PAWTUCKET — There was a time Thursday afternoon when Rubby De La Rosa didn’t appear as if he would make it out of the second inning.
Toledo’s three runs in the frame came as a result of five consecutive batters reaching with two outs. De La Rosa allowed RBI singles to Ben Guez and Daniel Fields, while the pitcher’s own throwing error enabled the Mud Hens to plate another run.
Perhaps the most concerning development in the second inning wasn’t De La Rosa’s velocity – his fastball ranged mostly between 91-92 miles per hour after topping out at 94 mph in the first. With the right-hander nearing 40 pitches and still in need of outs to get, PawSox manager Kevin Boles elected to have Rich Hill get ready just in case.
“You have to watch inning to inning. There comes a point when you burn through a bunch of pitches that you need to make a decision,” Boles pointed out. “We were prepared in that regard.”
Fortunately for De La Rosa, he was able to navigate the rocky waters and turn in perhaps his best outing of the young season in Pawtucket’s come-from-behind 5-3 victory before a McCoy Stadium matinee crowd of 5,242. De La Rosa went on to log season highs in both innings (6.2) and pitches (102, 59 for strikes) while retiring 10 straight Toledo hitters between innings four through seven.
De La Rosa threw 37 pitches in the second inning and stood at 45 pitches after recording just six outs. He tossed a combined 36 pitches between the first, third, fourth and fifth innings. It was rebounding at its very finest on a day where the PawSox were able to salvage a split of the four-game set against Toledo.
“He was challenged at that point, but he went on to give us some distance. It was an impressive adjustment and the rest was history,” said Boles. “He was able to establish his fastball and that’s key with him. It seems that when his back is against the wall, he’s able to respond. It could have snowballed on him, but he didn’t let that happen.”
Even as he neared 100 pitches, De La Rosa was still bringing the heat. At one point in the seventh inning, the radar gun had him at 97 mph. His day was done after he surrendered a two-out double Guez – the first hit allowed by De La Rosa since that near fateful second inning.
“Just a bad inning. You’ve got to put that away and focus,” said De La Rosa, whose error in the second was the result of him not backing up home plate and throwing the ball over the head of third baseman Garin Cecchini. “I was able to focus on the hitters and feel like I’m throwing the ball well. I feel 100 percent healthy right now.”
De La Rosa, who underwent Tommy John surgery three years ago, was picked up by Hill and Drake Britton. The two PawSox relievers nailed down the game’s final seven outs with Britton registering his third save.
As part of his day, De La Rosa allowed three runs (one earned) go along with six strikeouts and one walk.
After scoring just one run in its previous 25 innings, Pawtucket broke out in major way in the fifth. The five-run uprising was highlighted by a game-tying three-run home run by Corey Brown, a shot that wrapped around the right-field foul pole and came on a 3-1 pitch.
“That was a pretty impressive home run to his pull side,” noted Boles.
The PawSox were not close to being done. A triple into the right-field corner by Brock Holt – he’s now reached safely in 20 of 22 games with Pawtucket – ignited the second surge in the frame. The next four hitters reached with Daniel Nava breaking the 3-3 stalemate with a single to plate Holt.
After a single by Ryan Lavarnway, who drew a 13-pitch walk in the second inning, Bryce Brentz came through with a fielder’s choice grounder to score Ryan Roberts.
The explosion in the fifth – Pawtucket sent 11 to the plate – is something Boles would like to see on a more regular basis. The PawSox came into play Thursday with a .237 batting average.
“With this offense, it looks like we can do something at any given time with the names we have in this lineup,” said Boles. “It’s still a work in progress here. We need to manage our at-bats better and get ourselves in hitter’s counts and be aggressive early.”
After a stretch that saw the PawSox play 23 of their first 35 games at McCoy, they now hit the road for 20 of their next 28 contests. An eight-game road swing loams beginning Friday with the first of four against Louisville.
Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03