PAWTUCKET, R.I. -- It shouldn't come as any surprise that several pitchers provided big efforts Wednesday night at McCoy Stadium. While most folks would have figured those efforts would have come from starters Charlie Zink and Chase Wright, it was actually the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre bullpen that had the biggest impact on the Governors' Cup opener against Pawtucket.
The Yankee bullpen pitched 4 1/3 scoreless innings, with four pitchers shutting down the PawSox after Wright began to falter. While the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre bullpen wasn't altogether brilliant -- the Sox put runners on in the sixth, seventh and eighth -- it did enough to preserve a 7-1 victory before 3,191 fans.
Steven Jackson earned the victory and provided the game's defining moment when he struck out Dusty Brown to end the fifth with Pawtucket threatening to erase a 3-1 deficit. Wright had hit Chris Carter with his 87th and final pitch to load the bases, forcing Scranton/Wilkes-Barre manager Dave Miley to go to Jackson, and the youngster responded.
"I just came on in a big situation and I knew I needed to get an out any way I could," Jackson said. "I'm always ready for the call and I knew I needed to throw strikes. I just executed the pitch and got the out. He hadn't seen the split before in that at-bat, so the situation presented itself. It was what the situation called for."
Jackson struck out two more in the sixth before giving way to Zach Kroenke in the seventh. Kroenke and David Robertson held the PawSox scoreless, though Robertson loaded the bases in the eighth before striking out Jeff Natale and Joe Thurston to end the threat. Scott Strickland pitched a scoreless ninth.
"That was the game there," Miley said of Jackson's effort. "Brown can hit. As much as you like to see Wright get through it there, I felt the game was probably on the line. That was a big out. Brown has good numbers against us, but Jackson got the strikeout and pitched well the next inning."
Zink, the reigning International League Pitcher of the Year and 14-game winner during the regular season, danced in and out of trouble through the first three innings, hitting two batters, allowing two hits and walking one. Though he came through unscathed, he wasn't as fortunate in the fourth after Eric Duncan negotiated a one-out walk, then stole second off the knuckleballer.
Chris Stewart doubled home Duncan but was called out when Chris Basak's single up the middle hit him on the leg. That brought up Justin Christian, who promptly crushed a two-run homer to left. Though Gil Velazquez provided Pawtucket with some offense with a solo homer in the fifth, the Yanks chased Zink in the sixth.
Stewart hit a one-out homer to give Scranton/Wilkes-Barre a three-run bulge before Basak doubled. Christian walked, ending Zink's evening. Kyle Snyder came on to face Melky Cabrera, whose sacrifice fly into the foul territory down the right-field line made it 5-1. Juan Miranda singled home another run, which also was charged to Zink. The six earned runs were the most he has surrendered this year. Box score
In other IL action:
Durham Bulls 3, Louisville Bats 0
Elliot Johnson, Dan Johnson and Chris Richard smacked solo homers as Durham blanked Louisville in their semifinal opener. Losing pitcher Matt Maloney tossed 4 2/3 hitless innings before allowing Elliot Johnson's shot. Box score