It took awhile – 3 hours and 54 minutes to be exact – but at this point the Pawtucket Red Sox will gladly take it.
Pawtucket’s final long road trip of the year, an 8-game southern swing to Charlotte, NC and Gwinnett, GA (nothing like the deep south in mid-August!), began with a 6-5 win in 12 innings on Monday over the Charlotte Knights.
The game can be broken down into 4 acts.
Act 1: Randor Bierd pitches brilliantly on 3-days rest, leaving in the 6th inning with a 4-0 lead.
Act 2: Hunter Jones allows 5 runs in the bottom of the 8th and things look bleak as the PawSox fall behind 5-4.
Act 3: Bubba Bell and Mark Wagner come through with back-to-back doubles in the 9th to force extra innings tied at 5.
Act 4: Chris Duncan leads off the 12th inning with a double and eventually scores the winning run on a passed ball in Pawtucket’s 6-5 victory.
I can’t say that I was especially chipper in the 8th when the PawSox blew a 4-run lead, but coming away with a win has a way of improving everybody’s mood.
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24-year-old pitcher Adam Mills earned a well-deserved promotion from Portland to Pawtucket just before the road trip and the timing couldn’t be better. Mills makes his off-season home in Charlotte and was a college star at UNC-Charlotte. He’ll have a big rooting section on Wednesday when he starts for the PawSox.
“I know a lot of my old coaches are coming and pretty much anybody that can make it is going to come, so it will be a nice little section up there hopefully,” Mills told me.
(photo courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)
In his final college season with the 49ers, Mills went 14-2 and led the nation in ERA at 1.01. He was one of 3 finalists for the Roger Clemens Award (best pitcher in NCAA Division 1) which went to Vanderbilt’s David Price (now with Tampa Bay).
“I’m still kind of wowed that that happened,” Mills said. “We had an amazing team. We had the number one pitching staff in the nation statistically, and we hit well and played great defense. For me to have the season that I did is a memorable experience, and no matter what happens for the rest of my life, I’m always going to have that season.”
As for this season, it started pretty miserably as Adam was 1-4 with a 7.30 ERA in his first 10 starts for Double-A Portland.
Since then, he’s 9-1 with a 1.77 ERA and earned victories in his last 8 starts with the Sea Dogs.
Wednesday’s game will not be his Triple-A debut. Mills started Game 3 of the playoffs last year and took the loss in a 6-4 defeat at Scranton/WB. He expects to be more comfortable this time around.
“Last year I came up not knowing anybody on the team,” Mills told me. “This time there’s a lot less pressure on me. We all know each other and it’s a lot easier to get comfortable.”
You might even say he’ll feel right at home.
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Charlotte plays its home games at rapidly-aging Knights Stadium, a facility that was called Knights Castle when it opened in 1990.
But in 1997 it had a different nickname – The Morman Tabernacle.
That was in honor of Pawtucket hitting coach Russ Morman, who had a monster season while playing for the Knights that year, batting .319 with 33 HR and 99 RBI.
Unfortunately, it does not appear that they’ve pumped much money into the place since then.
As I watched the PawSox take batting practice before Monday’s game, Dusty Brown pointed out that there was a large bird’s nest in the batting cage.
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PawSox hitters will have their work cut out for them in this series.
On Tuesday night, they’ll face 2-time All-Star Freddy Garcia who has a 118-77 record in the big leagues.
On Thursday night, they’ll face another 2-time All-Star, 2007 National League Cy Young Award winner Jake Peavy, who’s 92-68 in the bigs.
I hope you’ll join us for the radio call on Tuesday, beginning with the pre-game show at 7:00 on the PawSox radio network and PawSox.com.