June 28, 2011 12:00 PM Myrtle Beach Pelicans (44-30, 4-1) vs Salem Red Sox (31-43, 0-5) Game #75
LewisGale Field Salem, VA Home Game #39
Probable Starters: RHP Wilfredo Boscan (2-3, 4.78) vs RHP Tom Ebert (2-3, 3.28)
There’s No Place Like Home: Even though Dorothy’s belief was pure, sometimes things can go very poorly at home. Since a 3-2 win over Myrtle Beach on May 7, Salem’s performance at LewisGale Field has been disastrous. Following the victory on May 7, the Red Sox were 13-5 at home and 20-7 overall. Since then, the Sox are 1-19 in home games and 11-36 overall. Salem is currently 14-24 at Salem Memorial Ballpark this season, scoring fewer than four runs per game (3.76 runs per contest). Following today’s finale against Myrtle Beach, the Sox hit the road for the next seven games.
The Wizard of RBI: Pay great attention to the man behind the catcher’s mask! While no major league club took any heed in Butler’s status when he was draft-eligible following his redshirt-junior season at Arizona, his eye-popping run production statistics are impossible to ignore in 2011. One year after leading the Boston farm system in batting average, Salem’s catcher is tops among Sox minor leaguers in RBI. Butler went 3-5 with two doubles and three runs driven in on Monday night to bring his season total to 54. Butler’s batting splits for 2011 are staggering: He’s hitting just .157 when the bases are empty, while he’s 36-100 (.360) with runners on base. In four at-bats with the bases loaded, Butler has blasted one double and two grand slams for a remarkable 10 RBI.
If I Only Had a Hippocampus: The Red Sox would be better off without the part of the brain that is responsible for creating new memories. After close losses, a squad needs to quickly forget and move on. Salem’s slim, one-run victory on May 7 brought Salem’s record to 20-7 and gave the Sox a four game lead in the division. More importantly, perhaps, the string of tight wins had brought the Sox to 12-3 in games decided by three runs or less. Since then, the Sox are an incomprehensible 7-30 in games decided by three runs or less. Salem has rarely been blown out in this stretch, with only six of the 36 losses having come by a difference of more than four runs.
Follow the Third-Baseman’s Lead: While the Yellow Brick Road provides the map to Oz, Kolbrin Vitek’s bat should help guide the Red Sox to the winner’s circle. After a tough offensive start to June, Vitek has heated up over the past 12 days, recording multiple hits in six of his last eight games, a stretch in which the Salem third-baseman has bat .375 (12-for-32). Vitek has recorded two hits in each of the past three games, which remarkable is only halfway to his longest multi-hit streak of the season. From April 18 to April 27, Vitek had multiple hits six straight games and eight of nine, a stretch in which he registered a .488 clip (20-for-41), tops in the Carolina League at the time.
We’re Melting…MELTING: Five games into the second half of 2011, the Salem Sox already trail the other three teams in their division by four games. While the Red Sox have begun 0-5, all three Southern Division comrades have opened with four victories in the first five games. Salem has reached the nadir of 0-5 to begin the second half for the first time in franchise history, though it’s worth noting that the 1987 Salem Buccaneers overcame an 0-4 start to the second half to win the Mills Cup Championship a couple months later.
Somewhere in the pile is Anthony Ranaudo, the phenomenally talented pitcher who, just over two years ago, became the winning pitcher in the deciding game of the 2009 College World Series. Tonight, 733 days and $2.55 million bonus later, Ranaudo makes his first LewisGale Field start for the Salem Sox.
If the Red Sox are going to snap their five game losing streak, they are going to need to score some runs behind Ranaudo, who is 1-3 in four Salem starts despite an ERA that anyone (except Pedro in ’99) would envy. Two of Ranaudo’s losses have been Sox shutouts, and Salem has scored two total runs in his three setbacks.
As Ranaudo takes the mound toinght in southern Virginia, two of his rival SEC schools will square off in Omaha in the opening tilt of the best-of-three series for the NCAA Baseball Championship. In honor of the Gators and Gamecocks and the sport of college baseball (which I know very little about), here are a fresh batch of Monday game notes to whet your appetite for a variety of different hardball that is coming up this evening.
