PAWTUCKET, R.I. —
Before the Pawtucket Red Sox season is over, first-year manager Kevin Boles hopes his team will rack up a host of positive accomplishments.
Suffice to say Thursday night’s season opener against the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs was the first of what Boles hopes won’t be a string a negatives.
A quartet of Lehigh Valley pitchers combined on a two-hitter as the Iron Pigs blanked the PawSox, 4-0, which marked the first time in franchise history that Pawtucket had been shut out in a home opener.
Where do you start when analyzing this disappointing performance?
Starting pitcher Allen Webster is a good place to start.
Boston’s No. 4 prospect, as rated by Baseball America, exited in the fourth inning after having allowed three runs on seven hits.
“First inning there were four 3-2 counts,” said Boles while referring to one reason for Webster’s downfall. “I thought (Maikel) Franco’s at-bat (an RBI single that accounted for Lehigh Valley’s first run) was terrific. He got a 0-2 slider and was able to work the count and was able to get that single up the middle.
“I thought they work counts and burn up the pitch count a little bit.”
Good point, considering Webster only threw 57 percent of his pitches (46-81) for strikes – a stat that’s a recipe for an early shower.
“They work counts,” said Boles. “They were selective. I thought Webby had a little sink to his fastball but they were still able to get there.
“There were a couple of pitches that looked like they should have been able to tie up some hitters. But they shortened up their swings and they had to barrel through to their pull side. Again, they did a good job of working the count.”
The flip side of the proverbial coin was Pawtucket’s inability to mount anything resembling an offense.
In fact, the PawSox only advanced three runners into scoring position. And Lehigh Valley pitchers retired the last 15 PawSox in order.
“(David) Buchanan had quality stuff,” Boles said of the Iron Pigs winner who allowed two hits, two walks and fanned five in six innings. “He was able to add and subtract. When he missed, he missed down.
“He was able to keep our guys off-balance.”