LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Former All-Star second baseman Brandon Phillips cracked three doubles and recorded his first four-hit game in the Red Sox organization, and Chandler Shepherd struck out a career-high nine in his home state, but the Pawtucket Red Sox fell to the Louisville Bats, 6-5, on Wednesday night at Louisville Slugger Field.
Down 2-1 entering the top of the eighth inning, Pawtucket struck for four runs, but Louisville - the Triple-A affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds - countered with a four-spot of its own in the home half of the inning to even the three-game series at a game apiece. Pawtucket has dropped 10 of its last 12 road games, and the opponent has won in its final at-bat in eight of those 10.
Phillips, who has spent the majority of his 16-year MLB career with the Reds, went 4-for-5 with doubles in the first, third and fifth innings and a single in the seventh. PawSox designated hitter Rusney Castillo (3-for-5, R, RBI) upped his league-leading average to .328 with his 40th multi-hit game of the season. Third baseman Jantzen Witte (2-for-4, R, 2B, RBI) helped bolster the offense.
Shepherd racked up his nine strikeouts in six innings of two-run work in which he only walked one and scattered seven hits. The 25-year-old right-hander - who hails from Louisa, Kentucky - broke his previous career high of six punchouts, which he recorded three separate times previously this season. In his last three starts, Shepherd has logged a 2.08 ERA (four earned runs in 17.1 innings).
After Shepherd, PawSox reliever Travis Lakins dazzled in the bottom of the seventh inning, where he struck out the side on just 11 pitches (nine strikes). Lakins needed just six pitches to fan the first two batters - on 94 and 95 MPH fastballs, respectively. Facing a 2-2 count against the third batter of the inning, the 24-year old Lakins put him away with a cutter. In the eighth, Lakins allowed an unearned run on a ground-ball single, passed ball and an error and left with two outs, two on and a two-run lead. Louisville, though, pushed across three more runs after Pawtucket reliever Robby Scott (L, 2-3) replaced Lakins.
Louisville starter Cody Reed fired six innings of one-run ball, stacked up seven strikeouts against just one walk and sidestepped eight Pawtucket hits. Newly-acquired reliever Matt Wisler (W, 5-4) and Kevin Quackenbush (S, 20) finished off the win for the Bats.
Pawtucket wasted no time climbing out to a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning, as left fielder Sam Travis supplied an RBI groundout that scored Castillo, who reached on a one-out single to center.
Louisville, however, jumped in front 2-1 in the bottom of the fourth inning when cleanup man Brian O'Grady connected on a two-run homer - his second big fly in as many nights.
In the top of the eighth inning, Witte smacked a game-tying RBI double the opposite way to score catcher Mike Ohlman and level the score, 2-2. Two batters later, shortstop Mike Miller turned around a 98-MPH fastball and scorched a two-run double into the left-field corner to propel Pawtucket ahead 4-2. Miller then scored to make it 5-2 on Castillo's third hit of the ballgame.
The Bats grabbed a run back in the bottom of the eighth inning on a ground-ball single, passed ball and Pawtucket error. Later in the inning with the bases loaded, former Red Sox farmhand Nick Longhi cleared the bases with a three-run double to vault Louisville ahead 6-5.
The PawSox conclude their three-game series against Louisville on Thursday at 7:05 p.m. Pawtucket right-hander Mike Shawaryn (0-0, 5.68) is scheduled to oppose Louisville righty Tyler Mahle. Radio coverage on WHJJ (920 AM and 104.7 FM) and throughout the PawSox Radio Network begins with the pre-game show at 6:35 p.m.
After the six-game road trip, the PawSox will return home August 13-19 (Monday-Sunday) to host Norfolk (Baltimore Orioles) and Durham (Tampa Bay Rays). Good tickets are available. 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.