It's been an impressive first two games for PawSox starting pitchers. On Wednesday night, it was Edwin Escobar (acquired in the Jake Peavy deal with San Francisco) who went 8 2/3 shutout innings before giving up a solo home run. On Thursday night it was Matt Barnes who went seven shutout innings, only giving up three hits.
On Friday night, it will be Henry Owens taking the mound, hoping to complete a three-game sweep of the International League North regular season champion Syracuse Chiefs. Owens has a much bigger upside than either Escobar or Barnes.
To be fair to the Chiefs, the team they are fielding this week is a shadow of the team that went 81-62 this season. Six of their regulars have been promoted to the parent club, Toronto Blue Jays, since major league rosters were allowed to expand on September 1.
Even still, it is very impressive what the PawSox starting pitchers have done so far. Early on, it looked like Barnes had no-hit stuff. If third baseman Garin Cecchini hadn't botched a transfer from glove to throwing hand on a diving play in the second inning, Barnes would have had a no-no through five innings. Barnes struck out four in the first two innings, including striking out the side in the second.
Barnes fastball topped out at 89-91 m.p.h (on the McCoy Stadium radar gun) in the first inning. Barnes amped it up to the 94 m.p.h. range in the second inning before tickling 96 a few times later in the game. His control was impeccable as he didn't walk a batter on the night.
His delivery is a little funky, as it appears he sling shots his pitches. There is not much bend to his elbow when he pitches. The end results are difficult to complain about, however. His demeanor on the mound is also one of a man in control. At one time, when the 24-year-old UConn grad didn't get a strike three call, he glared in to the home plate umpire before taking his time gathering his composure behind the mound.
Barnes finished up going seven innings, giving up three hits, no runs, no walks, and striking out six.
Offensively, the PawSox were led by Monday night's hero, Garin Cecchini. Cecchini had the walk-off single in Pawtucket's game one extra-inning victory. On Thursday, all Cecchini did was go for 4-for-4 with two runs scored and two runs batted in.
The other offensive leader was veteran Ryan Roberts. Roberts went 3-for-4 with three runs batted in.
The PawSox played some solid defense behind their pitchers. Bryce Brentz had a spectacular diving catch in the fourth inning. Jackie Bradley, Jr. made a few terrific running catches, including one in the 8th inning up against the wall for the final out with the bases loaded with Syracuse threatening to make a game of it.
Pawtucket takes a 2-0 lead in the series and hopes to advance to the Governors' Cup finals with a victory on Friday in Syracuse. The game is set to begin at 7:00 p.m with 22-year-old Henry Owens squaring off against 28-year-old Mitch Lively (5-2, 3.86 ERA).