For a moment, it looked like Short Season Single-A Lowell were on the cusp of reaching the New York-Penn League Finals with a two-game throttling of Batavia. After all, the Spinners won Game 1 in 12 innings and led 8-2 in the sixth frame of Game 2. But that’s where things changed. The Muckdogs rallied for 11 runs in the final three innings, winning Game 2 and forcing a decisive Game 3 on Wednesday.
Batavia took advantage of its new life, defeating the Spinners, 3-2, earning the right to advance to the best-of-3 championship series against Jamestown. For Lowell, it was a season in which it dominated the NYP Stedler division by 7 1/2 games down the stretch, finishing with a 40-33 record.
The Spinners were by and large led by Mitch Dening throughout the season. Dening, the Australia native, batted .321 over the course of 62 game in 2008 while playing strong defense in the outfield. On the mound, Brock Huntzinger was 5-0 in eight starts with a 0.64 ERA before moving to play with the Greenville Drive. In the bullpen, Stephen Fife went 1-1 with a 2.33 ERA in 14 games — a solid start for the 2008 First-Year Player Draft pick.
Less than four days after being optioned back to Triple-A Pawtucket from the Red Sox to make room for David Aardsma coming off the 15-day disabled list, Chris Smith was back in the Fens participating in a PawSox game against the Charlotte Knights at Fenway Park.
Smith, along with Chris Carter and Jeff Bailey, are among several PawSox players this season that have taken the trip back and forth between the two squads. Newly traded Brandon Moss as well as Red Sox current shortstop Jed Lowrie come to mind as others who are/were in the same boat.
Prior to the International League tilt on Saturday afternoon, Smith talked about the transition between the two squads. It’s certainly different, he says, but the camaraderie between the teammates is very consistent.
“It’s different but still fun,” Smith said. “These guys are just as fun as the [the Red Sox clubhouse], it’s just a different crew.”
Smith is 1-3 with a 2.24 ERA this season with Pawtucket, including 13 saves. But he hasn’t pitched for the team since being recalled to the Red Sox on Aug. 1.
He said it’s tough moving between squads because with both teams playing at once, it’s hard to keep track of teammates in the other clubhouse.
“It’s hard to keep in touch,” he said. “That’s the one things that sucks is that when we’re playing, they’re playing. We’re in different time zones, too. Like now, they’re in the Central (playing the White Sox in Chicago) and we’re in the Eastern.
“It’s a roller coaster. You just need to put your hands up and enjoy the ride.”
Lowell shows poise in win
There’s something to be said about the way the Spinners earned a 4-3, 12-inning victory over Hudson Valley on Saturday at Fenway in the first of two Futures at Fenway contests. The Spinners looked more than ready to win in nine, but a late-inning rally sent the game into extras.
That’s where Lowell really took charge. Despite taking till the 12th to get the ‘W’, the Spinners threatened in three consecutive innings and, had it not been for stellar play by center fiedler Anthony Scelfo, Lowell likely would have won even earlier.
The two strongest peformances on the night were Will Middlebrooks and Mitch Dening — both went 3-for-6 while Middlebrooks earned three RBIs.
And while both did their parts — Dening scored the winning run — each did it in separate ways. Middlebrooks worked the count and came up with a big, game-winning hit. Dening, well, he was short and sweet in his plate appearances — much like his reasoning for it.
“I don’t take a lot of pitches,” he said. “I like to get that first pitch fastball and do something with it. A good way to hit the curveball is to hit the fastball. I don’t want to go deep into counts. I just like to take that fastball early in the count and drive it.”
— Mark Remme