PAWTUCKET, R.I. — It was a welcome change for Pawtucket, to say the least.
They arrived back in Pawtucket at the crack of dawn on Tuesday morning after absorbing a 9-4 loss at Syracuse, but it didn’t show against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre later that day. The PawSox got in at about 6 a.m. on Tuesday morning, slept for a while, then hammered the first-place Yankees into submission with a 7-1 win, capitalizing on a scintillating pitching performance by 25-year-old Adam Mills.
"I got some of the best sleep I’ve gotten in a long time, once we got home," Mills said after the game. "I slept from about 7 a.m. until 3 [p.m.], and didn’t wake up once."
The righty earned just his second win of the season, allowing just one run on five hits with two walks and two K’s. It was his first win since May 11, and it came at a welcome time for Torey Lovullo’s squad.
"I was happy for Millsie," Lovullo said after the game. “He does such a good job of setting the type of tone we're looking for. It's unfortunate he hasn't gotten a ton of run support. … We depend on him, and I was glad to see him get the win [Tuesday]."
Since June 13, Pawtucket has lost eight of 14 games and four of its last five entering Tuesday. But maybe a matchup against the Yankees was all the PawSox needed. The Yankees hold the IL’s best record for a team that has given up more runs than it has scored, and true to form, the Yankees showed they can win by a slim margin — but when they lose, it’s anything but slim.
On Tuesday, the secret seemed to be scoring early and scoring in bunches.
The PawSox quickly put two on the board in the second, and Ryan Kalish — still in recovery from a strained right hip flexor — was the catalyst. After first baseman Lars Anderson walked, Kalish singled and stole second. Anderson scored on Josh Reddick’s sacrifice fly, and Kalish came around on a single by the newly promoted No. 9 hitter Juan Apodaca to make it 2-0.
Apodaca replaced catcher Gustavo Molina on Pawtucket’s roster after Molina was called up to Boston to replace the injured Victor Martinez, and he he’s hit in three straight games since his promotion. But it isn’t only Apodaca whose offense is shaping up to be more than Lovullo may have bargained for; the bottom third of Pawtucket’s order produced its first four runs on Tuesday.
"This is a tough level, and these guys are going through some growing pains. They're working very hard behind the scenes, and when they get these results, it's not by luck. It's by design," Lovullo said. "They deserve all the outcomes that are favorable."
No. 8 hitter Tug Hulett went 1-for-1 with three walks and two RBIs, and that one hit was the biggest of the game — a two-out double in the sixth that put the PawSox on top 4-0.
"Tug broke the game open for us," Lovullo said. "Two-nothing ballgame, could've gone either way at that point, and he digs out a breaking ball at the bottom of the zone and hits it off the right-field wall. We're all happy for Tug — talk about grinding. He's been grinding all year long."
The PawSox scored all of their runs in spurts — two in the second, two in the sixth, three in the seventh — to steadily pound the Yankees and starter Tim Redding. As good as Mills was, Redding was the opposite, running into jams in the second and sixth that he was unable to escape.
Reliever Mark Melancon didn’t help matters, either. Melancon, who replaced Redding in the seventh, entered the game riding a 10 1/3-inning scoreless streak, but on Tuesday, he allowed the game to slip out of the Yankees’ grasp, walking three and allowing three earned runs in 2/3 of a frame.
Early-morning arrival and sleep-deprived or not, the PawSox showed what they’re made of on Tuesday night. Instead of being the vulnerable squad, they turned the tables on their prey.
"We stepped off the bus at 5:30 at the stadium, and those are the not-so-glamorous moments," Lovullo said. "We're in the middle of the morning, trying to get some rest. That's what makes Millsie's effort so perfect. It's the right guy throwing on the right day. He set the tone, he gave us a chance to play downhill. We scored some early runs, and the whole equation worked out well."