PAWTUCKET — The newest member of the Pawtucket Red Sox played a major role in snapping the team’s third-longest losing streak in club history on Wednesday night at McCoy Stadium.
Starting pitcher Zach Stewart, who was acquired by the Boston Red Sox in Sunday’s trade with the Chicago White Sox for Kevin Youkilis, turned in a splendid outing to help the PawSox defeat the Charlotte Knights, 5-1, and grab their first victory after nine straight losses.
Stewart, who went 1-2 with a 6.00 ERA in 18 appearances (30 innings) for the White Sox this year, was sent down to Charlotte, the ChiSox’s Triple-A affiliate, last week and was slated to make his first start with the Knights on Sunday and his second on Friday against the PawSox.
But when the trade was made, Stewart packed his belongings and headed to Rhode Island to join his new ballclub and eventually make his first Triple-A start of the year on Wednesday.
And what a start it turned out to be. Stewart yielded six hits and the Knights’ run in 5 2/3 innings of work, striking out four batters and walking none. He mowed down 12 in a row at one point, but saw his night come to a halt in the sixth when he gave up singles to three of the final five batters he faced.
Stewart threw 81 pitches (57 for strikes), but before the sixth, he had tossed 55 and delivered a seven-pitch second inning and a six-pitch third.
Offensively, the PawSox were keyed by two of their four players who were selected to the International League all-star team earlier in the day, catcher Ryan Lavarnway and designated hitter Mauro Gomez.
Lavarnway went 3-for-4 to hike his average to .320 (the second-highest in the league) and his hitting streak to nine games, and Gomez delivered the game’s big hit, a three-run homer into the berm in left field with two outs in the third to give the hosts a 4-0 lead.
The PawSox scored their first run in the bottom of the second inning when Lars Anderson and Alex Hassan led off with opposite-field hits, Anderson doubling into the left-field corner and Hassan driving him home with a line double to right.
Gomez’s homer, his 17th of the season, came after Jason Repko reached on a two-out infield hit and Lavarnway followed with a ringing base hit to right.
The Knights finally broke through in the sixth off Stewart with their three singles, including a two-out hit to right by Dallas McPherson that put an end to Stewart’s night. Will Inman relieved him and ended the mini-threat with a strikeout.
But the PawSox got that run back in the seventh when Nate Spears belted a long double into the right-field corner, Jonathan Hee dropped a bunt single, and I.L. all-star Pedro Ciriaco laced a single to left.
Prior to that run, embattled reliever Daniel Bard came on to work the top of the seventh for the PawSox and toss a 1-2-3 frame against the bottom three batters of Charlotte’s lineup. Throwing seven of his 10 pitches for strikes, he struck out the first batter he faced and got the next two to ground out.
EXTRA BASES: Second baseman Tony Thomas was a late scratch from the PawSox’s lineup. … Lavarnway is 19-for-35 during his hit streak. … Ciriaco has a dozen hits over his last eight games. … Hassan, who went 2-for-3 with a walk, now has eight hits and 11 walks over his last 11 games. … The series continues tonight at 7:05 p.m. with PawSox righthander Brandon Duckworth (7-1, 3.68) opposing the Knights’ Simon Castro (0-1, 10.80), and it wraps up tomorrow with Doug Mathis (5-5, 3.94) pitching the 7:05 p.m. finale.