First To Clinch… Pawtucket!

On Friday night, the Pawtucket Red Sox became the first team to clinch a spot into the Governors’ Cup Finals, meaning they are the first team to inch a step closer to the Gildan Triple-A National Championship Game, which will be played on Tuesday, September 16 at BB&T Ballpark.VDo0ZfM9

Let’s take an in-depth look at the PawSox:

It looked like it would be no easy task for the PawSox on paper. They would have to face the Syracuse Chiefs in the first round — the same team that beat them out for the IL North Division crown. Head-to-head this season, however, things between the two teams were even. Both teams won eight of their 16 games against each other. The PawSox hit just .237 against the Chiefs, while Chiefs, well they hit just .240 against the PawSox. Very even indeed! Even the home runs against were similar (PawSox with 14, Chiefs with 13).

Perhaps the only difference throughout their 16 matchups this season — not counting the playoffs — was that the Chiefs outscored the PawSox 60-50. Still, it was close.

When Wednesday hit, it was Pawtucket hosting the Chiefs in game one of the series. The PawSox came away with a 2-1 win in game one, and then came back to win game two by a score of 8-2. Impressive wins for the PawSow, who will play for the Governors’ Cup for the third time in as many years (2012-2014). Who was their opponent in 2012… the Charlotte Knights. Pawtucket won that series in three games, while they lost last season in the finals to Durham (3-1).

Through three games in the IL playoffs this season, the PawSox as a team are hitting .303 with 17 runs scored, 33 hits, and two home runs — all tops in the IL.

KEEP AN EYE ON:

Bryce Brentz has six hits, which are tied with Francisco Lindor (Columbus) for the most in the playoffs. Overall, Brentz is hitting .429 (6-for-14) with three runs scored, and one RBI in three games. Brentz is a native of Crossville, TN and hit .243 with the PawSox this season in 63 games. He hit 12 home runs and had 53 RBIs. He was drafted in the first round of the 2010 draft by the Red Sox (36th overall) out of Middle Tennessee State University. Last season, he hit a combined .262 with 19 homers and 64 RBIs in 88 games (82 games with Pawtucket and six games with the Gulf Coast Red Sox). His 19 home runs were tied for the most in the system with David Chester.

Garin Cecchini hit .385 (5-for-13) with two runs scored, one triple, and three RBIs in the three-game series against the Chiefs. It was his walk-off single in the 10th inning of Wednesday’s game that lifted the PawSox to a 2-1 win over Syracuse in game one. Drafted by the Red Sox in the fourth round of the 2010 draft, he hit .263 (107-for-407) with seven home runs and 57 RBIs for the PawSox this year. He’s moved up every season — starting in Lowell (Low-A) in 2011, Greenville in 2012 (Single-A), Salem (High-A) and Portland (Double-A) in 2013, and Pawtucket (Triple-A) in 2013. He owns a career .298 batting average over his four Minor League seasons.

TOP PITCHING PROSPECT:

Henry Owens started game three of the IL playoffs and allowed five runs on eight hits over four innings and did not factor in the decision. It was an uncharacteristic start for Owens, who posted a 3-1 mark with the PawSox in six games this season after going 14-4 with a 2.60 ERA in 20 starts for Double-A Portland earlier this year. He was drafted in the first round (36th overall) in the 2011 draft by the Red Sox out of Edison High School (Huntington Beach, CA). Owens, who is 6’6″,  is just 22 years old and has a very bright future ahead. The young left-hander could be at the front of Boston’s rotation before long. Fans of the Charlotte Knights have already seen Owens pitch. Back on August 10 at BB&T Ballpark, the Knights tagged Owens for four runs on eight hits over five innings in just his second-ever Triple-A start.

LOCAL PRODUCTS:

Jackie Bradley Jr. is a product of the University of South Carolina and played for the PawSox in 12 games this season after being sent down by the Red Sox two weeks ago. Bradley appeared in 14 regular season games and hit .212 with one home run and five RBIs. He then appeared in the first two games of the playoffs with Pawtucket and hit .200 (2-for-10) with a run scored. While it would have been nice to see Bradley Jr. in Charlotte if the PawSox did indeed advance, the Red Sox recalled Bradley on Friday ending the hopes of many USC fans in the area. In 112 games with the Red Sox this season, Bradley Jr. is hitting .216 (75-for-348) with a home run, 19 doubles, two triples, and 30 RBIs.

Other players with ties to North Carolina and South Carolina that are currently on Pawtucket’s roster are: Heath Hembree, a Spartanburg, SC native who played his college ball at the College of Charleston. Hembree has made two scoreless appearances out of the Pawtucket bullpen in the playoffs. He went 0-1 with a 2.70 ERA in seven games for the PawSox this season after coming over in the Jake Peavy trade on July 26.

Another player who spent time in a college in the Carolinas is Alex Hassan, who took his talents to Duke. Hassan, a Quincy, MA native, was drafted out of Duke by Boston in the 20th round of the 2009 draft.

MANAGER:

Kevin Boles is the manager of the PawSox and has made his way through the ranks of Boston’s Minor League system over the years. His first year with the Red Sox organization was in 2008 when he guided Single-A Greenville to a 70-69 record. That season, he had players such as Anthony Rizzo and Josh Reddick. Making his way through the ranks since 2008, Boles has managed other Red Sox prospects such as Will Middlebrooks, Xander Bogaerts, Anthony Ranaudo, and Allen Webster. He has 876 career regular season wins as a manager over 14 seasons as a Minor League manager.

His first season was in 2000 as a manager of the Gulf Coast Marlins. That was a special team. They went 40-20 and had two future stars of the game — Miguel Cabrera, and Adrian Gonzalez. Cabrera was just 17, while Gonzalez was 18.

FINAL THOUGHTS:

With solid offense and pitching, the PawSox will be a tough opponent for either Durham or Columbus for the Governors’ Cup Championship. The PawSox will look for their second Governors’ Cp Championship in three seasons and a shot at the Triple-A National Championship Game for the first time since 2012. Durham, who beat them last season in the finals, has a 2-1 lead over Columbus with all games left to be played in Durham. It could be a rematch of last season’s finals. If so, either of those teams (Pawtucket and Durham) should make for an exciting Triple-A National Championship Game at BB&T Ballpark on September 16. Stay tuned.

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