PawSox Rollin’, Mookie Returns

When Mookie Betts was promoted to Boston on Saturday, June 28th, I figured we had probably seen the last of the young phenom in Pawtucket.  After all, his rise from A-ball to the Major Leagues in one calendar year was so impressive that Mookie seemed destined to remain a staple in the Sox lineup for the remainder of this season and many others to come.

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Mookie Betts appeared in ten games with Boston before being optioned back to the PawSox on Saturday

A slight problem derailed Betts’ momentum – a lack of available at-bats in John Farrell’s lineup.  In the four weeks Mookie spent up in the big leagues, more and more players joined the fight for playing time.  Outfielders Daniel Nava (.382 in July) and Jackie Bradley, Jr. (.375 in July) began to really hit.  Mike Carp returned from the DL and collected a few big hits.  Betts started only nine of the 16 games he was around for in Boston.

When Shane Victorino was activated from the DL on Saturday, it became apparent that Betts could not be anything more than a spare part for a team hoping to make a mid-season rally.  Playing only once or twice a week is unacceptable for a young player of Mookie’s caliber, so the Red Sox did exactly what they needed to.  They sent the 21-year-old back to the PawSox to be in the lineup every night.

Betts went 0-for-4 in his return to Pawtucket on Sunday, snapping his on-base streak at 23 consecutive games at the beginning of his Triple-A career.  Considering Mookie’s lack of at-bats in the past few weeks, it would be understandable if he struggles for a few days at the outset of his return to the minors.  But I would expect him to return to his early-season form in short order.

Meanwhile, a PawSox lineup that has recently gotten stronger and stronger just received another huge boost with Mookie rejoining the team.  Travis Shaw’s three-run home run gave the squad a 3-2 victory over Buffalo on Sunday and a four-game sweep of the Bisons following the All-Star break. The win moved Pawtucket a season-high-matching seven games above .500 (55-48) for the second time this season (23-16 on May 12th).

Anthony Ranaudo, pitching on nine-days rest, won his league-high-matching 11th game of the season and lowered his ERA to 2.54 with 6 2/3 strong innings of work.

Pawtucket’s second-half offensive surge continues.  In the first half of the season, the PawSox batted .236 while averaging 3.7 runs per game.  With the pitching staff rarely receiving a lot of support, the club struggled to a 35-37 first-half record.

Thus far through 31 games of the second half the team is hitting .288 (315-1094) and scoring 5.5 runs/game.  Not coincidentally more wins have followed suit – Pawtucket is 20-11 this half and has moved right into the thick of the IL playoff picture.  The PawSox are only 1/2 game behind Rochester for the wild card spot and 5.5 games behind Syracuse for the division lead.

Now the squad continues a stretch of playing 18 of 22 games away from McCoy Stadium (July 4-July 28) with an eight-game trip beginning Monday night in Syracuse.  Starting with two meetings at NBT Bank Stadium this week, the PawSox still have seven games remaining against the North Division leaders.  It is becoming more and more conceivable that Pawtucket could give the Chiefs a run for the division crown.

Syracuse Stadium

NBT Bank Stadium in Syracuse

Allen Webster (4-4, 3.05), who had his turn in the rotation skipped prior to the All-Star break, gets the ball against Aaron Laffey (11-3, 3.15) in what should be a great pitching match-up to open the two-game set.  Before Monday night’s affair, here are a few noteworthy items for your reading pleasure:

-The PawSox have lost only one of their last 12 series played (beginning June 3-6 at Durham, 5-1-6 in those 12).  The lone series loss came in a two-gamer against Rochester from July 2-3.  Pawtucket is 5-0-5 in its last ten four-game series.  The team has not lost any of its last six road series played (1-0-5).

-Over the weekend, Will Middlebrooks had his best three-game stretch while rehabbing with the PawSox this season.  Beginning a third injury rehab assignment since fracturing his right index finger in mid-May, Middlebrooks played the entire game on Friday, Saturday and Sunday and showed no ill-affects from his various ailments.  He went 4-for-10 with a sacrifice fly and a home run in those three contests.

-Pawtucket has collected three separate four-game winning streaks in the last four weeks.  The squad had only one four-game winning streak in the nearly three months of action prior to the past four weeks.

-Kudos to Tommy Layne, the PawSox closer by default for the past two months.  After picking up a save Sunday while protecting a one-run lead, Layne is a perfect 10-for-10 in save opportunities this season.  He also tossed a scoreless inning in the Triple-A All-Star game last week.  Layne could be an option for the Boston bullpen as a mid-to-late inning lefty in the not-too-distant future.

-Pawtucket has won 10 of its last 13 home games dating back to a 16-5 win over Norfolk on June 25th.  Heading into that game the PawSox were 20-20 at McCoy on the season.  They are now 30-23, the third-best home record in the IL.

