PAWTUCKET — This comeback ran out of steam.
After falling behind by a 4-0 score and getting blanked for 7 2/3 innings by Gwinnett Braves righthander Omar Poveda, the Pawtucket Red Sox found a way to battle back in the last two innings off him and reliever Wirfin Obispo and nearly pull off an amazing victory.
But it wasn’t meant to be for the PawSox, who soon found themselves trying to battle back from a 6-1 deficit in their final swings and ended up with a 6-4 loss – their fourth defeat in their last five games – on Thursday night before a small gathering at McCoy Stadium.
Poveda, who improved to 3-2 and dropped his ERA to 2.35 (the third lowest in the International League), worked eight innings and only threw 93 pitches in his longest stint of the year to help Gwinnett – just a week ago, owners of a 14-game losing streak – earn its fourth win in its last five contests.
He limited the PawSox to five hits and a walk through his first seven innings of work, but the hosts banged out a pair of hits in the eighth that led to their first run.
Brock Holt led off with a rocket double that one-hopped the wall in front of the Braves’ bullpen, and with two gone, he rambled home on a sharp single to left by Jose Iglesias, sliding across the plate on a very close play.
In the top of the ninth, Gwinnett added two insurance runs off reliever Chris Hernandez, who worked the final five innings and threw 97 pitches, but in the ninth, Poveda exited the contest in favor of Obispo, and the PawSox did their best to storm back off him.
A leadoff walk to Drew Sutton and a two-out free pass to Jeremy Hazelbaker was soon followed by a ringing double deep into the gap in right-center field by Ron Bermudez that drove in both runners.
Obispo then wild-pitched Bermudez to third, and Holt kept the inning going with an opposite-field base hit to left that allowed Bermudez to easily score and bring the tying run to the plate – No. 9 batter Alberto Rosario.
That sent Gwinnett manager Dave Lezotte to the mound to pull Obispo and bring in his closer, Cory Rasmus, to put out the comeback, and Rasmus only needed two pitches to get Rosario to ground out to third and end the contest.
PawSox starter Rubby De La Rosa worked the first four innings, striking out three batters and allowing only one base hit as he matched his season-high in pitches with 71.
But De La Rosa struggled with his control, especially in the first and fourth innings, and only threw 36 strikes. He ended up with four walks (two in each of those innings), and it was his last free pass of the night that came back to bite him.
With two outs and no one on base in the fourth, De La Rosa walked Brandon Boggs, and the next batter, Joe Leonard, hit what appeared to be an inning-ending fly ball to right field. But Hazelbaker, playing right fielder, dropped it, and Boggs was able to score all the way from first.
The visitors made it a 2-0 contest in the sixth off Hernandez, who walked the first batter he faced, Joey Terdoslavich, and then gave up a long double into the gap in right-center to Boggs that drove in Terdoslavich.
The PawSox nearly got on the board in their half of the inning when Rosario led off with a hustle double to left-center (his first hit in three games with the PawSox) and dashed to third on a sacrifice bunt by Justin Henry.
The next batter, Iglesias, then smacked a sharp grounder to shortstop Paul Janish. Rosario tried to score on contact, but he was thrown out at the plate with ease.
Instead of being down by a run, the PawSox soon found themselves trailing by four in the seventh, no thanks to Todd Cunningham’s two-run homer – only his second blast of the season in 141 at-bats.
With one out, Jose Constanza blooped a single into center, and Cunningham followed that by golfing a 1-1 pitch by Hernandez into the PawSox’s bullpen in left.
The Braves scored their final two runs in the ninth on a two-out, run-scoring double in the left-field corner by Cunningham, followed by an RBI single to right from Tyler Pastornicky. Little did anyone realize at the time that those two runs would end up paying dividends in the bottom of the inning.
EXTRA BASES: Boston Red Sox closer Andrew Bailey will make a rehab appearance in Saturday’s 6:05 p.m. game at McCoy against the Indianapolis Indians. Bailey threw 15 pitches in a simulated game on Thursday afternoon before the Red Sox’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. … Another rehabbing Red Sox pitcher, southpaw Franklin Morales, will get the start in that game, his second with the PawSox. … Pawtucket left fielder Bryce Brentz’s seven-game hit streak came to an end. He went 0-for-4. … Rosario, the PawSox’s catcher, threw out three would-be base stealers, two of them trying to swipe third. … PawSox reliever Chris Carpenter (right triceps strain) and first baseman/outfielder Mark Hamilton (right wrist fracture) were both placed on the 7-day disabled list (retroactive to May 14). As a result, the PawSox went into Thursday’s game with just 23 active players, putting them two under the roster limit. … The series with the Braves concludes tonight with Alfredo Aceves (2-1, 3.50) making his fourth start for the PawSox opposite Daniel Rodriguez (2-3, 6.82). Game time is 7:05 p.m.