PAWTUCKET – Steven Wright returned to McCoy Stadium on Thursday afternoon. His Pawtucket Red Sox teammates didn’t get back from Rochester until 5:30 on Friday morning.
The move to make sure that Pawtucket’s Game 3 starter was well rested paid off handsomely. Wright’s knuckleball baffled the Rochester hitters to the tune of 6.1 scoreless innings as the PawSox downed the Red Wings, 5-1, before 4,681 enthusiastic and supportive fans Friday night at McCoy Stadium.
The PawSox now lead the best-of-five Governors’ Cup opening-round series, two games to one. They can clinch a spot in next week’s championship round with a win Saturday night. Should the Red Wings prevail, a winner-take-all fifth contest would take place Sunday at 1 p.m. at McCoy.
Wright has made two starts against Rochester this season, totaling 13.1 scoreless frames. He allowed six hits to go along with five strikeouts and four walks. The butterfly specialist threw 117 pitches, 69 of which were strikes.
“He did a good job commanding his knuckleball and threw a lot of good fastballs for strikes,” said PawSox manager Gary DiSarcina, also noting the 3-6-1 double play that helped end the third inning for Wright and Pawtucket. “That’s one of the toughest plays in baseball and was a huge double play for us.”
Mark Hamilton rebounded from two hitless games in Rochester to go 2-for-2, one of the hits a two-run home run in the fifth inning. Ryan Rowland-Smith got out of a first-and-third jam in the eighth inning on his way to picking up the save.
Matt Barnes was aware that his first-round mound assignment was contingent on the series getting to a fourth game. Thanks to the PawSox evening the best-of-five series at one apiece on Thursday night, the right-hander will get a chance to pitch the defending International League champions into its second straight Governors’ Cup finals.
“I knew that if we got to Game 4 that I would have it, so I’ve been preparing just in case,” said Barnes. “You have to prepare regardless. You can’t let your mind kind of go and all of a sudden flip a switch.”
The 23-year-old Barnes earned the chance to start a postseason after tossing 5.1 scoreless innings in his PawSox debut on Aug. 29.
“He came up and was very similar to (Anthony) Ranaudo) and (Brandon) Workman – very focused and aggressive,’ said DiSarcina. “He deserves this chance and it will be a great experience for him. I’m glad we didn’t get swept so he can get a chance to go out there.”
DiSarcina was asked about the PawSox players who are on Boston’s 40-man roster but weren’t summoned the first day that MLB rosters were allowed to expand.
“I’m sure some of them are disappointed, but they’ve got to move on quickly. Talking to Brock Holt a little bit, they make a trade for an infielder (John McDonald) and he’s not going to be excited. That’s his role,” said the manager. “You can still get called up. Sept. 1 is not the drop-dread date. I look at it as a positive for the guys – they can still get innings and at-bats for however long the playoffs go. They still have a lot to play for.”
Follow Brendan McGair @BWMcGair03