If there’s any one word you could use to describe the Triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox this season, it’s got to be resilient. After all, this club stood tough all season while losing player after player to the big league Red Sox. They stressed their bullpen while helping rehabbing Red Sox starters like Bartolo Colon regain strength on the mound. And then, of course, they saw top hitting prospect Brandon Moss leave the organization as part of the Manny Ramirez trade on July 31.
But that just hasn’t stopped this crop of talented young players from achieving all season long. And for its efforts, Pawtucket earned its first playoff berth since 2003 after Toledo lost 6-1 to Richmond on Saturday. At 81-56, the PawSox stand 3.5 games behind Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in the International League North with seven games to play.
Louisville already clinched the IL West title, while the Yankees and PawSox have already clinched playoff berths and will duke it out in the remaining week to see who earns the division title. Pawtucket takes on Lehigh Valley tonight for the third tilt of a four-game set. The PawSox took the first two contests, 8-5 and 4-2.
Portland Struggling; Buchholz solid in start
The same can’t be said for Double-A Portland, who is 2-5 in its last seven games following a six-game winning streak in the middle of the month.
Still, at 11.5 games behind Trenton in the Eastern League North, the Sea Dogs are fighting for their playoff lives. They have seven games remaining to lock up a spot in postseason play.
Clay Buchholz made his first start of the season for the Sea Dogs on Monday against New Britain, earning a no decision in Portland’s 6-5 loss. Buchholz, whom the Red Sox sent to Double-A on Aug. 20 after going 2-9 on the season with a 6.75 ERA, went seven innings for the Sea Dogs while allowing five hits and four runs (three earned). He struck out eight.
It’s likely not always easy for Triple-A Pawtucket manager Ron Johnson. You see, it seems like Johnson has shared half his team with the Boston Red Sox through much of the season.
Boston’s injuries have been well documented all year. Look at the casualties: David Ortiz, Clay Buchholz, Bartolo Colon, Jacoby Ellsbury. Even Coco Crisp and Manny Ramirez have been banged up. There hasn’t been a whole lot of stability at the Major League level for the defending World Champions.
So in the midst of these stints on the disabled list, Johnson’s crew has seen both the benefits and the downsides. The good? Guys like Ortiz, Colon and Buchholz have spent time with the PawSox, giving the ballclub dangerous key components that have shown success in the Majors.
The bad, of course, is a revolving door of prospects and rehab assignments that keep changing places. Jeff Baily, Chris Carter and Brandon Moss have all spent time with the PawSox and the Red Sox this season, as have pitchers Chris Smith and Justin Masterson. And being the right-hand man to a team like Boston might sometimes feel like news of change comes every other day.
It’s a wonder that Johnson’s crew is in the position it’s in, but sure enough Pawtucket is right where it wants to be — first place in the International League North.
The PawSox snapped a season-high four-game losing streak on Wednesday against Columbus, and in the wake of a 10-game winning streak by Scranton/Wilkes Barre they’ve watched their division lead shrink to one game.
But at 64-41, Pawtucket is exactly where it wants to be at this point in the season. After Scranton, no one in the division is in position to contend. Third-place Syracuse is an astounding 12 games back in the standings.
So even with their position as a second home to Red Sox newcomers and rehab assignments, this scrappy crew has endured and even flourished. And with a farm system built for the future like the Red Sox have, there is no end in sight for this ballclub.
Watch out for outfielder Joe Thurston. He’s batting .394 in his last nine games, raising his overall average to a league-best .319. He also ranks second with 119 hits.
Right-handed pitcher Charlie Zink suffered his first loss since May 5 in a loss to Toledo on July 19. That loss to the Mud Hens wasn’t his finest outing, allowing nine runs (five earned) in a season-low 1 2/3 innings. But in between the two losses, Zink collected eight wins wiht a 2.04 ERA. He leads the leage with a 2.54 ERA, and his 11-3 record ties him with David Pauley for the league lead in wins.
Righty Devern Hansack struck out a season-high 11 batters against Columbus on Wednesday. He is 3-1 with a 2.21 ERA in his last eight starts.