Down to their final strike on three consecutive occasions in the ninth inning, the Pawtucket Red Sox scored four two-out runs in the final frame to shock the Rochester Red Wings, 6-5, on Wednesday night in front of a crowd of nearly 12,000 at Frontier Field.
In one of the wins of the year for the PawSox (40-44), Pawtucket scored all six of its runs in the final two stanzas to win for the first time in the third matchup of the four-game, home-and-home series with the Red Wings (41-41). Down 3-0 entering the eighth, Pawtucket second baseman Mike Miller pulled the PawSox within one on an opposite-field homer. Rochester answered with two runs of its own in the eighth, setting the stage for an even more impressive Pawtucket comeback. In the ninth, the PawSox loaded the bases with two outs. That's when pinch-hitter Rusney Castillo ripped a two-run single into right field on a 1-2 pitch to trim the margin to 5-4. The next hitter, leadoff man Tzu-Wei Lin, yanked a 2-2 breaking ball into right field to plate a pair and vault Pawtucket in front, 6-5. In total, the PawSox sent eight to the plate in the ninth inning, and seven of those hitters faced two-strike counts - with four of them reaching.
Lin (2-for-5, 2 RBI), Castillo (1-for-1, 2 RBI) and Miller (2-for-4, 2 R, HR, 2 RBI) led the comeback for an offense that was limited to three hits through seven-plus innings. The victory was just Pawtucket's second this season when trailing after eight innings.
Pawtucket starter Jalen Beeks fanned eight in 5.1 innings of three-run work in which he didn't allow a walk but yielded a pair of homers. The 24-year old International League All-Star, who won't pitch in next week's All-Star Game in Ohio, retired the first 11 batters he faced with six strikeouts in that span. However, the Red Wings cracked a pair of homers over the next two innings. Reliever Fernando Rodriguez Jr. (W, 3-1) allowed a hit in 2.2 innings, and closer and All-Star Ryan Brasier (S, 12) struck out two in a 1-2-3 ninth inning.
Rochester starter and top-100 prospect Stephen Gonsalves turned in a third crisp start against Pawtucket this season, firing six shutout innings with six strikeouts and just one walk. In his Triple-A season debut, Gonsalves threw 7.2 innings of one-hit ball on May 1. Less than three weeks later, the 23-year old southpaw punched out a season-high 11 in just 5.1 innings against the PawSox. Red Wings reliever John Curtiss, however, allowed four runs (three earned) in 1.1 innings.
Slugging Rochester cleanup man Kennys Vargas hammered a two-run homer - that left the bat at 114 MPH - with two outs in the bottom of the fourth inning to lift the Red Wings in front, 2-0.
An inning later in the fifth, Rochester catcher Cameron Rupp drilled a solo blast with an exit velocity of 111 MPH that extended the lead to 3-0.
Pawtucket solved Rochester reliever Nick Anderson in the top of the eighth inning. Left fielder Aneury Tavarez worked a leadoff walk, and second baseman Mike Miller bashed an opposite-field, two-run homer into the right-field bullpen to slice the gap to one, 3-2.
However, the Red Wings snatched one of those runs back in the home half of the eighth inning on an RBI triple from left fielder LaMonte Wade that scored leadoff man Byron Buxton and made it 4-2. Wade later scored on a sacrifice fly from No. 3 hitter Gregorio Petit.
Pawtucket, though, responded with the impressive four-run ninth inning keyed by clutch hits from Castillo and Lin.
The PawSox square off again with the Red Wings on Thursday at 5:05 p.m. at Frontier Field in Rochester. PawSox right-hander Justin Haley (4-6, 3.06) is scheduled to oppose Red Wings lefty Adalberto Mejia (4-2, 2.74). Radio coverage on WHJJ (920 AM and 104.7 FM) and throughout the PawSox Radio Network begins with the pre-game show at 4:35 p.m.