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September 7, 2012 at 10:59 AM

Hernandez minimizes damage, puts team in position to win

PAWTUCKET, R.I. – Left-hander Chris Hernandez looked like he was beginning to come unraveled in the second inning of Thursday's playoff game against the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees. With one out and a run already in, Hernandez dropped the ball while on the rubber for a balk to move the runner to third, then relinquished the the second run of the inning on a groundball single.

However, Hernandez stopped the bleeding there, picking up the final two outs of the inning on strikeouts. He would allow just one more hit and no further runs in his six innings of work, putting the team in position to take a commanding 2-0 lead in the best-of-five playoff series by the end of the night.

“[Hernandez] did a nice job,” said Pawtucket manager Arnie Beyeler. “He's a professional guy and he hangs in there. He minimized the inning and then worked out of the jam, and we turned in the double play behind him later on. He just keeps coming at them and he adjusted a little bit, he got his curveball down in the zone more than he was earlier in the game. He did a nice job and that's all you can ask is for him to compete and get us deep in to the game.”

“I had a rough second inning, I was leaving balls up and they were capitalizing on it,” Hernandez said. “I was able to regain myself in third inning and stay down in the zone, and it worked well for me the rest of the game.”

In total, Hernandez allowed four hits in his six innings on the mound, three of which were in the second inning and two of those were groundballs that got through the infield. He also walked two and struck out five batters, while topping out at 88 mph on the McCoy Stadium radar gun.

The key to the start for the lefty was in-game adjustments. Specifically using the curveball more than in past starts became part of the plan as he and catcher Dan Butler adjusted on the fly.

“[The curveball] was not really part of the plan going into it, but it worked well tonight,” said the  2010 seventh round pick. “We're here to win so we didn't shy away from it. I felt good throwing it so we kept going with it. It's not something that we usually do, but it was the game plan for tonight. Going into the game we didn't think of it that way, but it ended up working out that way.

“If [Butler and I] see something that's working throughout the game, we'll tend work that way until they prove us wrong.”

Other than incorporating the curveball more into the mix as the game went along, Hernandez said that the keys for him mechanically that enabled him to keep his pitches down after the second inning were staying shorter and more on top of the ball.

After a tough start to his outing, Hernandez ultimately kept his team in the game and gave them a chance to win.

“Chris hung in there, minimized the inning, worked out of a jam, and got into the game,” said Beyeler. “That's what you want your starters to do.”

Photo credit: Chris Hernandez by Kelly O'Connor

Matt Huegel is Senior Editor for SoxProspects.com. Follow him on Twitter @MattHuegelSP.