-Buffalo centerfielder Kevin Pillar had a super-impressive weekend despite his team getting swept at McCoy.  Pillar, who collected four extra-base hits in the series including a homer against Ranaudo on Sunday, made several highlight-reel catches.  None was better than this one, a grab that robbed a home run from Middlebrooks and is one of the best catches I have ever seen in person.

-On Saturday’s PawSox Insider show I sat down with Andres Torres to chat about his signing with the Red Sox in an attempt to make it back to the big leagues after a serious injury.  Torres, a 36-year-old native of Puerto Rico, is one of the more likeable guys in the game.  Below is a link to the interview:

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Andres Torres has been a great addition to the PawSox lineup

Hope you had a terrific weekend.  Should be a fun week on the road for the PawSox, be sure to tune in to the broadcasts with me and Jeff.  Talk to you on the radio!

Josh M

Who Are These Guys?

The PawSox scored 11 runs and pounded out 16 more hits Thursday night to win their fourth straight game, a dominating victory in the series opener at Toledo.  It is only the third time this season the team has won at least four games in a row.

Last night’s win was highlighted by a seven-run top of the seventh inning that lasted 42 minutes!  In all, 12 batters came to the plate, six of them recorded hits and three walked against three different Mud Hens pitchers.  Corey Brown drew two free passes in the inning while Mike McCoy had two hits including a two-run double that capped the rally.

The PawSox lineup looks as prolific as it has all season, and a big reason for it has been the production from two veterans at the top of the order.  Jonathan Herrera has collected three straight multi-hit games since being optioned from Boston.  He is now 7-for-15 with a double in three games played.

After starting just 1-for-8 in his first three games with Pawtucket, Andres Torres is 13-for-33 (.393) with three homers and seven RBIs in his last seven contests.  Torres hit a game-winning two-run blast in the tenth inning earlier this week in Columbus.

Right now with those two setting the table the folks in the middle of the order are having an RBI feast.  Travis Shaw (15 RBIs in his last 16 games played), Alex Hassan (13 RBI in his last 16 games played) and Brown (8 RBI in his last 7 games played) have been on run-producing tears.

In the last 24 games played Pawtucket has raised its team batting average 14 points, from .236 to .250!  That is hard to do nearly 100 games deep into the season.  During that time the PawSox have hit .286 (243-for-849) and averaged 5.6 runs/game (134 total).

This is really looking like a different PawSox team than the one I wrote about at the midway point of the season last month – the version that won games with pitching and defense and hoped to scratch out enough runs.  I said then that if the squad could get some consistent offense this could be a playoff contender.  Don’t look now, but the team is now just 3.0 games out of the wildcard spot (Pawtucket is 50-46, Rochester 53-43.)

Here are a few more notes to get you ready for the final three games before the All-Star break:

-Hassan has been on a doubles binge that past few weeks.  He has collected 12 two-baggers in his last 15 games played including one in each of his last six games contests!  The Quincy native now leads the IL with 25 doubles this season.

Alex Hassan

Alex Hassan has been a different looking hitter since returning from the Major Leagues one month ago

When he was called up to Boston on May 30th, Hassan was hitting .217 with Pawtucket for the season.  Since returning on June 9th, the outfielder has batted .347 (33-for-95) in 26 games and raised his season average to .267.  Not a bad month!

-Welcome to backup catcher Matt Spring, a very popular figure in the clubhouse wherever he is.  Spring was promoted to the PawSox Thursday to take the spot of Christian Vazquez following Vazquez’s promotion to the big leagues.  Here is a sample of Twitter reaction to the Spring roster move yesterday:

Looking forward to having Matt around the Pawtucket clubhouse for the first time since 2012.  He came in in the eighth inning Thursday night at Toledo and flew out in his first at-bat.

spring

Matt Spring brings a great attitude and a great haircut to the PawSox

-It will be interesting to see how Manager Kevin Boles gets playing time for Ryan Roberts now that Deven Marrero and Herrera have arrived and will play the infield most nights.  Roberts is batting .358 (19-for-53) over his last 14 games played with eight RBIs and has been a cleanup hitter three times during that stretch.  His bat is so hot right now that he’s a tough guy to leave out of the lineup.

-Garin Cecchini missed Thursday’s game after suffering a scary-looking shoulder injury in a home plate collision Wednesday in Columbus.  The good news is the injury is not believed to be serious and Garin hopes to play again before the All-Star break.

-With Brandon Workman back from the Major Leagues for at least one turn in the rotation, we have not yet heard if or when he will pitch with the PawSox.  He is currently on the same schedule as Allen Webster, who is tentatively slated to start Sunday night in Toledo.  Stay tuned.

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Brandon Workman is back with the PawSox…at least for now

-Below is a conversation I had with PawSox closer Tommy Layne earlier this week.  He talked about making his Boston Red Sox debut last weekend and about the mentality of finishing ballgames for the first time in his career:

Game two of the series in Toledo Friday night begins at 7:00pm.  The PawSox will look for their fifth straight win, something they have only accomplished one other time this season (during the team’ six-game winning streak at the end of June.)  Chris Hernandez gets the ball on the mound looking to bounce back from a loss in Columbus on Sunday.

