PAWTUCKET â€” Springtime may have finally sprung in southern New England, but Pawtucketâ€™s bats remain in a deep slumber.
The offensive doldrums that have plagued the locals for much of the season perhaps simmered to a boil during the eighth inning of Tuesdayâ€™s disheartening 3-0 loss to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, winners of three games in this four-game set. With two runners on base and the potential tying run at the plate, the PawSox turned to their Nos. 4 and 5 hitters in the hope seeing a ball disappear over the McCoy Stadium fence.
Instead, Pawtucket came up empty on what was the clubâ€™s best chance to break through against the RailRiders. Ryan Lavarnway worked the count full before chasing a pitch over his head for strike three. Next up was Brandon Snyder, who whiffed to end the frame.
â€śI thought we chased some pitches there,â€ť said PawSox manager Kevin Boles after his PawSox dropped their fourth game in five tries, not to mention lose their first home series of the 2014 campaign. â€śOnce they got ahead in the count, our zones started to expand.â€ť
Boles went out of his way to praise Scrantonâ€™s pitching staff â€“ onetime Red Sox farmhand Robert Coello finished the job by recording four strikeouts in 1.2 innings en route to his second save after starter Shane Greene tossed six scoreless innings.
Still, there comes a point when the hitters in your dugout need to make hay and stop resembling that of a pop-gun attack.
At .238, Pawtucket sported the second-lowest team batting average in the International League heading into Tuesdayâ€™s action. It dropped to .237 following a six-hit performance that included a 0-for-6 showing with runners in scoring position.
The numbers may suggest otherwise, but Boles believes that itâ€™s only a matter of time before the entire lineup clicks.
â€śWe need to make adjustments, but we trust our hitters. We have guys who have performed in the past,â€ť he said. â€śWhen this thing gets hot, itâ€™s going to be very interesting.
â€śWeâ€™ve showed signs of catching fire and there, but itâ€™s about creating some momentum amongst the group,â€ť the skipper continued. â€śThe guys work hard. They donâ€™t feel sorry for themselves and keep pushing. It will turn around.â€ť
The PawSox have now been shut out five times. Despite the woes at the plate, the team is still on the plus side of .500 (25-22)
Like Allen Webster on Monday night, Anthony Ranaudoâ€™s final pitching line helped cover up deeper issues. The burly right-hander may have allowed one run â€“ a solo home run in the third inning to Adonis Garcia â€“ he permitted in 5.2 innings, but Ranaudo also walked four and was forced to work his way out of trouble on multiple occasions.
He did leave the bases loaded in the first inning and wormed his way out of a two-on, no-outs situation in the fifth. Such heavy lifting requires extra effort, which means more pitches. Ranaudo ended up tossing 106 pitches, 66 for strikes.
After appearing to turn the corner last week when he tossed seven shutout innings at Indianapolis, itâ€™s tough to tell whether Tuesdayâ€™s performance for Ranaudo qualifies as a step backwards or nothing more than a mere speed bump.
â€śIt wasnâ€™t pretty, but one run in 5.2 innings, youâ€™re putting your team in a position to win,â€ť said Ranaudo, who struck out seven. â€śI would like to go a little deeper, but thatâ€™s all part of throwing strikes and not putting guys on base.â€ť
Said Boles, â€śHe looked a bit uncomfortable early in his outing, but he was able to settle in. I thought he competed well, but not being able to induce contact early ran up his pitch count.â€ť
The day was a success long before first pitch as Boles, coach Bruce Crabbe, pitching coach Rich Sauveur, hitting coach Dave Joppie and trainer Jon Jochim were presented 2013 World Series rings by Raquel Ferreira, a Cumberland native and Red Sox senior director of minor-league operations.
Rings were also presented to Pawtucket Team President Mike Tamburro and General Manager Lou Schwechheimer.
â€śI had an experience with my father (John) when he was in charge of player personnel with the Marlins. I remember seeing him and all the hard work he put in and every time he wears his ring, I get excited,â€ť said Boles, referencing the â€™97 World Series winner. â€śTo get one here with what Ben Cherington, ownership and staff and players at the major-league level have done, itâ€™s honor and Iâ€™m going to wear it.â€ť
EXTRA BASES: Outfielder Bryce Brentz was placed on the seven-day disabled list on Tuesday, retroactive to last Friday, with a hamstring strain. Taking his place on the roster is pitcher John Ely, who was working his way back from Tommy John surgery. He made six appearances for Single-A Greenville, going 1-0 with a 5.63 ERA. â€¦ The PawSox will spend part of their off day on Wednesday traveling to Syracuse. Theyâ€™ll begin a four-game series with the Chiefs on Thursday before returning to McCoy Stadium next Monday for the start of a four-game series against Gwinnett.
Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03