When the PawSox finished the regular season at 81-61, champions of the I.L. North Division, I know I envisioned a much different ending to the 2011 season. Champagne showers, Governors Cup T-shirts and caps, raucous celebrations. Those things will happen, unfortunately, just not at McCoy Stadium. The dust has settled a little over the last couple of days and it is time to try to figure out just went wrong for the PawSox.
It isn’t very hard, actually. Pawtuckets’ offense went completely dead in the three game sweep by Lehigh Valley. Plain and simple. 5 runs in 27 innings just won’t cut it. In Game 2 alone, the PawSox stranded 9 men on base. Clutch hitting didn’t exist. Down 2 games to none, the PawSox were lifeless for the decisive game 3 at McCoy. Alex Wilson pitched very well, but got no offensive support. Same for game 1 and 2 starters, Matt Fox and Tony Pena.
Yes, you are correct when you say the PawSox missed some of their regulars. Ryan Lavarnway owned Iron Pigs pitching this season. In his brief time with the PawSox, as he tore through the International League like a comet, the “Babe”, as his teammates called him, had 5 home runs and 17 RBI. No one picked up the slack. Meanwhile, former PawSox MVP, Brandon Moss carried the Pigs on his back in the first two games. Moss was 5-8 with 4 RBI. He belted two home runs and a double. Former Pawtucket infielder Kevin Frandsen tacked on a couple of RBI himself, to add insult to injury.
It was pretty much a carbon copy of the 2008 playoff results against Scranton. A depleted team was outmanned. I do not think apathy was a factor. Arnie Beyeler is a tough competitor who loves to win. He will carry the company banner and talk about player development, but make no mistake. Arnie wants to win. I am certain the sweep was a bitter pill to swallow.
You can lose 61 games during the regular season and still make the playoffs and win a division crown. Once the postseason begins, you must adopt a different mindset. The PawSox rode a 4 game winning streak into the playoffs, only to lose three in a row for the first time since July 1 and 2. That’s bad timing. From a lot of perspectives, 2011 was a success. The PawSox continued to help develop guys like Josh Reddick, who make huge contributions in Boston. We got our first glimpse of Lavarnway and Will Middlebrooks. The future is bright. It always seems to be bright. We could have used a gift for the present.