|Red Sox Minor League Roundup: A long-awaited triumph for Pawtucket; power shows from Bryce Brentz, Jerry Sands||09.09.12 at 9:17 am ET|
It’s part of the nature of the beast for a team perennially in contention. When rosters expand in September, top minor league talent is scraped from the Triple-A team and deposited in the big leagues to offer season-ending reinforcements, at the expense of success at the top minor league level.
Even in 2012, when the Red Sox saw their hopes of competing for a playoff spot at the big league level in September go up in smoke in August, the raid on Pawtucket had been considerable. Lineup standouts like Mauro Gomez, Ryan Lavarnway, Jose Iglesias and Pedro Ciriaco were all summoned to the majors before the end of the Triple-A regular season.
Yet Pawtucket kept winning, getting particularly strong pitching performances from relatively unheralded extras — largely minor league free agent signings — to push its way into the postseason. And on Saturday, behind a dominant from 38-year-old Nelson Figueroa – who allowed one run on two hits in eight innings while punching out eight — the PawSox claimed their first playoff series win since 2003. The team’s 7-1 victory gave it a 3-1 series win over the Yankees’ Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre affiliate, with Pawtucket now advancing to the Governor’s Cup Finals, in search of its first International League title since 1984.
Game 1 of the series against the White Sox’ Triple-A Charlotte team will take place on Tuesday at McCoy Stadium. Tickets are available here.
TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET: 7-1 WIN AT SCRANTON/WILKES-BARRE (WIN BEST-OF-FIVE PLAYOFF SERIES, 3-1)
– Bryce Brentz put the finishing touches on an outstanding playoff performance by going 2-for-3 with a double and a walk. He was 6-for-14 with two doubles and two homers in the series, collecting an extra-base hit in each of the four playoff contests. He had a double to center and a single to right, showing an impressive ability to hit the ball to all fields during the season. That ability is not something that necessarily came naturally to Brentz, who once explained his evolution as a hitter in these terms:
“I used to be a dead pull hitter, and I’m still considered more of a pull hitter,” he said. “I never had hitting lessons growing up. I was always, ‘See ball, hit ball.’ When I was in college, they taught a little about hitting and about backspin. That’s my thing — I want to backspin the baseball. I can take a ball outside, hit it out to right-center and jog around the bases. It opened up a bigger part of my game. It’s a good tool to have. That’s a big key, if you can drive the ball to right field with authority as a right-handed hitter.”
– Right-hander Alex Wilson blitzed through a three-up, three-down ninth inning in just five pitches. He retired all nine batters he faced in the series. Wilson will represent an interesting potential call-up decision for the Red Sox once Pawtucket is done, since he will have to be added to the 40-man roster in the coming months to protect him from the Rule 5 draft in December. The 2009 second-round pick didn’t dominate once moved to the bullpen this season, with a 3.36 ERA, 62 strikeouts and 29 walks in 59 innings, but he’s a hard-throwing right-hander with a mid-90s fastball and a slider that has the potential to be a big league swing-and-miss pitch. He isn’t far from being ready to contribute in the big leagues, and so he would be virtually certain to be taken by a team if left unprotected in the Rule 5 draft. That simply won’t happen.
– Juan Carlos Linares went 1-for-3 with a walk. Like Brentz, he had at least one hit in every game, going 5-for-12 during the series.
– Danny Valencia‘s three-run homer capped a seven-run second-inning explosion that functionally decided the game.
– Jerry Sands, one of the two players to be named in the blockbuster deal with the Dodgers who will join the Red Sox after the season, is taking part in the playoffs with the Triple-A Albuquerque Isotopes, where he is continuing a tremendous offensive run. He went 2-for-5 with a double while driving in three on Saturday, and he’s hitting .375 and has driven in six runs during the playoff series, following a second-half in Albuquerque in which he put up outrageous (albeit PCL-inflated) numbers: a .354/.422/.635/1.058 line with 14 homers and 53 RBI in 47 games. He set a franchise record by driving in 106 runs this year, and he was named team MVP as well as being tabbed as a PCL postseason All-Star.
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