June 27, 2011 7:05 PM Myrtle Beach Pelicans (43-30, 3-1) vs Salem Red Sox (31-42, 0-4) Game #74
LewisGale Field Salem, VA Home Game #38
Probable Starters: RHP Kennil Gomez (2-1, 2.36) vs RHP Anthony Ranaudo (1-3, 2.78)
The Dead-Bat Era: Run production has been wildly unpopular over the first four days of Salem’s second-half opening homestand. The Sox have allowed a respectable 15 runs in four games, but Salem has managed a depressing six total runs in the current stretch. Since the Sox were shut out in the first-half finale, the offense has actually scored just six runs in the last five games, all losses. In that time, Salem has hit .162 (24-for-148) with three homers, all solo shots. Meanwhile, Myrtle Beach is currently locked in at the plate, owning a .343 (70-for-204) average in the last five games.
The Omaha King, 2009: Salem looks to Anthony Ranaudo, the 39th overall pick in the 2010 draft, to help snap this losing streak tonight. The righthanded phenom out of LSU is set for his fifth start with the Sox, but it will be his first chance to pitch in front of the fans at LewisGale Field. With South Carolina and Florida ready to square off in the College World Series Final beginning tonight, it bears mentioning that two years and three days ago, on June 24, 2009, Ranaudo was the winning pitcher in the third and final game of LSU’s championship-clinching victory over the Texas Longhorns. Fellow Red Sox prospect Brandon Workman, currently a member of the Greenville Drive, was the losing pitcher in that game.
Heartstopping Finishes: While few games have been as dramatic as a championship winning walk-off in the bottom of the 11th, the Salem Sox have had so many narrow setbacks over the past couple months that heartache is hard to avoid. Salem’s slim, one-run victory on May 7 brought Salem’s record to 20-7 and gave the Sox a four game lead in the division. More importantly, perhaps, the string of tight wins had brought the Sox to 12-3 in games decided by three runs or less. Since then, the Sox are just 7-29 in games decided by three runs or less and 11-35 overall in the last 46.
From Somewhere in Middle America: While the Sox offense has scuffled significantly, one man does appear to be rediscovering his early-season form. Kolbrin Vitek may not be raking with the same frequency as his silly Mid-American Conference leading numbers from 2010 might suggest, but the Bryan, Ohio-native has registered multiple hits in five of his last eight games. In that time, Vitek is batting .370 (10-for-27) and has brought his average up to .271 from .259. As a sophomore and junior at Ball State in Muncie, Indiana, Vitek hit .374 with 30 homers and 135 RBI in 108 games, earning MAC Player of the Year and All-American honors as a junior.
Gators or Gamecocks?: While no current Salem Sox players wore Florida or South Carolina jerseys in their college days, manager Bruce Crabbe is a proud Gator alum who won SEC titles as the starting second-baseman for Florida in 1982 and 1984. The Gators are seeking their first national championship in baseball, however, unlike the Gamecocks who are gunning for their second national title in as many years. A major piece of the South Carolina success has been Jackie Bradley, Jr, whom the Boston Red Sox drafted 40th overall in the sandwich round of the recent 2011 draft. Bradley was named the Most Outstanding Player in last year’s tournament.
Good morning, folks…
Your trusty radio broadcaster checking in, hoping that everyone’s summer has gotten off to a better start than the Salem Sox. With the temperatures heating up, the Red Sox offense has consistently cooled, managing just five runs in the three game series against Kinston. It has been an incredibly tough stretch for Salem over the past month and a half or so, but one can only hope that the luck will begin to turn moving forward.
Hope you enjoy today’s game notes, a tribute to luck, knowledge, whammies, and Alex Trebek. (Pat Sajak, if you come across this blog post, please don’t be offended. It’s not personal. It’s just that I prefer Jeopardy to Wheel of Fortune. Plus, to the best of my knowledge, Will Ferrell has never impersonated you in an SNL sketch. In my book, that’s an extra point for Trebek.)
As always, all questions, comments, concerns, musings, song ideas, and soliloquies can be delivered to firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to hear from you.
We’re on the air on 4 PM this afternoon for game one against Myrtle Beach. Talk to you then.
