MOOSIC — Sometime during his final season with the Toronto Blue Jays, pitcher Josh Towers lost his aggressiveness – and his confidence.
That’s not a problem now.
Towers pitched seven shutout innings and Austin Jackson hit a key two-run single to lead Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to a 3-0 win against Pawtucket on Sunday night at PNC Field.
The Yankees won their third game in a row to improve their record to 59-46. They maintained a four-game lead over second-place Syracuse in the International League North Division. The Red Sox lost for the seventh time in eight games to fall to 48-56.
“I lost my arrogance and my ability to challenge hitters,” said Towers, recalling part of the 2007 season. “It got to the point I was afraid of hitters. I think that’s gone now.”
The right-hander scattered five hits while striking out two and walking three in seven innings. Relief pitchers Damaso Marte and Jonathan Albaladejo each pitched a shutout inning to seal the win.
The best opportunity the Red Sox had to score against Towers came in the top of the seventh. With two outs, Aaron Bates, Dusty Brown and Angel Chavez hit consecutive singles to load the bases.
SWB pitching coach Scott Aldred made a visit to the mound, but Towers remained in the game. He responded by getting Gil Velazquez to ground out to end the inning.
That out was important to the Yankees in more ways than one, said SWB manager Dave Miley. The Yankees wanted to use Marte to start the eighth inning as part of his major league rehab assignment. If Towers couldn’t make it through the seventh, another reliever would have been brought in to finish the inning.
“It was pretty much on (Towers),” said Miley. “We didn’t want to bring in another guy to clean up. (Relief pitcher) Zach Kroenke is starting for us (today), so we would have preferred not to use another reliever. Josh getting that last out really helped.”
The Yankees scored all the runs they would need in the bottom of the sixth inning. Pawtucket starter Junichi Tazawa held SWB scoreless on just three hits through the first five innings.
Doug Bernier started off the bottom of the sixth by drawing a walk. With one out, Colin Curtis smacked a double to put runners on second and third. Tazawa was replaced by Red Sox reliever Rocky Cherry, who promptly allowed a two-run single to Jackson, scoring Bernier and Curtis to give the Yankees a 2-0 lead.
Shelley Duncan, back in Triple-A following a one-day callup to the New York Yankees, walked before Yurendell de Caster drilled a single to score Jackson.
Eric Duncan finished with two hits for the Yankees despite not being in the starting lineup. The third baseman entered the game after leadoff hitter Ramiro Pena was ejected one batter into the game for arguing with home plate umpire Manny Gonzalez following a strikeout.
Those two Duncans – who aren’t related – weren’t the only Duncans playing at PNC Field. Shelley’s younger brother Chris Duncan is the starting left fielder for Pawtucket. Shelley finished the game 0-for-3 with a walk, while Chris was 1-for-4.
It was another tough loss for Tazawa, whose record dropped to 0-2 despite his 2.38 ERA. The Japanese pitcher has allowed just four runs in two starts, but the Red Sox haven’t scored a run with Tazawa on the mound.
The Yankees, who won both games of a doubleheader Friday night, finished with a three-game sweep of their division rival over the weekend. The Red Sox scored just two runs in the three games. The teams meet again tonight in Pawtucket for the start of a brief two-game series.
“We have to play well against anyone we play,” said Miley. “Right now, it just happens to be against Pawtucket.”
HOW THEY SCORED
SWB Sixth: Doug Bernier led off with a walk and went to third on a one-out double by Colin Curtis. Austin Jackson followed with a single to score Bernier and Curtis. Pawtucket reliever Rocky Cherry replaced starter Junichi Tazawa. Jackson stole second and Shelley Duncan walked. With two outs, Yurendell de Caster hit a single to score Jackson. YANKEES 3, RED SOX 0
WHAT: Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees vs. Pawtucket Red Sox
WHEN: 7:05 p.m., today
WHERE: McCoy Stadium, Pawtucket
PROBABLE STARTERS: Yankees LHP Zach Kroenke (5-1, 0.89) vs. Red Sox RHP Enrique Gonzalez (7-9, 5.45)
ON DECK: The Yankees end their brief two-game series at Pawtucket with noon game Tuesday before returning home for two games against Lehigh Valley.