PawSox Sweep Chiefs, Head To Third Consecutive Governor’s Cup Final

Pawtucket Red Sox Press Release

Syracuse, NY – Pawtucket erased an early 4-0 deficit, ultimately scoring three runs in the seventh to take the lead then using some sparkling defense to hold off several late Syracuse threats as the PawSox beat the Chiefs, 7-6, Friday night at NBT Bank Stadium to complete a sweep in the best-of-five International League semifinal series. 

Pawtucket, the IL’s wild card winner, defeated North Division champions 3-to-0 to advance to a third-consecutive Governor’s Cup Final. The PawSox earned only their second postseason sweep in 22 playoff series and advanced to the IL finals for the eighth time in franchise history.

Pawtucket trailed 4-0 after the second and 6-4 after the sixth, but plated three in the seventh against reliever Matt Grace (0-1). The southpaw Grace, who had allowed only ten total runs on the season, allowed a one-out infield hit to Travis Shaw to begin the rally and then a double to Bryce Brentz that left runners on second and third.

Ryan Lavarnway followed with a looping two-run single to left-center that tied the score at 6, his only hit of the series. The next batter Garin Cecchini hit a soft grounder to second that was fielded by Will Rhymes on a diving pickup. Rhymes attempted to throw out Lavarnway at second but instead tossed the ball into left field for an error that left runners on second and third.

After Grace then struck out Corey Brown, Blake Swihart delivered the go-ahead hit on a groundball deep into the hole at short. Shortstop Manny Burriss fielded and threw off-balanced to first, but Swihart legged out the infield single to bring home Lavarnway with the winning run.

Pawtucket then used some terrific defense to finish the final three innings and hold the one-run lead. Second baseman Ryan Roberts caught a hard line drive by Josh Johnson and turned it into a double play to finish the seventh behind reliever Jose Valdez. Roberts then made a diving stop on a grounder hit by Jhonatan Solano to end the eighth with two runners on base to save Heath Hembree.

Hembree worked a 1-2-3 ninth, the only perfect inning for Pawtucket pitching in the game, to record his first save. Hembree snagged Rhymes hard-hit liner to the mound on a remarkable reaction play to end the victory and the series sweep. 

Syracuse, which was hosting its first postseason game since 1994, is still winless in the IL playoffs since that season.

PawSox starter Henry Owens gave up five runs in four innings of work, including four in the bottom of the second. Rhymes two-run double opened the scoring, while Burriss slugged a two-run home run to left that made the score 4-0.

Pawtucket came back with three unanswered tallies against Chiefs starter Mitch Lively in the third and fourth, with RBI hits by Brentz (single) and Alex Hassan (double) highlighting the rallies. Brandon Laird’s sac fly in the bottom of the fourth made the score 5-3 and was the final run allowed by Owens, who gave up eight hits and struck out six.

Each team plated a run in the sixth, with Brown going deep against MLB-rehabbing Ross Ohlendorf to bring the PawSox back within one before Laird’s RBI single plated Burriss against reliever Dalier Hinojosa (1-0). Hinojosa pitched two innings and allowed two hits and one run to pick up the victory.

The PawSox will now wait for the winner of the Columbus-Durham playoff series in the Governor’s Cup Finals (Durham leads the series 2-to-1). Game one of the league championship best-of-five is scheduled to begin at McCoy Stadium on Tuesday night. Radio coverage on 920 AM (WHJJ) and also streaming online begins at 6:45 pm.

Good seats are available at the McCoy Stadium box office, by calling (401) 724-7300 or by visiting pawsox.com. The box office will be open Saturday for fans wishing to purchase tickets in person.