One Win Away from the Finals
In one of the most well-pitched games in Carolina League postseason history, neither club scored until the Salem Red Sox finally broke through in the 10th. Here’s how it ended:
Matty Johnson, Henry Ramos, and Cody Koback each delivered an infield single, and Drew Robinson’s throwing error initiated the walk-off melee!
Now, the series shifts to Myrtle Beach, where the Sox need to win once in the next two games to advance into the Mills Cup Championship Series for the seccond time in five years. The Finals will start at Saturday, regardless of whether the Divisional series ends tonight or not, so it would be very sweet if Salem could win tonight, celebrate, and enjoy a day off to gear up for the Mills Cup battle against either Lynchburg or Potomac.
Tonight, it’s a battle of first round picks on the mound. Brian Johnson, the 31st overall pick out of Florida in 2012, takes the hill for the Sox. Alex “Chi-Chi” Gonzalez, the 23rd overall pick this past June out of Oral Roberts, gets the nod for the Pelicans.
It would be hard to equal the performances from Luis Diaz and Alec Asher (who combined for 15 shutout innings), but from simply a resume standpoint, both Johnson and Gonzalez probably enter the night with a even more prestigious set of mutual histories than last night’s duo.
Both clubs are trying to go about their business as normal heading into tonight’s game, but there’s no question that there’s a different feeling to the action this evening. Myrtle Beach is on the brink of elimination, while Salem is on the brink of the finals. With that said, it would not take much for momentum to shift quickly, and then suddenly it would be do-or-die for both teams on Friday.
Updated game notes are below…
Salem’s game two lineup is identical to game one:
- Johnson RF
- Ramos CF
- De La Cruz LF
- Welch 3B
- Swihart C
- Betts 2B
- Gedman 1B
- Chester DH
- Natoli SS
First pitch at 7:05…
Talk to you soon,
September 5, 2013 7:05 PM Salem Red Sox (77-64, 43-27, 1-0) vs. Myrtle Beach Pelicans (77-63, 37-33, 0-1)
TicketReturn.Com Field Myrtle Beach, SC S.D.C.S Game Two (Best-of-Three)
Probable Starters: LHP Brian Johnson (1-0, 1.64) vs RHP Alex Gonzalez (0-0, 2.84)
As Close As It Gets: Salem and Myrtle Beach played nine scoreless innings of baseball on Wednesday night before three infield singles and an error conspired to give the Red Sox a 1-0 walk-off win in 10 innings. After one game in the Roanoke Valley, the best-of-three series now shifts to South Carolina, where the Pelicans have the opportunity to protect home turf and force a deciding game three, which would be on Friday. If the Red Sox could wrap up the series tonight, they would open up the Mills Cup Championship Series on Saturday in either Lynchburg or Potomac.
Red Hot Red Sox: While both Myrtle Beach and Potomac wrapped up the regular season with more overall victories, nobody enjoyed a better finish than the Sox. Including Wednesday’s win to start the playoffs, the Sox are riding a season-best seven-game winning streak, and the Sox have won 12 of their last 13 since a loss in Myrtle Beach on August 21. The Sox went 22-8 in August and have gone 26-8 since July 30. In this 34 game stretch, the Sox have outscored their opponents 167-103, highlighted by a team ERA of 2.78. Salem has put up an average of 5.91 runs per game, hitting .256 as a club with 28 home runs. Salem pitchers have given up only 12 homers in the last 34 games.
Simply the Betts: With six hits in 10 at-bats in the series against the Hillcats to wrap up the regular season, and another 2-for-3 performance on Wednesday to extend his consecutive games on-base streak to 31, Mookie Betts is hitting .425 (48-for-113) with 15 extra-base hits and 32 RBI since August 2. Unbelievably, Betts has only struck out once in his last 70 plate appearances in his last 17 games. In this stretch since August 18, he’s hitting .475 (29-for-61) with nine walks and one strikeout. He has avoided striking out in each of his last 11 games, his longest streak of the season that spans 49 plate appearances. With Greenville, he once went eight straight games without striking out and twice more went seven consecutive games without a K. In 128 games this season, Betts has walked 82 times, while only striking out 57 times.
For Blake’s Sake: One reason why Mookie Betts has driven in so many runs recently is because Blake Swihart has been so hot batting right in front of him. Salem’s catcher rides a 10-game hitting streak into Thursday night, in which he’s batting .425 (17-for-40). He finished the year with the fifth-best batting clip in the league, but since July 24, nobody’s been better. Since July 24, Swihart has gone 44-for-118, a .373 clip that is superior to everyone else in the league. The 21-year-old catcher hit .367 in August and .313 since the All-Star Break, and he also leads the league in caught-stealing percentage, nailing another potential thieves on Monday to increase his percentage to 41.5% caught-stealing on the season, #1 in the league. Swihart and fellow catcher Carson Blair have thrown out seven straight runners who have tried to steal to finish the season.
Diaz Delivers: While he did not factor in Wednesday’s decision, Luis Diaz certainly proved himself worthy of a game one nod. The hardthrowing righty from Venezuela dealt eight scoreless innings, perpetuating his unbelievable pitching performance from the past two plus months. He’s allowed just two earned runs in 21 innings with Salem, and in his last 13 starts, spanning 82 innings, he’s given up just eight earned runs, a 0.88 ERA since June 25, best in all of minor league baseball. He’s allowed just 54 hits in his last 82 innings, holding opponents to a .186 (54-for-291) average in this stretch, with 75 strikeouts and 15 walks. For the full season, Diaz is 9-4 with a 1.82 ERA in 18 games, 17 starts.