June 26, 2011 4:05 PM Myrtle Beach Pelicans (42-30, 2-1) vs Salem Red Sox (31-41, 0-3) Game #73
LewisGale Field Salem, VA Home Game #37
Probable Starters: LHP Robbie Ross (7-2, 2.87) vs RHP Ryan Pressly (4-6, 4.55)
Wheel of Misfortune: The Salem Sox experienced an abrupt and unfortunate beginning to the second half, dropping three straight tight games to the Kinston Indians the past three nights. Myrtle Beach, Salem’s next opponent, should empathize with the Red Sox’ situation, as Salem lost the three tilts by three, two, and one run, respectively. In Myrtle Beach’s first visit to Salem back in May, the Sox defeated Myrtle Beach in three straight by those same exact margins. The Pelicans bounced back for a three-run win in the finale to avoid the four-game sweep back on May 8.
Press Your Luck: Looking back, that aforementioned May 8 setback to Myrtle Beach appears to be the turning point to the season for Salem. The slim, one-run victory on May 7 brought Salem’s record to 20-7 and gave the Sox a four game lead in the division. More importantly, perhaps, the string of tight wins had brought the Sox to 12-3 in games decided by three runs or less. Since then, the Sox are just 7-28 in games decided by three runs or less and 11-34 overall in the last 45.
Yard Sharks: Salem managed just five runs in the entire three-game series against Kinston, largely due to the Indians’ dominant bullpen. Kinston’s relievers dealt 11 and one-third scoreless innings in the series, with seven different pitchers combining to stymie the Sox. Salem’s relievers delivered some good individual performances, with four of the six relievers who threw in the series recording scoreless outings. But Mitch Herold got tagged for five runs in two and a third innings on Thursday and Kendal Volz gave up the game-deciding two-run homer on Friday.
Double Jeopardy: The Red Sox get their third crack at Pelican lefthander Robbie Ross on Sunday, looking to beat the Myrtle Beach southpaw for the first time. Ross handled the Red Sox twice in the first half, starting two games the Pelicans won. Ross pitched 12.1 innings in his two starts against the Sox, allowing five runs on nine hits with 13 strikeouts. June has been Ross’ roughest month, however. After recording a 2.48 ERA through May, Ross has a 3.98 ERA in June.
Who Wants to be a Homer Extraordinaire?: Since May 27, no Carolina Leaguer has hit more homers than Salem’s Shannon Wilkerson. The Red Sox outfielder blasted his ninth dinger of the season on Friday night, with six of them having come since May 27. Kinston’s Adam Abraham and Wilmington’s Rey Navarro also have six dingers in that time span.
June 23, 2011 7:05 PM Kinston Indians (38-31, 0-0) vs Salem Red Sox (31-38, 0-0) Game #70
LewisGale Field Salem, VA Home Game #34
Probable Starters: RHP Marty Popham (1-0, 2.59) vs LHP Drake Britton (1-7, 7.48)
Hitting the Reset Button: Much like a video game, the Salem Sox have gone from nine games back to even footing as the standings begin anew on Thursday night in the second-half opener. In the first half, the Red Sox spent 34 days in first place thanks to their 20-7 start, but finished the half with just 11 wins in the final 42 games to end the in the cellar. Myrtle Beach took home the first half title, holding off the upstart K-Tribe down the stretch. The Indians won 24 of their final 33 games in the half, but a 14-22 start left them two back of the Pelicans when the schedule was complete.
RBI Baseball: While many achievements highlighted the first half, Dan Butler’s half-century RBI total may top the list. The undrafted Salem backstop made the Carolina League All-Star team after leading the circuit with 50 runs driven in, collected in just 58 games played. Two years ago, Salem’s RBI leader for the full season finished with just 59 (Mike Jones). Butler currently leads all Red Sox minor leaguers in RBI.
Grand Theft Red Sox: With the first half in the rear-view mirror, it is worth noting that only one team, the Potomac Nationals, stole more bases than the Salem Sox. With 82 bags in 69 games, the Sox twice mustered five steals in a game. Fourteen different players stole at least one base, with Peter Hissey leading the way with 20, complemented by Jeremy Hazelbaker (12 steals in 34 games) and Derrick Gibson (11 steals in 64 games). Kolbrin Vitek and Shannon Wilkerson each stole eight bases apiece.
