The Salem Red Sox are back home for a key six game homestand this week. Salem will host Buies Creek for games Tuesday through Thursday and Wilmington for a three game weekend series.
These are important games for the Sox, who were just two and a half games ahead of Wilmington for a playoff spot through Sunday. The Sox were two games behind Lynchburg in the Carolina League’s Northern Division standings, but since the Hillcats won the first half title Salem needs to beat everyone else to join Lynchburg in the Northern Division playoffs.
Frederick was just three games behind Salem through Sunday, making it a three-team race. Both Wilmington and Frederick picked up ground as Salem went 2-5 over a seven game road trip that concluded in Myrtle Beach Sunday. The Sox were swept by Winston-Salem, then lost two of the first three at Myrtle Beach before earning a split with a 10-3 win at TicketReturn.com Field Sunday. Salem benefited from a jewel of a start from Logan Boyd (W, 2-0), making just his second start after beginning his Salem tenure in the bullpen.
Salem took the early lead against Pelicans starter Duncan Robinson in the top of the first. Leadoff man Chris Madera lashed a sinking liner to center field, and Connor Myers’ diving attempt was unsuccessful; the ball rolled to the wall and Madera raced to third with a triple. With one out, Conrad Gregor lined a single to right to plate Madera for the first run. Jose Sermo fanned, but Jordan Betts ripped a double to left, and Roberto Caro mishandled the ball, allowing Gregor to speed home for a 2-0 lead.
The Sox tacked on another run in the top of the third inning. Gregor led off the frame with a double to left, and advanced to third on a groundout by Sermo. Betts fanned, but Tate Matheny sliced a grounder up the third base line and into left field for an RBI double, scoring Gregor and extending the lead to 3-0.
Salem added runs in the sixth and seventh when Pelicans reliever Tommy Thorpe got wild. In the sixth, Austin Rei drew a one-out walk and advanced to second on a single by Victor Acosta. Nick Lovullo flew out to right field, but with Madera batting, Thorpe uncorked a wild pitch, allowing the runners to move to second and third. Madera worked a walk of his own to load the bases, and Thorpe fired another wild pitch, prompting Rei to score and make it a 4-0 game. In the seventh frame, Gregor earned a leadoff walk, and advanced to second on Thorpe’s third wild pitch. Sermo earned a walk of his own, and Betts bounced into a 6-4-3 double play that allowed Gregor to make it to third. With Matheny batting, Thorpe dealt yet another wild pitch, allowing Gregor to zip to home for a 5-0 lead.
The Sox doubled their margin in the top of the eighth against new reliever Marc Huberman. Rei singled to lead off the frame and swiped second base on a delayed steal. Acosta earned a walk, and Huberman threw a wild pitch of his own, allowing the runners to make it to second and third. Lovullo singled through the middle to score both runners. Madera hit a bouncer to the right side, but first baseman Tyler Alamo’s throw to second was too high, allowing Lovullo to slide in safely at second while Madera reached first on the fielder’s choice. Jeremy Rivera took advantage, smacking a double to left that scored Lovullo. Madera scored on a ground out by Gregor, and Rivera came in on a two-out double by Sermo, running the Salem lead to 10-0.
The Pelicans broke up the shutout in the bottom of the ninth against Sox reliever Daniel McGrath, who walked Vimael Machin and Eddy Martinez to start the frame. Alamo singled, loading the bases with nobody out. McGrath got Myers to fly out to shallow right and Caro to pop out to Rivera at short, but walked Zack Short to score Machin and keep the bases loaded. P.J. Higgins then hit a grounder to third that Betts misplayed; the ball rolled into left, and Martinez and Alamo both sped home. New reliever Marc Brakeman got Trent Giambrone to bounce out to short, ending the ballgame with Salem winning 10-3.
Boyd was sensational in six shutout innings, registering four strikeouts against four hits and two walks for the win. Pat Goetze fired two scoreless frames of relief; he recorded three strikeouts against a single hit. McGrath gave up three runs (one earned) on one hit and three walks in two-thirds of an inning, and Brakeman retired the only batter he faced.
Tonight’s series finale with Buies Creek will begin at 7:05 pm. The Wilmington series will have games at 7:05 pm Friday, 6:05 pm Saturday and 1:05 pm Sunday. Saturday night is a Mugsy Jedi Bobble Head Giveaway.
On Monday the Sox are off for a seven game road trip with four games in Potomac and three in Lynchburg.