Already up 1-0 in their best of five Governors’ Cup series, Pawtucket would have to get a game two win with someone who has never pitched in Triple-A.
Brian Johnson, who spent most of this year dominating in Portland, was summoned to make his Triple-A debut when Matt Barnes was called up to Boston on Monday. He faced off against Alex Colome who has spent time in the big leagues this season for the Rays.
Johnson pitched strong, but the PawSox lost 4-3 after letting a late lead slip away. Their series is now tied 1-1.
For the second consecutive game, Pawtucket struck quickly with runs in the first two innings. The team loaded the bases with no outs in the first, though only managed one run on a groundout from Ryan Lavarnway. Ivan DeJesus Jr. started off the second with a triple and Corey Brown launched a two-run home run giving Pawtucket a 3-0 lead.
That would chase the ineffective Colome from the game after an inning and a third, marking the second time in as many games a Durham starter didn’t make it past three innings.
Durham responded with a two run home run in the third inning by Mike Mahtook to make it 3-2, but that would be all the offense until the later innings. Pawtucket had plenty of scoring chances early, though didn’t capitalize nearly enough on them.
“We had a chance to blow it open,” Manager Kevin Boles said. “We missed some opportunities. I liked how we burned through their starter and get opportunities but we just couldn’t push runs across.”
Johnson looked solid in his six innings of work, allowing two runs on four hits and three walks while striking out seven. He flashed an impressive curveball, though did not factor in the decision.
“He pitched well,” Boles said. “He settled in with a good pitch mix and he gave us what we needed tonight.”
“I was excited to get out there,” Johnson said of his debut. “I got on the same page as Lavarnway pretty quick. This year has been fun for sure and hopefully we finish on the right note.”
Heath Hembree, who was shaky in last night’s appearance despite recording the save, came out for the ninth but gave up a game tying solo home run to Vince Belnome making the score 3-3. Brown led off the ninth with a double for Pawtucket, but was stranded at third.
Pawtucket again squandered a golden chance to win it in the 10th, loading the bases with two outs for Brown who struck out.
The Bulls would not waste their chance to win in the 11th. With runners on first and second, Mike Fontenot lined an RBI single to right off John Ely, giving the Bulls a 4-3 lead. The PawSox limited the damage, but Pawtucket wouldn’t score in their half and fell by that final.
The Rusney Castillo watch continued, as he went 1-4 with a walk in his second Triple-A game. He had a chance to win the game in the ninth, however popped out weakly with a runner on third and one out. Once the game went into extras, he was removed as the plan was for him to play nine innings. He has shown that he will continue to be an aggressive player and when watching him play it is tough not to see flashes of fellow Cuban Yasiel Puig. Boles said that it is doubtful he plays in game three.
Pawtucket will hope to regain their series lead tomorrow as Henry Owens takes the mound against Matt Andriese.