Pawtucket Red Sox Batters Not Fazed By Struggles at Plate, Concentrate on Improving Hitting Approach


Aug 24, 2011

PAWTUCKET, R.I. -– Fans who came to McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket, R.I., Tuesday night were told to stick around to enjoy a postgame laser show in celebration of the city's 125th anniversary.

The PawSox nearly pulled off a laser show of their own in the ninth inning, staging a furious rally by stroking three straight singles before ultimately leaving the bases loaded in a 4-2 loss to the Syracuse Chiefs.

It has been that kind of season for the PawSox, who have shown flashes of brilliance at the dish but certainly won't be mistaken for the other Laser Show, Dustin Pedroia, of the parent club. In fact, the PawSox rank dead last in the International League in team batting average, hitting at a .252 clip after 130 games. The team looked sluggish at the plate in Tuesday's defeat, going down in order in six of the nine innings played and at one point enduring a stretch of 16 consecutive batters retired before showing some life in the ninth.

"If you look at our numbers, we're not a very good hitting team from an overall standpoint," said Pawtucket manager Arnie Beyeler. "We do a lot of 1-2-3 innings. If we get a chance and we get guys on, we usually move them around and try and put innings together. From our standpoint this season, we don't put multiple innings together. It's usually take an inning and hopefully that's enough."

With such hard luck at the plate, one might assume Pawtucket is buried in the International League standings and lacks the talent to hit. However, a look at the IL standings reveals the Sox sit at 73-57 and are tied atop the league's North Division with Lehigh Valley. And as for talent, the Sox boast some sought-after prospects with the likes of Jose Iglesias and Will Middlebrooks, and have others with major league experience such as Lars Anderson and Daniel Nava.

So how can a team with such paltry hitting be in contention for a playoff spot? For Beyeler's bunch it's all about the approach and gaining confidence with each at-bat.

"We did a nice job of just kind of giving ourselves a chance there late, I thought," Beyeler said of the late-inning rally attempt. "We load up the bases there in the ninth to try and give ourselves a chance … [Luis Exposito] hit the ball hard and that's all you can ask for, and they turned a double play. If that ball finds a hole or gets down the line, you have a different ballgame.

"We come out against their closer and get three straight hits and give ourselves a chance. That shows the character these guys have and what they're all about."

While a moral victory still counts as a loss in the standings, each player has shown signs of improvement in the batter's box. After beginning his Triple-A career 0-for-11 upon being called up from Double-A Portland on Aug. 19, Middlebrooks has since settled in, going 3-for-7 and drawing a walk in his last two games. Nava showed great patience in an at-bat on Tuesday by waiting back and driving an off-speed pitch down the line for a double. He eventually scored on a single by Anderson, who went 2-for-4 with an RBI.

"Lars did a nice job taking what they gave him tonight," Beyeler said. "He drove the ball, did that a couple nights ago and didn't get them to fall, but it was nice to see him stick to what works for him and continue to drive the baseball and take what they give him."

As second baseman Hector Luna pointed to in the team's ninth inning rally from Tuesday night, each hitter has learned to be more aggressive each time he picks up a bat.

"We started getting more aggressive to the pitcher and I got a good pitch to hit, so did Lars [and] Will, too," said Luna, who went 2-for-3 and scored a run in Tuesday's loss. "[Exposito] got a good AB, he hit it hard but right at the fielder and it was a double play. The hits will come, but I think we just have to have the right approach."

Luna leads the PawSox in hitting with a .282 average, 13 home runs and 50 RBIs. Like every player on the Pawtucket roster, he hopes to make a return to the big leagues, where he has played parts of five MLB seasons and has collected 194 hits. In order to follow the lead of teammate Ryan Lavarnway, who was called up to Boston on Aug. 18, Luna said each batter has to find his way at the plate.

"Each at-bat, focus on each pitch and make the pitcher pay for his mistakes," Luna said. "We have the ability to hit well. [Tuesday] we just didn't do it so well."

With a little more work the Sox could soon be putting on a laser show for their fans, this time without the aid of pyrotechnics.

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