Hope you enjoyed, wishing you a great weekend.  Talk to you on the radio from Ohio tonight at 6:45!

Josh M

The Long Road Home

The PawSox have begun their longest road trip of the season – a ten-game journey from Syracuse to Columbus to Toledo then back home for the All-Star break.  After winning in 10 innings on Independence day in Syracuse, the squad has dropped back-to-back one run decisions.

Overall last week was a tough one for Pawtucket (46-46), which has dropped five of its last six following a six-game winning streak.  The frustrating part…those five losses have come by a total of SIX runs, and the last four have been one-run affairs.  Sometimes the breaks go your way, other times the baseball gods seems to be against you.

Winning on the road has been tough for the PawSox the last two months.  Since winning three of their first four series away from McCoy, the team has gone winless in its last seven road series (0-3-4) and is now just 9-18 in its last 27 road games (all since heading to Indianapolis on May 13th).

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Jeff and I broadcast outside among the patrons while at Huntington Park in Columbus!

Hopefully things turn around this week during the annual “Ohio swing” to Columbus and Toledo!  As we get ready for game two of the series against the Clippers on Monday night (with Matt Barnes on the hill), here are some notes for your reading pleasure:

-Rubby De La Rosa was pulled after pitching just one inning in his start Sunday night.  While there was a lot of immediate confusion in the Columbus press box, this seems to have been a planned move (and most importantly there was no injury).  It appears that being removed from his start last night was a sign that Rubby might be headed back for another big-league start.

-I had a chance to interview Pedro Martinez during the last homestand when the future Hall of Famer was visiting with the PawSox pitchers for a couple of days.  He gave some interesting opinions on the current state of affairs in Boston and of the organization’s pitching depth.  Check out the full interview:

-Mike Carp has rehabbed with the PawSox for just over one week and his bat has really started to heat up the last two days.  Over the weekend in Syracuse and Columbus, Carp went 4-for-8 with a walk, home run, double and three RBI.  This after the Boston utilityman was only 1 for his first 13 with Pawtucket.

-Shortstop Deven Marrero has started five straight games for the PawSox since being promoted from Portland last week.  While most of us already knew what he could do with the glove, he has quickly impressed everyone here with his bat.  Marrero is hitting .389 (7-for-18) with two doubles and already one game-winning hit (Friday night in Syracuse).

Hope you’ll tune in tonight as the PawSox look to get back on the winning track in Columbus at 7:05.  The Clippers are one of the hottest teams in the IL right now and have made up an earlier eight-game deficit in the standings to tie Indianapolis for the Western Division lead.

Talk to you on the radio!

Josh M

Some Big Honors For Vazquez

PawSox catcher Christian Vazquez has been added to the World Team roster for the upcoming MLB All-Star Future’s Game on Sunday, July 13th at Target Field in Minneapolis.  It will make for quite a busy week for the 23-year-old, as he will also play in the Triple-A All-Star Game three days later on July 16th in Durham.

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Christian Vazquez is batting .275 in 62 games played with Pawtucket this season

Vazquez replaces Atlanta’s Christian Bethancourt (called up to the big leagues) on the World Team at the Future’s Game and becomes the third Boston representative heading to the game.  Portland’s Henry Owens (LHP) and Sean Coyle (2nd baseman, a replacement for Mookie Betts) will each play for the U.S. Team at Target Field.

These honors are well deserved for one of the best catching prospects I have ever seen.  Not only has Christian been able to control opposing running games all season, but his bat has really heated up over the past six weeks.  Since Memorial Day (May 26th), Vazquez is hitting .308 (32-for-104) in 29 games played with three home runs and nine RBI.

The PawSox backstop has a very bright future ahead and will get to put his talents on display before a couple of national audiences in two weeks.  The Future’s Game can be seen on MLB Network at 5pm on 7/13, then the Triple-A All-Star Game will be televised on MLB Network at 7pm on 7/16.

Yesterday the Red Sox promoted shortstop Deven Marrero to the PawSox from Portland.  Marrero is considered one of the top defensive infielders in Minor League Baseball and he showed us why in his Triple-A debut on Wednesday with a couple of dazzling plays.

We’re looking forward to watching Marrero work some magic with his glove throughout the final two months of the season.

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Deven Marrero was batting .291 in Portland at the time of his promotion on Wednesday

Thursday night’s 6:15pm contest against Rochester concludes Pawtucket’s season-long ten-game homestand.  With a victory the PawSox will go 7-3 and move back within three games of the Red Wings in the IL Wild Card race.  Last night’s attendance of 10,167 was the largest crowd at McCoy this season and tonight’s might be even bigger!

A very happy and healthy Independence Day to you and yours!  Have a great holiday weekend.  Jeff Levering and I will be talking to you from Syracuse on Friday and Saturday nights.

Josh M

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