lead off triple and would score on a Tyler Kuhn bloop single to left. Figueroa struck out the next two hitters, but Brent Clevlen drilled a 2-run homerun to centerfield, making the score 3-0 Reno after one.
Pawtucket’s top half of the second started out promising, as Danny Valencia hit a lead-off double and advanced to third on a wild pitch. However, in what would become a theme on the night, the PawSox could not cash in on the opportunity. The combination of Andy LaRoche, Bryce Brentz, and Dan Butler couldn’t drive home the run and the Sox came up empty. Reno once again jumped on Figueroa in the bottom of the second. Tyler Bortnick singled leading off, and once again after recording two outs, the PawSox could not get out of the inning. Pollock doubled home a run, Kuhn singled home Pollock and advanced to second on the throw to the plate, and Josh Bell lined an RBI single to center scoring Kuhn and giving Reno the commanding 6-0 lead.
Pawtucket once again missed a chance to dent the Aces’ lead in the third. Jon Hee and Che-Hsuan Lin both walked on four straight pitches to lead off the inning. This brought the top of the order up, but they could not capitalize on Bauer. Jeremy Hazelbaker and Tony Thomas struck out and JC Linares grounded out to end the inning.
In just the third inning, Pawtucket made a pitching change, inserting Chris Hernandez into the game. He did not fare much better, allowing the first two batters he faced to reach base. With runners at 2nd and 3rd and one out, Ryan Buddle hit a sacrifice fly to make it 7-0, and with 2 down the Aces scored again when right fielder Brentz let a ball bounce off his glove. After three innings, it was 8-0 Reno.
Finally in the top of inning number four, the PawSox got their first run. Valencia led off with a walk and with two outs Butler singled to left. Hee then walked to load the bases and Lin followed that with a walk to push home the first Pawtucket run. That is all they could do with the chance, as Hazelbaker struck out swinging letting Bauer off the hook and keeping the score 8-1.
Tony Thomas led off for the PawSox in the top of the fifth, and launched the first pitch he saw for a homerun to make it 8-2 Reno. Much like previous innings, the PawSox could not make a bigger dent in the deficit. They loaded the bases with 2 outs, and knocked Bauer out of the game due to his high pitch count. Mike DeMark replaced the young starter, and got Hee to strikeout, ending the threat.
Brock Huntzinger came out of the bullpen to start the bottom of the fifth, and like his fellow pitchers was greeted rudely. Bortnick doubled leading off the inning, and Keon Broxton drove him in with a 2-run homerun, making it 10-2 Aces. This would be the last Reno run scored of the game.
The PawSox continued to waste chances throughout the final innings. They stranded 2 runners in each of the sixth, seventh, and ninth innings, though they did score one on a Lin RBI single in the seventh. The final score was 10-3.
Nelson Figueroa took the loss for the PawSox, going 2 innings allowing 6 runs on 7 hits. He looked a little gassed towards the end of his last outing, and the wear and tear on the 38 year old’s arm may have finally caught up to him. He has been Pawtucket’s go to guy since he signed with the organization, clinching the Wild Card berth, the final game of the Yankees series, and the Governors’ Cup title. It is unclear if the veteran right hander will hang up the cleats or try to pitch another season. Trevor Bauer went 4.2 innings, which isn’t enough to qualify for a win. He allowed 2 runs on 4 hits and 7 walks, striking out 6. The high walk and strikeout rate really hurt his pitch count and because of that, Mike DeMark came in and recorded the win.
Even though they did not win this game, this was one of the most successful PawSox season’s in recent history. Not only did they win the Governors’ Cup, but they produced many players that were called up to Boston. The list includes guys like Will Middlebrooks, Pedro Ciriaco, Jose Iglesias, Mauro Gomez, Daniel Nava, and Ryan Lavarnway. As we celebrate a great 2012, we look forward to 2013, which promises to be another great year. Many talented prospects will again be making their way through McCoy, including Bryce Brentz, who made a name for himself in the postseason. Fans will also likely see top prospect Xander Bogaerts at some point, though he likely will start in Double-A.
The PawSox will celebrate their title noon tomorrow at Pawtucket City Hall. Many players and coaches are expected to attend this celebration. The 2013 season opener is April 11th, when the PawSox will raise their championship banner at McCoy Stadium.