Saturday, May 19 — Tides 8, Pawtucket 4
Saturday’s 8-4 Tides win over the Pawtucket Red Sox was the kind of game the Norfolk Tides would typically lose, especially over the past few seasons. The Tides jumped on Pawtucket starter Justin Germano for four runs in the first inning, capped by Ronnie Paulino’s two-run double to the right-center field wall. They added two more runs in the third on newcomer Brandon Waring’s first AAA home run, a two-run fly just into the left-field picnic area.
(As an aside, I first saw Justin Germano on his way up in 2002, pitching for Fort Wayne in the Midwest League at Kane County. The Kane County starting pitcher was Dontrelle Willis. I next saw Germano start in 2006, my first year of datacasting, when he started for the Louisville Bats. Germano has made 113 starts in AAA and has a 43-35 career AAA record.)
Back to the present. Pawtucket began a comeback, stringing four singles to produce two runs in the fifth inning. They closed the gap to 6-3 with run in the seventh. Jose Iglesias led off the eighth with a well-executed bunt single. Kevin Youkilis, down on a rehabilitation assignment, hit a ground ball to shortstop, a nearly tailor-made double-play ball, that rolled through Blake Davis’ legs for an error, putting runners on first and third with no outs. Those of us familiar with the Tides knew what was coming next — a big inning, leading to a Pawtucket lead or (worse for us) a tie game with several extra innings on tap.
But no. Lars Anderson hit a ground ball just to the right of second base, and Carlos Rojas fielded it cleanly and flipped it to Davis covering second base. Davis touched the bag with his foot and threw the ball to Joe Mahoney, doubling up Anderson. Although Iglesias scored the Red Sox’ fourth run on the play, the rally had fizzled and the momentum shift stopped.
And in the bottom of the eighth, Lady Luck smiled on the Tides. With two out, Lew Ford blooped a Texas Leaguer in front of the Pawtucket right fielder. Blake Davis smacked a low, hard line drive inches inside the third-base foul line for a double. And with runners on second and third, Jamie Hoffman placed a soft fly ball just far enough into right field so that the first baseman couldn’t catch it, just close enough to the foul line so that the second baseman couldn’t catch it, and just shallow enough into the outfield that the right fielder couldn’t catch it. Two runs scored and the game was clinched.
While Friday’s game was a planned bullpen game for the Tides, Saturday turned into an unplanned bullpen game. Starting pitcher Steve Johnson left the game after two innings with a strained groin, and four Tides relievers nursed the game to its conclusion. No Tides pitcher deserved the win; the official scorer awarded the win to Pat Neshek, who faced only five batters and allowed an inherited runner to score. Not that there were any better options.