Bryce Brentz has a high opinion of reliever Wirfin Obispo's repertoire. When he stepped in to face the Gwinnett right-hander in the bottom of the ninth inning on Friday night, he wasn't thinking about much else.
"He came in [Thursday] night and he struck me out," Brentz said. "Tonight was my third time seeing him and his stuff is really nasty."
The Red Sox's No. 7 prospect took a first-pitch fastball -- "I thought, 'Well, that might be the only pitch I get'" -- and two pitches later exacted sweet revenge by mashing mashing a three-run, walk-off homer to give the PawSox a 5-4 win over the Braves.
"He throws across his body," Brentz said. "He has a sick cutter and a heavy two-seamer and he has a four-seamer with more velocity.
"He threw a first-pitch fastball ... and then I laid off a cutter. Before the next pitch, I stepped out of the box and thought, 'You know, he's not a pitcher who's going to back away. He's going to attack,' from what I've noticed. I got back into the box knowing if he threw me a hittable pitch, I didn't want to miss."
Brentz got his fastball and he didn't miss. The walk-off blast was a no-doubter, according to teammate Jackie Bradley Jr.:
"He was throwing hard and I caught that ball about as good as I can catch one," Brentz said. "It wasn't a high fly or anything, just a line drive. I couldn't put any more into that ball than when I caught that off the bat."
Brentz's blast, his seventh of the season, was part of a torrid stretch for the 2010 first-round Draft pick, who's hitting .448 (13-for-29) over his last eight games. It was his second homer and fifth extra-base hit during that stretch, which includes a double in the eighth on Friday.
Considered something of a free swinger, Brentz has worked extensively with Pawtucket hitting coach Dave Joppie on quieting his movements at the plate to refine his approach. The right-handed hitter has had a tendency to lunge and chase, and while he always expects to have some swing-and-miss in his game, he thinks the adjustments he's made with Joppie are helping control that aspect without sacrificing power.
"It really starts with the hands," Brentz said. "I've been really moving them a lot, moving the bat back and forth, and sometimes I'll get stuck with them. Then I have to go and regenerate my hands to get back where I need to be. My shoulders will get rotated and it'll throw off a lot of things.
"I'm not saying my swing is perfect now, but I'm slowing things down with my hands, keeping even and just getting a circular flow going. That's slowing down my whole body and putting me in the position I need to be in."
Brentz is making strides mechanically and mentally. He's had a tendency to expand the strike zone in RBI situations, knowing his success is tied directly to his ability to produce runs. He's made an effort to adjust his pitch selection in those situations and did so Friday with men on second and third when he hit his walk-off homer.
"Usually, you make a small adjustment, and it can take a while to get used to," Brentz said. "I made a very small adjustment, but it's been helping me out as far as being able to stay back and see pitches better and not lunge and get too aggressive."
Red Sox No. 2 prospect, Jackie Bradley Jr., returned from the disabled list and batted leadoff as the designated hitter. He started the ninth with an 11-pitch at-bat that ended in a walk against left-hander Ryan Buchter. Brentz described the at-bat as "ridiculous," especially considering Bradley had been out since May 3.
After Jose Iglesias struck out, Drew Sutton doubled and Bradley conservatively stopped at third with one out. Three pitches later, Brentz delivered his walk-off winner on a 1-1 offering.
Bradley also tripled, while Sutton and Ronald Bermudez had two hits apiece to help Pawtucket overcome a 4-0 deficit after 6 1/2 innings.