TOLEDO, Ohio - On the road for the first time in 2018, the Pawtucket Red Sox proved resilient and rallied in the ninth inning, but couldn't overtake the Toledo Mud Hens in a 4-3 loss Thursday evening at Fifth Third Field.
Down 4-1 entering the ninth inning, the PawSox (2-4) pulled within one on a two-run homer from left fielder Ramon Flores and then placed runners on first and second with just one out. Toledo (5-2), however, slammed the door shut to claim the opener of the four-game series.
Pawtucket right fielder Rusney Castillo (3-for-5), who was snake-bitten in the season-opening five-game homestand with plenty of loud outs and just a 5-for-21 performance to show for it, recorded three singles and a stolen base out of his customary leadoff spot in the order. The 2017 International League All-Star hit .314 last season, while upping his slugging percentage to .507.
Designated hitter Jeremy Barfield, meanwhile, shook off a 1-for-16 start to his season by tagging a rocket to left field in the fifth inning for his first big fly of the year. The 29-year old from Houston hit a whopping 27 home runs in 92 games with Double-A Portland in 2017 and added one with the PawSox for good measure in the waning days of the regular season.
Pawtucket starter Justin Haley (L, 0-1), in his second outing of the season, yielded three runs over five innings on seven hits and four walks to go along with five strikeouts. Marcus Walden had been slated to start with Haley set to follow on Friday, but the Red Sox recalled Walden to the majors Thursday after placing left-handed reliever Bobby Poyner on the disabled list.
Southpaw reliever Josh Smith then cruised through the sixth and seventh innings, striking out four in his first appearance of the season after being added to the roster Tuesday.
On a bullpen day for Toledo, Mud Hens reliever Blaine Hardy dealt 3.1 scoreless innings with five strikeouts to begin the ballgame, and right-hander Zac Reininger (W, 1-0) retired all six batters he faced in the middle innings. Righty Louis Coleman (S, 1) secured the victory despite Pawtucket's furious finish.
Toledo shortstop Pete Kozma led off the bottom of the third inning with a triple to left-center field and scored on an RBI single from leadoff man Ronny Rodriguez to make it 1-0.
In the fourth, Toledo designated hitter Chad Huffman clubbed a solo homer to left-center field to double the lead to 2-0.
Pawtucket broke the scoring seal in a loud way in the top of the fifth inning when Barfield scorched a solo missile off the video board in left field, slicing the gap in half, 2-1.
The Mud Hens, however, responded quickly in the home half of the fifth. After Haley issued a pair of two-out walks, Toledo right fielder Jim Adduci poked an RBI single into right field to make it 3-1.
The PawSox threatened in the top of the eighth with runners at first and second and one out, but Toledo reliever Johnny Barbato induced a 5-4-3 double play to preserve the two-run lead.
Toledo snatched what proved to be a decisive insurance tally in the bottom of the eighth when first baseman Edwin Espinal drilled a solo blast to left.
In the ninth, Pawtucket third baseman Mike Olt worked a leadoff walk. Two batters later, Flores pulled a two-run homer to right - his second of the season - to make it a one-run game, 4-3.
The PawSox continue their four-game series with Toledo on Friday at 6:35 p.m. Radio coverage on WHJJ (920 AM and 104.7 FM) and throughout the PawSox Radio Network begins with the PawSox Pre-Game Show at 6:05 p.m.
The PawSox return home for a six-game homestand April 20-25 (Friday-Wednesday) against the Gwinnett Stripers and Toledo. Good seats are available, and fans can visit the McCoy Stadium box office, which is open Monday-Friday from 10 a.m. through 5 p.m., and during all home games. Fans can also call (401) 724-7300 or log on to PawSox.com for tickets.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.