Despite loud offensive performances from Adam Lind and Rusney Castillo and a smooth return for Tyler Thornburg, the Pawtucket Red Sox lost their series opener with the Louisville Bats, 7-4, on Tuesday night at McCoy Stadium.
Following a 50-minute pre-game rain delay, the PawSox (25-30) outhit the Bats (21-33), 17-11, but Louisville broke a 3-3 tie in the eighth inning and a 4-4 tie in the ninth to claim the opener of the three-game set. Donning their fast-selling caps and jerseys, the PawSox again played as Los Osos Polares de Pawtucket in partnership with Minor League Baseball to celebrate the team's surrounding Hispanic community. Pawtucket brought the tying run to the plate in the bottom of the ninth and pounded out a season-high 17 hits.
Rehabbing Red Sox reliever Tyler Thornburg pitched a 1-2-3 seventh inning to begin his second rehab assignment. The former Milwaukee Brewer, who originally joined the PawSox on a rehab assignment April 30, was pulled off that assignment May 25 and pitched Tuesday for the first time in game action since May 22. Thornburg threw nine pitches - eight for strikes - against the 8-9-1 portion of Louisville's order. The right-hander induced a flyout to left, struck out leadoff man Dilson Herrera on an elevated 94 MPH fastball and got Phil Ervin to line out to center. Seven of Thornburg's nine pitches were fastballs, six of which were 94 MPH and one that touched 95. All three of his swinging strikes were on fastballs.
"I probably felt as good this time out as I had in any of the times in the first stint," Thornburg said. "I mean I was happy with it, especially having been a couple of weeks since I got back up there."
In his third game with Pawtucket after the Red Sox signed him to a minor-league deal last Tuesday, Lind went 3-for-5 with a double and two-run homer. The 12-year MLB veteran and owner of 200 career big-league homers, Lind played first base for the second straight game and operated out of the cleanup spot in Pawtucket's order.
"He can hit. He can flat-out hit," Pawtucket manager Kevin Boles said. "I know that when he came to us [over the weekend], he was a little bit under the weather, looked like he needed to get his timing back for a couple days. But he looked great. You can tell he's had a great career at the plate. Boy, he can sure hit."
Castillo (5-for-5, 2 R, 2 2B) recorded his first career five-hit game. The 30-year old from Cuba now leads the International League with 67 hits - eight of which have come in the last two games - and ranks among the league leaders with his 18 doubles.
"The hand-eye coordination, the barrel manipulation, what he's able to do to hit to all fields," Boles said. "He can hit a variety of pitches. It's something watching how much he can cover, just his hand-eye coordination. This guy puts the barrel on the ball. The quality of his at-bats has been terrific."
PawSox designated hitter Mike Ohlman (2-for-3, R, RBI, BB), catcher Óscar Hernández (2-for-3, RBI, BB) and second baseman Mike Miller (2-for-4) rounded out an excellent offensive effort.
Pawtucket left-hander Josh Smith made another spot start after being promoted back from Double-A Portland, tossing three shutout innings of one-hit work with three strikeouts. Reliever Kyle Martin (L, 3-2) allowed four runs on six hits in 1.1 innings.
Louisville starter Cody Reed gave up 12 hits over 5.1 innings and allowed three runs, while relievers Tanner Rainey (W, 1-1) and Kevin Quackenbush (S, 8) handled the last two frames.
The Bats snatched a 2-0 lead in the fourth inning on a thunderous two-run double off the left-center wall by catcher Chadwick Tromp.
Pawtucket sliced the deficit in half, 2-1, in the bottom of the fourth, as Ohlman smacked an RBI infield single off the glove of Reed, allowing Castillo to score from third.
Louisville designated hitter Tony Cruz led off the top of the sixth inning with a 390-foot, opposite-field homer to left to double the Bats' lead to 3-1.
Castillo singled to start the bottom of the sixth inning, and Lind followed by hammering a two-run homer to right - his first in a PawSox uniform - to tie the game, 3-3.
Louisville grabbed a 4-3 lead in the top of the eighth on an RBI infield single from right fielder Gabriel Guerrero.
In the bottom of the eighth, Ohlman worked a leadoff walk, and pinch-runner Aneury Tavarez promptly advanced to third on an errant pickoff attempt by Rainey. Later in the inning with two outs, Hernández fouled off a trio of sickening 99 MPH sinking fastballs before he flicked a 91 MPH slider into left field for a game-tying RBI single.
Tromp led off the top of the ninth inning by pulling his first career Triple-A homer to left to push Louisville back in front, 5-4. Former No. 2 overall pick Nick Senzel then extended the lead to 7-4 with a two-run double down the left-field line.
The PawSox continue their three-game series with Louisville on Wednesday at 6:15 p.m. Pawtucket right-hander William Cuevas (2-3, 3.56) is scheduled to oppose Bats righty Robert Stephenson (4-4, 3.52). Radio coverage on WHJJ (920 AM and 104.7 FM) and throughout the PawSox Radio Network begins with the pre-game show at 5:45 p.m.
The six-game homestand will run through Sunday. Good seats are available, and fans can visit the McCoy Stadium box office, which is open Monday-Friday from 10 a.m. through 5 p.m., and during all home games. Fans can also call (401) 724-7300 or log on to PawSox.com for tickets.