PAWTUCKET – Leave it to a Rhode Island native to earn a slice of immortality at McCoy Stadium.
By zipping a 92 miles-per-hour fastball that produced a swing-and-miss by Pawtucket outfielder Jeremy Hazelbaker, Durham reliever and Johnston native Jeff Beliveau etched his name into the team’s annals. Brought on to nail down the final out, Beliveau preserved the Bulls’ combined no-hitter and secure a 2-1 victory over the PawSox on Sunday.
This marks the first time in the four-plus decades they’ve been playing Triple-A baseball on Ben Mondor Way that an opposing team no-hit Pawtucket in a nine-inning game on McCoy soil. Sunday also signaled the first time the PawSox were no-hit in a nine-inning game since Toledo's Jose Lima blanked them, 3-0, on Aug. 17, 1994.
"It was unbelievable," said a beaming Beliveau while packing up his personal belongings in the visiting clubhouse. "I had family members who hadn't been able to see me pitch in pro ball. They got to see me pitch in pro ball for the first time the other night [Friday saw the 26-year-old strike out the side in the eighth inning] and for some of them it was the first time (Sunday). ”
A 2005 graduate of Bishop Hendricken where he was a teammate of Pawtucket native and former Minnesota pitching prospect Jay Rainville, Beliveau entered the fray with two down and the potential tying run in scoring position. Pawtucket broke up the shutout bid when Brandon Snyder lifted a deep fly ball to straightaway center field. The sacrifice fly chased home Ryan Lavarnway, who represented one of the two walks the home team drew against Bulls reliever Kirby Yates in the ninth.
Beliveau got ahead of Hazelbaker, looping a curveball that baffled the outfielder for strike two. With the count 1-2 and Mark Hamilton dancing off second base, Beliveau dropped the hammer on Hazelbaker to cap off an afternoon that saw four Durham pitchers team up to silence Pawtucket.
Jake Odorizzi, a 23-year-old who is one of the top prospects in Tampa Bay’s minor-league system, started and went seven innings. The only four PawSox baserunners he allowed were the result of walks. He struck out three, as the PawSox didn’t have much in the way of solid contact against the righty.
Odorizzi required 95 pitches to get through the seven innings, so to manager Charlie Montoyo, it was an easy decision to take him out and hand the game off to the bullpen.
"That's one thing I never mess with," Montoyo said. "That's how minor league managers get fired, not working with the pitch count.”
“It’s the minors and they’re trying to protect arms,” said Beliveau, a former Chicago Cubs farmhand who was traded to Tampa Bay last month after spending spring training with Texas. “I was a little surprised; maybe one more inning for (Odorizzi), but everything worked out.”
Odorizzi gave way to Frank De Los Santos, who recorded the same number of walks (two) as outs. Yates came on to nail down the final out of the eighth inning, a swinging strikeout of Jonathan Diaz with runners on second and third.
The fact that Beliveau was throwing to Durham catcher and Fall River native Craig Albernaz helped punctuate the no-hitter and make it extra special in the eyes of Montoyo. The no-no is the second in Durham history, the first one transpiring on July 16, 2006.
Pawtucket skipper Gary DiSarcina didn’t realize that Durham had a no-hitter going until the seventh inning. The PawSox ended up drawing eight walks, though finished 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position.
“To me, we still had a good plan at the plate,” noted the skipper. “That’s a credit to our guys, but their guy (Odorizzi) had a good fastball, good command of his slider and an occasional change-up. He pitched down in the zone and with good tempo and pace.”
Durham, which earned a split of the four-game series, struck for single runs in the first and second innings against Pawtucket starter Steven Wright. The knuckleballer was pulled after throwing 60 pitches in two frames that also included three walks and one strikeout.
Wright’s previous outing saw him throw 84 pitches in four innings. DiSarcina has noticed a pattern regarding why the righty is struggling in the innings-pitched department.
“Teams are doing a good job with fouling off a lot of pitches,” said DiSarcina. “Guys are going a good job with battling the knuckleballer, but the common theme over the last two outings is to drive his pitch count up.”
Graham Godfrey was a godsend for the PawSox on a day when the starting pitcher provided very little length. Godfrey chewed up five innings, all of them scoreless, while striking out two and walking no one. The Bulls didn’t exactly put on an offensive clinic themselves, stranding 11 while batting a woeful 1-for-15 with runners in scoring position.
The PawSox endured a scary moment in the second inning when left fielder Bryce Brentz bumped heads with shortstop Jonathan Diaz along the third-base line. Brentz ended up making the catch but was replaced in the sixth inning. DiSarcina said Brentz was experiencing headache-like symptoms.
Pawtucket now hits the road for an eight-game road trip that will take the club to Gwinnett and Charlotte, site of last year’s Governors’ Cup clinch. The PawSox will be back at McCoy a week from Tuesday.