DURHAM, N.C. – For a team that has enjoyed a champagne bath or two in recent weeks, this was not the ending the Pawtucket Red Sox had in mind.
The International League champion PawSox felt the sting of the Pacific Coast League’s best Tuesday night as Reno romped to the Triple-A National Championship, 10-3, at Durham Bulls Athletic Park. The Aces jumped all over PawSox starter Nelson Figueroa as the playoff hero was knocked out after just two innings.
Despite the bumpy ending, Pawtucket skipper Arnie Beyeler and his players have no reason to hang their collective heads low. The fact his ball club reached the last possible game of the 2012 season was something that was completely out of blue when considering the amount of roster turnover that’s taken place.
All told, the PawSox captured six of the eight postseason games they participated in.
On paper, the 38-year-old Figueroa appeared the perfect choice to take the mound. He was the winning pitcher in both of Pawtucket’s series clinchers and took the mound Tuesday on normal rest. None of those laurels fazed Reno as the PCL champs vaulted out to a 3-0 lead in the first.
The first two hitters for the Aces produced the game’s first run. A.J. Polleck jumped all over Figueroa’s second pitch of the contest, sending it to deep center field for a triple. Polleck didn’t spend much time on the base paths after Tyler Kuhn singled him home.
Figueroa struck out the next two Reno batters before trouble resurfaced in the form of a two-run home run off the bat of Brent Clevlen, a shot the landed just to the left of dead center. The carnage continued an inning later with Reno scoring three times on three straight two-out hits.
Figueroa’s final line consisted of six runs on seven hits in two innings. He needed 46 pitches to record those six outs.
Dovetailing the lack of effective mound work was Pawtucket’s inability to muster a timely hit. Danny Valencia doubled to start the second inning before advancing to third on a wild pitch with one down. What followed was a foul out by Bryce Brentz and a deep fly by catcher Dan Butler that traveled all the way to the warning track in center field.
The third inning got off to a promising start with Reno starter Trevor Bauer issuing back-to-back walks to the Nos. 8 and 9 hitters in Pawtucket’s lineup, Jon Hee and Che-Hsuan Lin. A passed ball advanced the pair into scoring position with one down, but neither Tony Thomas (strikeout) nor J.C. Linares (bounce out to third) could pull the trigger.
Now down 8-0 after Reno struck for two additional runs off of Pawtucket lefty Chris Hernandez, the PawSox mounted another charge that proved to be fruitless. A bases-loaded walk by Bauer – one of three the Diamondbacks prospect wound up issuing in the fourth inning – resulted in Pawtucket’s first run, as Lin’s free pass scored Valencia.
The PawSox were unable to make Bauer pay completely for his sins as Jeremy Hazelbacker struck out swinging with the bases loaded. A leadoff home run by Thomas in the fifth cut the deficit to 8-2 before more wildness from Bauer ensued. A two-out double by Andy LaRoche turned promising after back-to-back walks to Brentz and Butler. At that point, Reno manager Brett Butler had seen enough from Bauer, who tossed 101 in 4 2/3 innings.
Failing to qualify for the win, Bauer struck out six while walking seven. His replacement was Mike DeMark, who cleaned up Bauer’s mess with a swinging strikeout of Hee as Pawtucket left the bases loaded for the second straight inning.
All told, Pawtucket was 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position while stranding 15 baserunners. By comparison, Reno was 7-for-15 while leaving just six.
Pollack was named the game’s MVP after collecting two extra-base hits and scoring two runs.