PAWTUCKET — The story on Saturday afternoon wasn’t so much that the Pawtucket Red Sox assembled a mammoth sixth-inning rally to snag a 7-1 Game 1victory over the Rochester Red Wings at McCoy Stadium, but instead that David Ortiz played a key role in it.
The 37-year-old designated hitter, on a 20-game rehab stint with Pawtucket after suffering a right Achilles’ injury in a triumph over the Chicago White Sox last July 16, delivered a two-run ground single to right to help his club extend its lead to 4-1 – and continue Pawtucket’s finest-ever start to a season.
Ortiz, who had been 0-for-3 before that hit, later jogged home on Drew Sutton’s double; he closed 1-for-4 with two RBI and a run scored. He also fanned once, but still was batting a solid .429 afterward.
Actually, it’s been a pretty good rehab start for “Papi,” as he went 2-for-3 with an RBI and a run, again as the DH, in a 5-4 home-opening win over these Red Wings.
After that injury, Ortiz did return to Boston for one game on Aug. 24, but he was placed on the disabled list the next day and didn’t play again.
“I thought David was outstanding,” stated skipper Gary DiSarcina following a similar 7-1 verdict in the second game. “He swung the bat really well … I think he’s having some normal soreness from playing, but I though he’s progressing well.
“I didn’t have much time to talk to him after the (opening) game, but he said he was good,” he added. “He looks great the dish and his bat speed there. He’s not having any issues with (the Achilles), and we’re for whatever he needs … We love having him here, but the big thing is getting him ready for (the parent club)
“The bottom line is David’s a big leaguer, and he knows what he has to do to get back.”
Offered shortstop Jose Iglesias: “I talked to David afterward, and he said he’s fine. He felt good. That’s why he’s here. He’s just taking it one day at a time and trying to get his rhythm back. He’s healthy, which is great.”
In that pivotal sixth frame, reliever Anthony Slama walked J.C. Linares, and both Jeremy Hazelbaker and Brock Holt reached on bunt singles to load the bases for the fourth time.
Slama then walked Iglesias, plating Linares with what proved to be the game-winning run, and Red Wings manager Gene Glynn brought in lefty Caleb Thielbar to face Ortiz, who promptly drilled a 2-0 pitch into right to score Hazelbaker and Holt.
Iglesias raced in on Ryan Lavarnway’s deep sacrifice fly to right fielder Joe Benson, but second baseman Brian Dinkelman failed to field the relay cleanly, allowing Ortiz to get to second.
The good news: He looked OK doing it. Ortiz had hustled more than halfway to second on the fly, and had to sprint back to first. Upon seeing the ball skip past the bag, he popped up from his slide and ran back to second.
With two down, Thielbar hit Brandon Snyder, and both Ortiz (from second) and Snyder scored on Sutton’s two-bagger down the right-field line.
Ortiz didn’t put much effort into racing the final 90 feet, as Snyder wasn’t that far behind him.
In Ortiz’ first at-bat (he was hitting third behind Iglesias and in front of clean-up Lavarnway), he ripped a 1-2 pitch from Shairon Martis right at first baseman Jeff Clement, and – in his second – he struck out on an 88 mph heater on a 1-2 count in the third.
As for the third time at the plate, in the fifth, he lofted a soft liner (on a 2-1 delivery) at second baseman Brian Dinkelman.
Ortiz was unavailable for comment following the twinbill; he apparently left the park, knowing he wouldn’t play in the “nightcap.”
As for Ortiz’ slide, DiSarcina explained, “He’s got to slide before he goes back up there (to Fenway). It may sound silly, but sliding is a fundamental. For David to go out and slide and come out of it healthy, that’s fantastic.”
Righty starter Terry Doyle pitched superbly in his five-frame outing. The Salem, N.H. native now residing in Warwick, yielded just two hits and a walk while fanning a quintet. All told, he threw 66 pitches, with 41 of them strikes, and now has a stellar 0.79 ERA.
Villareal, who pitched just one-third of the sixth, allowed only a hit and earned his second win of the campaign. In the seventh, Chris Carpenter did walk a pair but also whiffed two.
“Terry pitched really well,” DiSarcina stated. “You don’t want pitchers to go too long. We had our (relievers) ready; we were off (because of Friday night’s rainout), so you want to get them some time. You’ve got to be careful with pitchers (in cold weather).”
Offensively, Lavarnway closed at 2-for-3 with an RBI and a run; Snyder 1-for-1 with two walks and a run; Linares 1-for-3 with an RBI and a run; and Sutton 1-for-2 with two RBI.
The Red Wings did jump out to a 1-0 cushion in the top of the first; Chris Hermann led off with a walk, then moved to second on Oswaldo Arcia’s groundout to short. Chris Colabello singled to left to plate Hermann.
Pawtucket, however, answered that run in the second to tie it at 1-1. Lavarnway started the mini-flurry with a single to left, took second on starter Shairon Martis’ walk to Snyder, then strolled to third when Sutton drew a base-on-balls.
With the bags juiced, Linares’ knocked a roller to third baseman Ryan Sobolweski, who couldn’t make the play, and Lavarnway scored with ease.
At that point, the game became frustrating for the Sox, who in the next two frames loaded the bases but failed to score.
In the fourth, Brentz led off with a double off the right-field wall, and he raced to third on Snyder’s ground hit to left. With runners at the corners, Pawtucket tried to execute a delayed double steal; while Snyder began to steal second, he got caught in a pickle and later was tagged out by second baseman Dinkelman.