Duck Hunt: Although the Sox were second in the league in stolen bases, Salem finished first in number of runners that catchers nabbed trying to steal. Salem threw out 37 runners who were trying to steal in the half, more than anyone else in the league. Catcher Dan Butler gunned down 26 of 64 (41%), the third-highest percentage in the league. Overall, the Red Sox defensive caught-stealing percentage sat at 34.3, the third-best in the league.
Coast-to-Coast Pong: Salem catcher Dan Butler and pitcher Will Latimer bounced to the left-coast and back very quickly this past week to represent Salem in the 15th annual California-Carolina League All-Star game. The California stars prevailed 6-1 on Tuesday night at John Thurman Field, home of the Modesto Nuts. Butler caught the first five innings and went 0-2, while Latimer tossed one inning and allowed one run.
Like so many others, I take my fandom seriously. I grew up in New England, rooting with all my might for the Sox, Celts, Pats, and B’s. Since the turn of the millenium, pulling for Beantown athletics has become a trendier choice with all the success and championships. But my sports fanatic teeth were sharpened in the 90s, when disappointment was a much more prominent sentiment than euphoria.
When Adam Vinatieri’s kick split the uprights on February 3, 2002, I gained a much greater understanding of what it meant to be a fan. It was an experience that was remarkably duplicated two more times by the Patriots, twice by the Red Sox, and once by the Celtics. And in a similar fashion, the heartbreaking experiences of Aaron Boone in 2003, David Tyree in 2007, and the Celts-Lakers final from last year all have helped mold the sports diehard that I’ve become. The latter three experiences all left me in states of extreme sadness, frustration, and disappointment, but it is also true that each sincere moment of despair makes the ultimate glory that much sweeter.
I doubt any non-sports fan is reading this right now, but if you are, I can understand your skepticism. Is my mood really dictated by the results of professional athletic events that I have nothing to do with? Yes, like many others, it is. I was raised a Boston sports fan, and I will always be a Boston sports fan. Generally, the anguish is more frequent than celebration, although New Englanders have been remarkably lucky in the last decade.
I’d be lying if I said that my hockey passion matched that of baseball, football, and basketball. Living in North Carolina over the past eight years, my knowledge of the Bruins has become much more casual than diehard. But the past month has been a time machine journey back to my teenage days, when I followed the Bruins as intently as the other squads and developed a great appreciation for the puck. Guys like Timmy Thomas, Milan Lucic, Tyler Seguin, and others clad in Black & Gold have rekindled that emotion, and heading into tonight’s seventh game of the Stanley Cup Finals, it’s hard not to feel an incomparable sense of anticipation.
Here’s why: I’ve never seen the Bruins play in game seven of the Stanley Cup Final, and after tonight, who knows if I ever will again? That sense of history is great, special, and incredibly nerve-wracking. I know I’ll be beyond thrilled if the B’s can finally grab a win in Vancouver, and I am sure I’ll be beyond disappointed if the Canucks can once again defend their home ice. Two extremes, no middle ground, and a moment that will live forever, one way or another.
June 15, 2011 6:30 PM Salem Red Sox (29-36) vs Kinston Indians (34-30) Game #66
Grainger Stadium Kinston, NC Road Game #33
Probable Starters: LHP Drake Britton (1-6, 7.42) vs RHP Marty Popham (0-0, 2.96)
The Long and Winding Road: Salem’s June Odyssey is down to its final five days, with one more in Kinston and four more in Potomac preceding the conclusion of the first half. After winning the opening contest of the 19-game, 18-day trip, the Sox are 3-10 in the past 13. The Sox were 11-7 in road games when the journey began, but the current road record resides at 15-17.
Yesterday: Salem’s offense continued to struggle in Tuesday’s 5-2 loss in Kinston, going hitless for the first six innings before managing just three hits in the three-run setback. After mustering nine hits in a 5-2 loss on Sunday in Potomac, the Red Sox have recorded just nine hits in the first three games of this series with Kinston.
Can’t Buy Me Love (Or a Clutch Hit): In the last five games, the Salem Sox have gone just two-for-32 (.063) with runners in scoring position. Extending back further, the Red Sox have picked up just six hits in their last 65 at-bats with a man at second or third. But despite the recent scuffles, Salem is still batting .258 for the season with men in scoring position, the third-best situational average in the Carolina League. Only Winston-Salem (.272) and Wilmington (.267) have better team averages in clutch situations for the season.
