Salem Seeks a Sweep; The Big O’s on the Hill

It’s another sunny afternoon here in central North Carolina, where the Red Sox will look to finish their week-long trip with three straight wins after it started with four consecutive losses.

Henry Owens, aka The Big O, will make his eighth start of the year for Salem. He’s been very, very good, and he’s third in the league in strikeouts, but he is coming off his bumpiest outing of the season, in which he surrendered three home runs and did not make it through the fourth inning.

Owens3

Find Henry on Twitter @Howens_BigO

The tall, skinny lefty is facing a Carolina club that is hitting .268 as a team, #1 in the league. Incredibly, despite the top overall batting average, the Mudcats have averaged the fewest runs per game in the circuit. Carolina has scored just 4.1 runs/game, and they are currently a league-worst 13-26 on the season. Astoundingly, the Indians-affiliate has not won in their home stadium since April 25; the Mudcats have dropped nine straight home games since then!

For your listening enjoyment, here’s last night’s pregame chatter with Chris Balcom-Miller. Topics of discussion include his injury-riddled spring, his phenomenal arsenal of tattoos, and his brotherly bond with Salem catcher Blake Swihart. Enjoy:

 Today’s game notes are below, and we hit the airwaves at 7 PM on ESPN Radio in VA, AM 1240 WGMN Roanoke, and online at salemsox.com. First pitch is at 7:15.

UPDATED: Here’s tonight’s lineup

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Go Bruins,
Evan

*****

May 16, 2013 7:15 PM Salem Red Sox (17-20) vs. Carolina Mudcats (13-26) Game #38

Five County Stadium                          Zebulon, NC                    Road Game #23

Probable Starters: LHP Henry Owens (3-1, 3.57) vs RHP Robert Whitenack (0-0, –) 

It Only Takes One: Salem dropped five one-run decisions in the first two weeks of May,  with the close losses adding up and hurting the Sox in their 3-9 start to the month. But over the past two days, turnabout has been fair play. The Red Sox have earned consecutive one-run triumphs over Carolina to put them in a position to go for the series sweep this evening. Over the course of the season, Salem and Carolina have both played 14 one-run games, tied for the most in the league. The Red Sox have gone 7-7 in these contests, while the Mudcats have been miserable, earning just three close wins compared to 11 one-run losses.

There’s a First Time for Everything: Salem reliever Heri Quevedo is not the normal Latin American rookie. Most young ballplayers from the Dominican Republic or Venezuela sign with pro teams at age 16 or 17, but Quevedo, who’s in his first pro season right now, will turn 23 in June. Plagued by command issues, he has had an up-and-down season thus far, inauspiciously leading the pitching staff in walks issued. But on Wednesday night, Quevedo picked up a well-deserved victory, his first win as a member of the Red Sox organization. For the first time all year, he did not walk a single batter! It’s even more impressive when you note that he was on the mound for a season-high four and two-thirds innings, working in a piggyback role behind starter William Cuevas. Only tonight’s starter, Henry Owens, has more strikeouts than Quevedo on the season. 

Bronze Blake: Since starting the year 2-for-18 in his first five games, Salem catcher Blake Swihart has been one of the most consistent hitters in the entire league. In his last 23 games, Swihart has gone 25-for-81 (.309) with four doubles and four triples. In fact, since April 13, his .309 clip is third-best in the league behind Garin Cecchini, and Wilmington’s Jorge Bonifacio. Defensively, Swihart has also been one of the best backstops in the circuit. On the season, he’s thrown out 12-of-31 baserunners, a 38.7% caught-stealing clip which is second in the league only to Potomac’s Adrian Nieto.

Like Father, Like Son: Rich Gedman preached approach and patience during his time as Salem’s Hitting Coach in 2012. With Rich now coaching in Portland, his son, Matt, has joined the Salem Sox and made a huge impact in one week with the squad. In four games, Gedman has hit .308 with a .357 on-base percentage, going 4-for-13 with one walk. Three of his four hits have gone for extra-bases, with two doubles and one homer. Gedman’s RBI double was the difference on Wednesday, transforming a 4-3 deficit into a 5-4 lead.

Checking Cecchini: Salem third baseman Garin Cecchini is listed as day-to-day with a relatively minor sprained ankle, suffered while making a catch on a foul pop up in Tuesday’s game. He rolled his ankle on the lip of the grass and left the game in the sixth. He did not play on Wednesday, but Cecchini still leads the league in numerous offensive categories, including hitting (.366), on-base percentage (.462), slugging percentage (.659), doubles (13), and extra-base hits (22).  He has reached base in 22 of his last 23 games with a .400 average and a .520 on-base percentage since April 18.

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