Boston Red Sox: Pawtucket Advances to International League Championship

Al DanielCorrespondent IISeptember 8, 2012

BOSTON - JULY 17:  David Ortiz #34 playing for the AAA Pawtucket Red Sox during a rehab assignment prepares to bat against the Toledo Mud Hens at the McCoy Stadium on July 17, 2008 in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

Like parent club, like child club?

If the 2012 Pawtucket Red Sox are keen on emulating the Boston Red Sox circa 2004, then the New England baseball fanbase is in line for some much pined-for fulfillment this autumn.

Of the International League’s current member clubs, only the Lehigh Valley IronPigs (nee Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons) and Syracuse Chiefs have waited longer for a championship than the PawSox.

But just as it was for Boston in its 2004 Curse-breaking campaign, the wild-card Pawsox have taken one liberating step by vanquishing the divisional champion and their rival club, the Yankees.

Through a seven-run salvo in the second inning Saturday night, the PawSox paced themselves to a series-clinching 7-1 victory over the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees. With the three-games-to-one triumph in the best-of-five first-round series, they claimed their first passport to the Governor’s Cup championship since 2003.

The PawSox, whose roster has been overwhelmingly plucked to fill the needs of their floundering parent, polished off the Yanks with the primary highlights on both sides of the ball coming from two external imports.

Danny Valencia, who had a full major-league season with the Minnesota Twins last year and started this spring as a Rochester Red Wing, belted a three-run homer to round out a full bat-around in the second inning.

That would be a surplus of support for pitcher Nelson Figueroa, who had begun the season as a Triple-A Yankee before converting to the other side of the rivalry in July. He struck out eight of his former teammates in as many innings of work in the Game 4 clincher.

The luxurious cushion of support from his bat rack, combined with his one-run, two-hit gem, gave Figueroa his second win in three encounters with his previous allies. He had previously pitched an identical eight innings against Scranton one week prior to Saturday’s playoff bout, holding the Yanks scoreless on four hits.

Figueroa has yet to see action at the major-league level in 2012, though he has previously run up a 13-18 record on the MLB mound with five other organizations.

The fresh addenda to his transcript, with the potential for more, could earn him a long, diligent look with Boston no later than next spring. Ditto Valencia.

Before that, though, the two will be among those in lofty demand for Pawtucket for up to 10 more days.

Entering Saturday night’s action, the Charlotte Knights, Triple-A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox, were looking to similarly put away the Indianapolis Indians, primary feeder club of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The PawSox, who claimed the I.L. wild card to put in their second straight playoff appearance, shall host the winner of the other series this Tuesday and Wednesday for Games 1 and 2 of the final round. The best-of-five series will subsequently shuffle to either Charlotte or Indianapolis for up to three elimination games.

The I.L. champion will converge with the Pacific Coast League champion next Tuesday, Sept. 18, for the Triple-A title game in Durham, N.C.

As it happens, the host Durham Bulls was the team that denied Pawtucket in its last bid for the I.L. pennant in 2003.

This coming week will mark the PawSox' third appearance in the Governor’s Cup Finals since they won their last title in 1984, when they defeated the now-defunct Maine Guides.