Pawtucket — A multitude of events have occurred during the last 35 years, and up until tonight a particular occurrence in the history of the Pawtucket Red Sox remained dormant during that time span.
A victory at McCoy Stadium during the Governors’ Cup final.
Just like most favorable occasions that rewrite the history books, the PawSox’ 7-2 victory over the Charlotte Knights didn’t transpire sans good fortune.
Following singles by Nate Spears and Tony Thomas to start the first inning, Knights’ starter, Charles Leesman, collided with teammate Seth Loman in attempt to play a J.C. Linares grounder down the first-base line, and awkwardly performed an unsolicited backward somersault.
Leesman, who was honored the “Best Changeup” in the Chicago White Sox farm system by Baseball America prior to the season, instantly grabbed his left knee and grimaced in pain, which persisted when aided of the field by his team’s training staff.
Rather than taxing their bullpen to start this best-of-five series, Leesman was replaced by Andre Rienzo, who was originally scheduled to pitch in game two tomorrow.
Rienzo was handed the loss, but his efforts (5 2/3 innings with three earned runs and seven strikeouts) will certainly be greeted with praise from the likes of his teammates and coaching staff.
“I’m sure it’s tough when they pull their second game starter off the bench like that,” PawSox manager Arnie Beyeler said, referring to the freak incident.
“I’m sure he (Rienzo) wasn’t ready to go. I thought he did a great job to get deep into the game like he did. It’s just too bad with Leesman to have that happen to him. He’s one of the best pitchers in the league.”
Danny Valencia was the first PawSox batter to approach the plate after the switch, and hit a sacrifice fly to score in Nate Spears.
Two innings later, Valencia connected on a home run to deep left field off Rienzo — marking his second straight game with a home run.
The PawSox went on to tag four more runs off Knights’ pitching, including back-to-back home runs by Tony Thomas (two run) and J.C. Linares — who entered tonight 1-for-12 in four regular season appearances against the Knights — in the seventh.
PawSox’ starter Steven Wright put his club in position to win, despite a shaky first inning in which the 28-year-old allowed seven Knights to come aboard but escaped with only a one-run deficit.
“I’ve always struggled in the first inning for some reason,” said Wright. “I just get excited and I think I just rush a little bit.
“Once I calmed down and stayed back, I was able to keep the ball down in the zone and got them to swing over them (the knuckleball).
On their quest to achieve International League glory for the first time since 1984, the PawSox will send Zach Stewart (3-5, 3.94) to the mound for game two. If the Knights plan to move their probable starters back a game, then Stewart will counter Charlie Shirek (11-5, 3.65).
But for now, Charlotte’s starter is to-be-announced.