The odds were stacked in their favor. The PawSox sent a quality hurler to the mound, a 25-year-old recent Portland call-up with a 2-1 record and a 1.61 ERA. Robert Coello, coming off a start in which he struck out 10 in 5 2/3 innings — the first PawSox starter to fan 10 or more since Clay Buchholz did it in May 2009 — was poised to help his squad continue putting one foot in front of the other after dropping three of four on a road trip to Lehigh Valley.
But things didn’t pan out, as they so often don’t on any given night. Facing a Rochester starter who had won just two games in 2010, the PawSox dropped a tough 9-2 contest in their first game at home since the last time Coello started on July 3.
The Red Wings, meanwhile, sent Glen Perkins to the mound, and the veteran was just effective enough despite surrendering two or more hits in three of his six innings. He may have given up nine hits, but he struck out six, walked zero and gave up just one run.
It was the definition of a frustrating night for the PawSox. They were able to lay 14 hits on the Red Wings’ staff, but 13 of them were singles. The PawSox struck out eight times, but managed to walk just once. They left 12 men on base and went just 3-for-13 with runners in scoring position.
The frustration is perhaps best reflected in the night of designated hitter Aaron Bates. The last time Pawtucket faced Perkins, Bates victimized him with a monstrous two-run bomb to straightaway center. On Thursday, that was a distant memory. He went 0-for-5 with four strikeouts, three of which came at the hands of Perkins.
There were plenty of positives for the PawSox. Aside from the fact that they were able to put men on the basepaths with relative consistency, leadoff man Ryan Kalish went 4-for-5 and made the catch of the game in the third inning, a leaping grab against the wall in center.
He and No. 2 hitter Gil Velazquez combined to go 6-for-10, while Bubba Bell, one of two 2010 PawSox All-Stars, continued a recent hot streak in which he’s gone 20-for-48 (.417) in his last 14 games, going 3-for-5 with three singles.
"I think that I'm just kind of trying to alleviate the pressure off myself and not think I have to do too much," Bell said. "I just kind of let my ability take over, and know that if I just play my game, the numbers will take care of themselves."
But as impressive as the top of Pawtucket’s order was, Red Wings shortstop Trevor Plouffe was better, stealing the show after going 3-for-5 with a double, two home runs and five RBIs.
The former first-round pick entered the game in a 1-for-14 slump, but his turnaround made sense — Thursday was just that kind of night for Rochester, and it was the exact opposite for Pawtucket.
The good news is, there’s always a team out there who’s having a worse night. Just think about how the Cavaliers feel right now.