I Feel Fine: While much of the Sox offense has been in a drought, David Mailman has begun to discover his swing. The Salem outfielder bashed his fifth homer of 2011 in the second game of Monday’s doubleheader, transforming a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 lead. The Sox would hang on to win by that score, splitting the twin-bill in Kinston. So far this year, four of Mailman’s five homers have come with the game tied or Salem trailing by one. Three times, Mailman’s dinger has broken a tie score in the sixth inning or later. On Tuesday, Mailman went 2-4 to bring his average to .342 (13-for-38) since June 4. In that time, Mailman has raised his average by 50 points.
Help!: Outfielder Bryce Brentz returned to the lineup on Monday after missing three weeks with a wrist injury. Before arriving to the Carolina League on May 21, Brentz dominated the South Atlantic League, leading the circuit in homers and RBI. Upon his CL arrival, the slugger from Middle Tennessee State bashed two homers in his first two Carolina League contests Brentz had homered in three straight games (spanning two leagues) when he suffered a bone bruise on his wrist while swinging in the cage on May 24 in Myrtle Beach. For the season, Brentz has hit 13 homers and driven in 38 runs while hitting .349. Brentz received a scheduled off-day on Tuesday after playing both games on Monday, but is expected to return to the lineup today.
June 13, 2011 4:30 PM DH Salem Red Sox (28-34) vs Kinston Indians (32-29) Games #63&64
Grainger Stadium Kinston, NC Road Games #30&31
Probable Starters: Game One: RHP Anthony Ranaudo (1-1, 3.00) vs LHP TJ House (3-6, 4.94)
Game Two: RHP Tom Ebert (2-3, 3.79) vs RHP Clayton Cook (6-3, 3.17)
Weekend Blues: Fridays are often built with anticipation for the exciting weekend ahead, but lately, the Salem Sox have not experienced any weekend success. Including yesterday’s 5-2 loss in Potomac, the Red Sox have now lost 11 straight games on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Salem used to be 11-8 on weekends, but now the Sox are just 11-19 on the best days of the week. Sunday has been the worst day of all, as the Sox have eight Sunday losses, more than any other day of the week this season. Salem’s last weekend win came on Saturday, May 21 in Winston-Salem. The Red Sox are 4-2 on Mondays, with two more tilts on the horizon today.
Welcome Back, Bryce: Outfielder Bryce Brentz dominated the South Atlantic League, bashed two homers in his first two Carolina League contests, and then missed three weeks with an unfortunate wrist injury that halted his incredible momentum. Brentz had homered in three straight games (spanning two leagues) when he suffered a bone bruise on his wrist while swinging in the cage on May 24 in Myrtle Beach. Twenty days later, after journeys to Boston and Fort Myers, Brentz is back for today’s doubleheader. The outfielder out of Middle Tennessee State led the SAL in homers and RBI at the time of his promotion, then went 4-10 with two bombs in Winston-Salem on May 21 and 22.
Why Two?: Salem and Kinston are scheduled for a Monday twin-bill, necessitated by a suspension in the first inning on May 3 at LewisGale Field. The two squads finished that nine-inning game on May 4, but the originally scheduled contest on May 4 was pushed into June.
Just 14?: Fourteen innings should be a piece of cake for Kinston on Monday. On Sunday, the Indians played 23. Kinston enters this series less than 24 hours removed from winning the longest game ever played in the history of Carolina League baseball, which dates back to 1945 and spans over 33,000 games. In the bottom of the 23rd, Casey Frawley singled home Roberto Perez from third to break a 2-2 tie that had stood since Myrtle Beach tied it up with two outs in the ninth. The game included 654 pitches thrown by 15 different pitchers, none of which was a position player. Kinston struck out 32 times in 82 official at-bats, finishing with 14 hits and eight walks. Myrtle Beach only struck out 16 times, going 12-for75 with nine walks.
Farewell, Number 16: On Saturday, arguably Salem’s most valuable player took his next step the big leagues, earning a promotion to Double-A Portland. Reynaldo Rodriguez started 56 of the first 60 games for the Red Sox, batting .317 with 24 doubles, nine homers, and 43 RBI. In 55 of his 56 games in the lineup, Rodriguez has served as the cleanup hitter, consistently anchoring the Red Sox lineup day in, day out. As he moves to Portland, Rodriguez leaves the Carolina League with the most doubles, most runs scored, and highest slugging percentage in the circuit. He’s also tops in on-base percentage. His batting average is tied for first with Frederick’s Tyler Townsend, and his RBI total is second to teammate Dan Butler. Suffice to say, Rodriguez will not be easy to replace in the fourth spot in the order.
