PAWTUCKET â€” It had all the pageantry of Opening Day, from the introduction to the teams to Boston bullpen cop Steve Horgan tossing out the ceremonial pitch to the unfurling of an American flag in center field and a cannon salute that sounded off at the conclusion of the national anthem.
The Pawtucket Red Sox were unable to keep up their end of bargain, falling in meek and quiet fashion to Lehigh Valley Thursday night before 8,266 shivering fans. The local entry managed just two hits â€“ none coming after the third inning â€“ in a 4-0 loss that marked the first time in franchise history that the PawSox have been blanked in the home opener.
The defeat also snaps Pawtucketâ€™s eight-game winning streak in season openers.
Allen Websterâ€™s inability to find the strike zone on a regular basis limited him to 3 2/3 innings. The righty tossed 81 pitches, 46 for strikes and was tagged with three of the four runs the IronPigs notched.
Webster did strike out the side in the first inning, though he allowed two runs on three hits.
â€śIn the first inning, there were four 3-2 counts,â€ť noted PawSox manager Kevin Boles. â€śThey work counts and bumped Allenâ€™s pitch count up.â€ť
Trouble was averted in the second inning when catcher Christian Vazquez erased a runner on the basepaths and Webster succeeded in working around a walk to No. 9 hitter Tyler Hensen.
The fourth inning got off to a sour start for Webster as he allowed a deep and loud home run to catcher Cameron Rupp. The Pawtucket pitcher recovered to retire the next two batters before issuing a two-out walk. That prompted Boles to turn to his bullpen.
Like Webster, Craig Breslow was pulled during the middle of an inning. On a rehab assignment due to a left shoulder strain, the southpaw was done after walking back-to-back IronPigs in the fifth inning. Breslow had retired the first Lehigh Valley he had faced on one pitch.
Breslow threw 20 pitches, 10 for strikes.
â€śHe said he felt fine,â€ť said Boles. â€śThe weather, it was a little bit chilly out there, but he was able to battle through it. He did what he needed to do â€¦ he got his 20 pitches in.â€ť
Lehigh Valley starter David Buchanan stymied Pawtucketâ€™s bats, tossing six shutout innings with five strikeouts. One of the two hits he allowed came in the second inning when Garin Cecchini jumped all over the first Triple-A pitch he saw and lined a sharp single to centre field.
A third baseman, Cecchini reached base twice. Brock Holt had the other Pawtucket hit.
A silver lining for the PawSox on what was a solemn beginning to 2014 â€“ itâ€™s just one game in a season where they play 144 contests in the International League.
Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03