The Pawtucket Red Sox stampeded back in the ninth inning and nearly overtook Lehigh Valley, but the IronPigs hung on and squeaked by the PawSox, 3-2, on a muggy Sunday afternoon at Coca-Cola Park.
The IronPigs (40-29) scored three runs in the seventh inning to climb ahead 3-1, but Pawtucket (32-35) stormed back in the ninth. After narrowly mashing a ball foul that could've been a go-ahead three-run homer, PawSox catcher Dan Butler smoked an RBI single to center to pull Pawtucket within one. With the bases loaded and nobody out, however, the IronPigs survived to claim a third win in the four-game series. Pawtucket, which was limited to six runs in the four-game series, dropped three to Lehigh Valley but still finished the road trip with a winning record (4-3).
Shepherd fired six shutout frames and punched out five without a walk while only ceding three hits. In nine starts since the beginning of May, Shepherd has notched a 1.93 ERA in his 51.1 innings.
Rehabbing Red Sox reliever Tyler Thornburg (L, 0-1) continued his rehab assignment and allowed three runs on four hits in the seventh inning, recording an out on 15 pitches (10 strikes) before being lifted for left-hander Bobby Poyner. Thornburg, who had previously allowed just a hit and a walk in his first four outings during this second rehab assignment, yielded a single, two-run homer, double, single and RBI groundout.
Pawtucket shortstop Tzu-Wei Lin (2-for-5), center fielder Rusney Castillo (2-for-5, R) and left fielder Aneury Tavarez (2-for-3, 2B, BB) spearheaded the offensive attack.
Lehigh Valley starter Tom Eshelman danced around danger in each of the first four innings and only allowed one unearned run in five stanzas, scattering eight hits. Relievers Austin Davis, Zac Curtis (W, 2-1) and Tom Windle (S, 2) held off Pawtucket to cap the victory.
After collecting seven hits without a run in the first four innings, the PawSox finally broke through in the top of the fifth inning when Castillo singled, stole second and scored on a Lehigh Valley error.
In the bottom of the seventh, Lehigh Valley right fielder Matt McBride hammered a two-run homer to left field, and designated hitter Nick Rickles added an RBI fielder's choice to vault the IronPigs in front, 3-1.
Pawtucket went to work in the top of the ninth inning. Third baseman Mike Olt and Tavarez both walked against Beato, who hadn't previously walked multiple hitters in any outing this season. With nobody out, Butler hooked a fly ball deep down the left-field line that narrowly went foul and was nearly a go-ahead, three-run homer. Moments later, Butler instead rocketed the RBI single to center to plate Olt and get Pawtucket within one, 3-2. Lin then attempted to drop down a sacrifice bunt, but he ended up with a bunt single right in front of home plate. Against a new reliever in Windle, Sturgeon skied a ball to shallow left field, where Lehigh Valley's Damek Tomscha made a bobbling catch with his bare right hand after the ball popped out of his glove. Castillo then struck out on a check swing on a ball in the dirt in which there was no appeal. Finally, Windle induced a groundout to end the ballgame.
With their seven-game road trip in the books, the PawSox will enjoy an off day Monday before cracking open a seven-game homestand Tuesday with a doubleheader against the Buffalo Bisons (Toronto Blue Jays), beginning at 4:35 p.m. Pawtucket left-hander Jalen Beeks (4-3, 2.42) is scheduled to start. Radio coverage on WHJJ (920 AM and 104.7 FM) and throughout the PawSox Radio Network begins with the pre-game show at 4:05 p.m.
The seven-game homestand against the Buffalo and Syracuse will run through next 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.