Congrats to Dan Butler, Chris Hernandez, Reynaldo Rodriguez, and the musical concoction known as Smashmouth on forever being associated with All-Star festivities…
You’ll enjoy these game notes now, later, and when the morning comes…
June 9, 2011 7:05 PM Salem Red Sox (27-31) vs Lynchburg Hillcats (26-32) Game #59
City Stadium Lynchburg, VA Road Game #26
Probable Starters: LHP Chris Hernandez (5-3, 2.52) vs LHP Chris Masters (4-2, 3.32)
Hey Now, You’re An All-Star: Dan Butler, Chris Hernandez, and Reynaldo Rodriguez all have been selected to represent the Carolina League in the upcoming All-Star game against the best from the California League. The Advanced-A midsummer classic will be held on Tuesday, June 21 in Modesto, California. Butler, the Carolina League RBI leader, earned the nod as the starting catcher, while Rodriguez, a legitimate triple crown contender, was named the starting first-baseman. Hernandez, who currently owns the fifth-best ERA in the circuit, was one of seven starting pitchers named to the squad. The starter will be chosen by manager Matt Lecroy of Potomac, who will lead the Carolina League stars.
Get Your Game On, Go Play: The trio of Salem stars will all be gunning to be the third straight Salem Sox representative to win the Carolina League All-Star MVP Award. Pitcher Ryne Miller earned the honor in 2009 in Lake Elsinore, while second-baseman Oscar Tejeda won it last year by homering in Myrtle Beach.
Well, The Games Start Coming and They Don’t Stop Coming: Salem currently trails Myrtle Beach by six and a half games with 12 tilts remaining before the All-Star break. From April 13 to May 15, the Red Sox resided in first place for all but two days, but Salem had dropped 13 of 15 before the 6-1 victory over Lynchburg on Wednesday night. The Sox are in the midst of a 19-game in 18-day road trip to wrap up the first half. Salem won the opening game of the trip, lost five straight, and snapped the skid last night behind the phenomenal pitching of Anthony Ranaudo, who earned his first Carolina League win.
The Meteor Men Beg to Differ: Salem’s offense has been at its best this season when going up against Lynchburg. The Sox are batting .250 as a team through 58 games, but the squad is batting .289 with 13 homers in 13 games against the Hillcats. Salem has scored 85 runs against Lynchburg in 2011, more than six and a half runs per contest, en route to a 9-4 record against the southern Virginia rival. Dan Butler and Jeremy Hazelbaker each have belted three bombs against the Hillcats, while Reynaldo Rodriguez and Matt Spring each have blasted two. Hazelbaker, promoted to Double-A on May 21, hit .429 with three homers in six games against Lynchburg.
My World’s On Fire, How Bout Yours: In two starts with Salem, Anthony Ranaudo has tossed 12 innings, allowed ten hits, and collected eight strikeouts. But the most sterling aspect of Ranaudo’s Carolina League performance has been his overall command. Thus far, Ranaudo has thrown 144 pitches, 101 of which have been strikes. That’s better than a 70% clip in the zone for the righthander whose explosive fastball and knee-buckling breaking-ball have been as nasty as precise. Through 12 innings, Ranaudo has required an average of exactly 12 throws were frame.
Somebody Once Asked, Could I Spare Some Change for Gas: Salem heads to Woodbridge after tonight’s game, travels to Kinston on Sunday night, then will head back to northern Virginia next Thursday
Butler, Hernandez, and Rodriguez Named Carolina League All-Stars
A talented trio of ballplayers will bring their Red Sox colors west.
Catcher Dan Butler, pitcher Chris Hernandez, and first-baseman Reynaldo Rodriguez have all been named 2011 Carolina League All-Stars and will join their fellow east coast greats against the best of the California League on Tuesday, June 21 in Modesto, California. Butler and Rodriguez were both chosen as starters, while Hernandez will throw among the staff of skilled starters. Manager Matt LeCroy of Potomac will select the game’s starter as the All-Star break nears.
