Duckworth Dominating

Since the All-Star break, the best starting pitcher in the International League has been Brandon Duckworth.

(Photos courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)

The 35-year-old veteran picked up his 4th win in the last 15 days on Friday night, as the PawSox beat Lehigh Valley 4-3.

“It has been a pretty good stretch, and hopefully we can keep it rolling,” Duckworth said.  “It’s been great.  It seems like everything has been going my way.  Tonight was kind of a grind (3 ER in 5 IP) and I was able to get through everything.  The bullpen came in and did a great job and I got great defensive help in the outfield.”

It’s no coincidence that Duckworth is 4-0 with a 1.93 since the All-Star break.  Brandon was able to spend time at home in New Jersey with his wife Janeen, daughter Sophia, and twins Easton and Aliya who were born on June 2nd.

“They ended up being born six weeks early and my son was in intensive care for more than a month,” Duckworth said.  “We still have some things going on, but it’s a lot less critical right now.  That peace of mind helps out so much.  It seems like it’s been a crazy two months.  I just feel more at ease.  I know that everything is good at home, so now I can go out there and have fun.”

Brandon got to see the twins again while the PawSox were in Allentown, PA.

“I was able to go home and see them since we had the 11:00 am game on Thursday and I live just over an hour away,” Duckworth said.  “Knowing that the kids are OK and my wife is OK puts my mind at ease and helps me focus.”

Friday’s win over the IronPigs pulled Pawtucket within two games of Lehigh Valley for first place in the IL North with 36 games to go.  The PawSox lead the Wild Card race by a half-game over Gwinnett and two games over Scranton/WB.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Duckworth said.  “It’s a lot better than sitting here saying, ‘I can’t wait for the final month to be over so we can go home.’  We want to win.  There’s something at stake and I think it gets everybody going a little bit.”

Duckworth has pitched in 134 major league games over parts of 8 seasons with Philadelphia, Houston, and Kansas City, and hopes to add the Boston Red Sox to his big league resume before the season is finished.

“I want to finish strong and give the team a chance to win in each and every outing,” Duckworth said.  “Obviously, I’d like to pitch well enough to be under consideration to go up at the end of the year.  I know I have what it takes to go up there and pitch.  I’ve been there plenty of times before on teams that were going into the playoffs, so that’s my goal.”

If the next 37 days are like the last 15, it’s not out of the question.

* * * * *     

Lars Anderson had an RBI single and a pair of walks on Friday to extend his current hitting streak to 6 games (8-for-20, .400, 3 2B, 2 HR, 5 RBI).

“He’s shortened his swing a lot and he is swinging the bat like he was earlier in the year and driving the ball all over the field,” said PawSox hitting coach Chili Davis.  “He just needs to stick with it.  If he sticks with it, he’ll become the hitter that he should be.  I think that kid has huge potential.  He’s got a beautiful swing – one of the prettiest left-handed swings that you’re going to see.  He just needs to focus on doing the right things and not trying to force himself to be a certain type of hitter.  He’s in a situation here where he’s hitting in a spot in the order where we want to see him drive in runs.  Whether he hits 30 home runs or 10 home runs, he can drive in runs.  He’s not one of those left-handed hitters where you say, ‘He doesn’t hit left-handers.’  He stays in there well against left-handed pitchers and he has the power to drive the ball from the left field line to the right field line.  He needs to use the whole field.  I like where he is right now, and I’d just like to see him stay there.”  

* * * * *

The PawSox open an 8-game homestand on Saturday as they host Louisville at 6:05.  I have to miss the game for a family commitment, but I hope you’ll join Steve Hyder and Steve McDonald for radio coverage beginning with the pre-game show at 5:50 on the PawSox radio network and pawsox.com.

I’d love to hear from you.  The address is dhoard@pawsox.com.

If you Twitter, you can follow my tweets at http://twitter.com/Dan_Hoard

And I have finally joined Facebook.  Just search for Dan Hoard and look for the photo of me with the handsome lad.

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