Sutton then walked, and – with two down – Hazelbaker drew a free bag as well to fill them up, and that’s when Glynn yanked Martis in favor of southpaw Tyler Robertson. He allowed Holt to scorch a liner to left, but Colabello hauled it in for the third out.
As for the fifth, Robertson got two quick outs, the second on Ortiz’ whiff, but immediately yielded Lavarnway a bloop single to right and Brentz a hit to center before walking Snyder.
Glynn lifted Robertson for Slama, who got Sutton to ground to short to end that threat.
The trio of Rubby De La Rosa, Graham Godfrey and Anthony Carter combined for a two-hitter with only four walks and nine strikeouts to lift the Pawtucket Red Sox to a 7-1 triumph over Rochester in the doubleheader finale before 4,091 fans at McCoy Stadium on chilly Saturday.
De La Rosa went only 2 1/3 innings, yielding only a hit and two walks while whiffing a quintet, but that’s because he was on a 50-pitch count. The 24-year-old prospect, acquired from the Los Angeles Dodgers on Oct. 4 to complete a nine-player trade Aug. 25, finished at 50 and threw 27 strikes.
Then there was Godfrey, a 28-year-old righty whom Boston acquired from Oakland for pitcher Sandy Rosario last Dec. 7, who was magnificent on this day. In 3 2/3 innings, he didn’t allow a hit and walked one with five strikeouts.
As for Carter, he closed the seventh and allowed a hit and walk with one “K.”
“I felt good out there; I was on the pitch count, but I felt like everything was working,” said De La Rosa. “I felt really comfortable. I also felt like I could go longer, but I’m just doing what they tell me. I felt 100-percent comfortable with my delivery, my release. It’s coming along good.”
Stated manager Gary DiSarcina: “Like Rubby, Graham struggled out there for the first couple of innings, but he got stronger as he went along. I especially liked his last two innings of work. He had good fastball command, a good breaking ball; he pitched quickly and pitched to contact, which is what you want from him.”
Despite how well Pawtucket’s hurlers did, not just in the “nightcap” but in Game 1, another 7-1 victory, as well, left fielder Mark Hamilton stole the show. The 28-year-old left fielder finished 2-for-3 with two doubles and a whopping four RBI to pace the club.
Center fielder Justin Henry also helped, going 3-for-3 with an RBI and two runs scored, while Jeremy Hazelbaker, another solid prospect, went 2-for-2 with an RBI and a pair of runs.
Righty starter Virgil Vasquez, who tossed four frames and scattered seven hits while allowing three runs (all earned) and a walk with three whiffs, took the loss and fell to 1-1.
The Red Wings dropped to 2-7 overall.
In the end, as they had in their opener, the PawSox put together a sixth-inning rally that broke the contest wide open. With that four-run total, they not only swept this doubleheader but also improved to 8-1 on the young season.
Drew Sutton started it with a ground single to right off of reliever Bruce Pugh Jr., then hustled to second on a wild pitch. Pugh then walked Dan Butler before Hazelbaker reached on a bunt single to load the bags.
Rochester skipper Gene Glynn replaced Pugh with southpaw Mike O’Connor, who managed to whiff Brock Holt and got Jonathan Diaz to foul out to left, but Henry’s single up the middle plated Sutton. A few seconds later, Hamilton responded with a three-run double down the right-field line.
In the top of the seventh, Carter issued a free bag to Brandon Boggs, and – with one down – yielded Eric Farris a single to center; that sent Boggs to third. But the righty forced Ray Olmedo to ground to short and fanned Doug Bernier to close the contest.
Just like the first tilt, the Red Wings snatched a 1-0 lead in the opening frame. De La Rosa did whiff both Chris Hermann and Oswaldo Arcia, but Chris Colabello pounded his fourth dinger of the season just onto the berm in left.
Pawtucket, though, didn’t need long to tie it. With two outs in the back half, Justin Henry whacked a single to right off of righty starter Virgil Vasquez, and Mark Hamilton plated him with a double that one-hopped the left-field wall.
The PawSox took their first lead an inning later; Drew Sutton opened the rally, slamming a hit to right, and Dan Butler pushed him to second with an opposite-field, bloop single to virtually the same spot. The two moved up on Jeremy Hazelbaker’s sacrifice bunt, and Sutton trotted home on Brock Holt’s sacrifice fly.
Hazelbaker made it 3-1 after crushing starter Virgil Vasquez’ fastball into the right-field bleachers.
The home club mustered a threat in the fifth when Vasquez walked both Henry and Hamilton. Glynn quickly opted to replace his pitcher with Pugh, who got Bryce Brentz to ground into a double play. With Henry at third, Snyder flied to center to end the inning.
That just set up a second round of late-game heroics.
EXTRA BASES: The PawSox didn’t make any moves on Saturday, though Boston did recall righty pitcher Alex Wilson on Wednesday. Wilson became the first player to be promoted this season.
A total of 23 Pawtucket players received such a call last season.
In the finale of this four-game set against Rochester at 1:05 p.m. today, righty Steven Wright (1-0, 2.70 ERA) will take on southpaw Andrew Albers (0-0, 1.93) before beginning a four-game home series against Lehigh Valley on Monday at 6:15 p.m.
In that contest, righthander Allan Webster (0-0, 0.00) will face a hurler still to be announced, while lefty Chris Hernandez (0-0, 3.12) will do the same in a Tuesday matinee (12:05 p.m.).
On Saturday, April 27, after the Sox’ 6:05 p.m. game against the Columbus Clippers, a fireworks display to oldies music will take place.