Butler leads the Carolina League with 46 RBI and earns his second straight All-Star honor, having participated in the 2010 South Atlantic League All-Star game with Greenville last year. Butler hit .351 in April, slumped in early May, but has rediscovered his stroke in the past couple weeks, hitting .380 since May 27. The undrafted backstop is the only Carolina Leaguer to have crushed two grand slams this season. The most recent slam came on Memorial Day, when Butler launched a towering walk-off to surge Salem back from a three-run deficit in the bottom of the ninth against Lynchburg. Butler drove in all seven runs in Salem’s 7-6 win on May 30, his second seven-RBI game of the season.
Hernandez has been Salem’s steadiest arm in his first full professional season, compiling the league’s fifth-best ERA (2.52). The lefthander out of Miami has gone 5-3 in 10 starts, holding opponents to a .230 average in 50 innings on the mound. His reputation as a ground-ball specialist was quickly affirmed in 2011, inducing more than three ground outs for every air out recorded, far and away the top ratio among all Carolina League starters. Hernandez was drafted in the seventh round in 2010 after an All-American career at Miami. In three years in the ACC, Hernandez went 28-8 with a 3.06 ERA, with 315 strikeouts in 302.2 innings pitched.
For Rodriguez, this All-Star nod is his first in affiliated baseball. A former MVP in the Colombian Winter League and Rookie of the Year in the independent Golden League, Rodriguez has been a force in the Carolina League this season, residing near the top in almost every statistical category. Currently, he leads the league in doubles with 22, while sitting third in hitting (.314), tied for fifth in homers (9), and second only to teammate Dan Butler in RBI (42). The slugging first-baseman is also tops in the circuit in slugging percentage (.577) and runs scored (43).
The triumvirate of Salem stars will all be striving to perpetuate an impressive MVP streak. In each of the last two years, the Carolina League All-Star game MVP has come from Salem, with pitcher Ryne Miller earning the honor in 2009 and second-baseman Oscar Tejeda winning the award last season. Miller struck out five Cal Leaguers in two innings in Lake Elsinore two years ago, while Tejeda pulverized a laser-beam home run in Myrtle Beach a season ago.
The Salem Red Sox continue their marathon 19-game in 18-day road odyssey to conclude the first half on Thursday night in Lynchburg, with newly named All-Star Chris Hernandez getting the start. The Sox will return to LewisGale Field on Thursday, June 23 to open the second half of the schedule against the Kinston Indians.
All Salem games are broadcast live on AM 960 in the Roanoke Valley and on www.salemsox.com with the “Voice of the Salem Sox” Evan Lepler.
June 8, 2011 7:05 PM Salem Red Sox (26-31) vs Lynchburg Hillcats (26-31) Game #58
City Stadium Lynchburg, VA Road Game #25
Probable Starters: RHP Anthony Ranaudo (0-1, 6.00) vs RHP Willie Kempf (3-4, 7.02)
Call Us the NBA Finals MVP: Just like Kobe Bryant’s not-so-sterling shooting percentage in game seven of the 2010 NBA Finals, the Salem Sox are 6-24 in their last 30 games. One month ago, the Red Sox entered their series finale against Myrtle Beach with a 20-7 record, in search of a four-game sweep over the Pelicans. But Salem fell to the Birds 4-1 on that Sunday, a loss that triggered a downfall of 10 of the next 11. After winning three out of four from May 20 through May 24, the Sox have lost 13 of 15 since.
Three-Peats: Like Michael Jordan in his prime, Salem center fielder Peter Hissey has been the heart of the Red Sox offense the past two days, delivering back-to-back three hit games on Monday and Tuesday in Lynchburg. Previously, Hissey went hitless in the series against Frederick and had gone 0-14 in his last four tilts before Monday’s three-hit eruption. The 21-year old speedster also stole two bases on Tuesday, his 17th and 18th bags of the season. Hissey shares the team lead in multi-hit games with Kolbrin Vitek and Reynaldo Rodriguez, as each have achieved multiple hits 16 times in 2011.
