Ryan L. Fox
Neither cold nor snow would deny the start of the 2018 International League season for the Pawtucket Red Sox. A quick flurry of snow pushed their Opening Day start from Friday night to a Saturday midday matinee. Fans were treated to the opening day ceremonies as the 2018 PawSox team was introduced to the crowd.
After the first pitch was thrown, the team took to the field to begin their 2018 MiLB season as they welcomed in their IL North Divisional Rivals, the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs.
During the first few innings, offense was at a premium. Both Justin Haley of the PawSox and Zach Eflin of the Iron Pigs were able to stymie the batters for the first 2 innings of play.
Then during the top of the 3rd inning, things seemingly imploded for Haley. After mowing through the Iron Pigs through the first 2 innings, Haley struggled. He ended up throwing close to 40 pitches in the inning, including giving up a sac fly RBI to Iron Pigs DH Danny Ortiz that gave his team an early 1-0 lead. Due to the high pitch count in just the 3rd inning (73 pitches), PawSox skipper Kevin Boles decided to go to his bullpen early as RHP Kyle Martin got the final out in the inning.
Down 1-0 early, the PawSox were able to scrap together their own offense in the following inning. After a lineout, PawSox C Dan Butler got on base after getting plunked by Eflin. Another lineout and a walk to PawSox SS Tzu-Wei Lin put runners on first and second with two outs. Then PawSox 3B Ivan De Jesus smack a single up to left as Butler hurried around to score, tying things up 1-1.
Things then went south for the home team the following inning. A hit-by-pitch, an error, and a walk loaded the bases with Iron Pigs with no outs in the inning. After De Jesus snagged a flyout for the first out of the inning, Iron Pigs SS Alexi Amarista was up to bat. On a 2-1 pitch, he knocked it out of the diving reach of 1B Sam Travis glove into right field. Two runs scored as the Iron Pigs regained the lead, 3-1.
After that scoring outburst, things became bogged down again. Elfin resumed in holding the PawSox batters to nothing while the PawSox had to rely on LHP Roenis Elias to prevent any more Iron Pigs offense.
A weird moment then occurred in the top of the 7th inning. After the umpire called strike three on Iron Pigs CF Roman Quinn, Quinn had a few ‘choice words’ to describe his displeasure with the call. Home umpire Ryan Clark then proceeded to eject the centerfielder as Iron Pigs skipper Gary Jones had to go to backup OF Collin Cowgill to play center and bat lead off for the remainder of the game.
However the chances for the PawSox to catch up to the Iron Pigs continued to dwindle as the game went on. After getting blanketed in the bottom of the 7th, they end up stranding CF Rusney Castillo at 3rd base in the bottom of the 8th. Then in the bottom of the 9th, the PawSox ended up going down 1-2-3 via strikeout to end the game with the final score being 3-1.
RHP Kyle Martin ended up taking the loss for the PawSox as he went just 1.1 IP, giving up 2 runs (1 earned) on 1 hit, walking one Iron Pig batter and striking out another.
The two teams will finish up on the following Sunday at 1:35 as Boston Red Sox SP Drew Pomeranz will make his rehab start against the Iron Pigs.
After the game, PawSox skipper sat down for a brief Q & A with the media to discuss the game, including the performance of his pitchers, and what will be in store for Sunday's game.
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