Taking a Charge: Mired in a five-game losing streak, Salem looks to phenom righthander Anthony Ranaudo to help serve as the stopper on Wednesday night in Lynchburg. After making 10 starts in Greenville to begin the season, the 39th selection in the 2010 draft began his Carolina League journey last Friday night in Frederick, where he allowed four runs in six innings and was tagged with the loss in Salem’s 4-2 setback. He finished strong, however, retiring the final four batters he faced after serving up a two-out homer in the fifth to Tyler Townsend. Ranaudo lived almost exclusively in the strike zone, throwing 59 strikes in 81 pitches in his Salem debut. Ranaudo never faced Rome in the SAL; consequently, tonight will be his first time pitching against a Braves affiliate.
E-Wade: In baseball parlance, Miami’s fumble in the closing minutes of game four would be considered an error on the Heat two-guard. Unfortunately, Salem outdid Dwyane in the first two games of the series in Lynchburg. The Red Sox made five errors on Monday and Tuesday night, the most Salem has made in a two-game stretch this season. Entering this week, the SalSox had only made multiple errors 13 times in the first 55 games.
Superior to the Wiz: After winning the opener of the current 19-game road trip, the Red Sox are now 1-5 on their two and half week Carolina Odyssey. Even still, Salem is way ahead of the NBA’s Washington franchise, which began the 2010-11 season with 25 consecutive road losses, failing to pick up a road win until February 13 in Cleveland. Meanwhile, the Salem Sox have gone 12-12 in 24 road games in 2011. The Wiz went 3-38.
Pardon the interruption, sports nation, but please enjoy a trip around the horn in today’s Salem Red Sox game notes.
June 7, 2011 7:05 PM Salem Red Sox (26-30) vs Lynchburg Hillcats (25-31) Game #57
City Stadium Lynchburg, VA Road Game #24
Probable Starters: RHP Ryan Pressly (4-4, 4.34) vs RHP Zeke Spruill (3-6, 3.91)
30 For 30: Salem’s May and June swoon continued last night as the Sox fell 5-4, suffering their 30th loss of the season. After winning 20 of the first 27 games, the Red Sox have lost 23 of the last 29 since May 8. Salem was tied for first on May 24 after a win in Myrtle Beach, but since that day Salem is just 2-12 and has dropped all the way into the Southern Division cellar, six and a half games behind first place Myrtle Beach with 14 games left.
Baseball Tonight: The second tilt of this four-game set in Lynchburg features a rematch from last Thursday’s action at City Stadium, when the Red Sox prevailed 3-2 behind the sturdy pitching from Ryan Pressly. Pressly goes again for the Sox today against Hillcats righty Zeke Spruill, who nearly ignited a fracas by pelting Dan Butler twice in the first three innings last Thursday night. On the season, Pressly has accumulated three of his four victories against Lynchburg. In three starts, Hhe has dealt 16.2 innings vs the Cats, surrendering just four earned runs for a 2.16 ERA. Against everyone else, Pressly is 1-4 with a 5.52 ERA in seven starts.
The Decision: Carolina League managers rarely send pinch-hitters to the plate, but Salem skipper Bruce Crabbe made a crucial call last night that paid off. Trailing by three, Crabbe tabbed Matt Spring to bat in the place of James King with two runners on base and nobody out in the ninth. The backup catcher vindicated Crabbe’s choice, belting a towering three-run homer to tie the game at four. In just four pinch-hit opportunities this season, the Red Sox have mustered two pinch-hit bombs, with both being three-run shots. Back on April 27 in Kinston, Shannon Wilkerson replaced the injured David Mailman and clobbered a three-run jack in a pinch, giving Salem a 12-0 lead in a game the Sox won 16-6.
Outside The Lines: In Lynchburg, this literally describes the location of the bullpens, which are situated in foul territory but within the field of play. Salem’s pen has been both a strength and an Achilles heel at times during the 2011 season. The Red Sox stable of relievers begin the season with 30 consecutive innings without allowing an earned run. In the first 27 games, Salem’s bullpen ERA sat at 2.03, with only three home runs allowed. In the last 29 games, however, Salem’s pen has served up 10 homers and pitched to a 4.09 ERA.
Playmakers: The current edition of the 460 series includes the defending Carolina League Player of the Week as well as the most recent Player of the Month in the circuit. Salem catcher Dan Butler went 11-25 (.440) with three homers and 14 RBI last week to earn his second weekly honor of the season, while Lynchburg first-baseman Joey Terdoslavich hit .304 in May, with four homers and 20 RBI in 27 games to earn the monthly nod.