Another Day with the Streaky Salem Sox

Good afternoon from Zebulon, NC, home of the Carolina Mudcats!

Salem’s hoping that talented southpaw Corey Littrell can deliver a steady performance that will help end the current six-game skid. In his first two Carolina League starts, Littrell struck out 15 in 10.2 innings, compiling a 1.69 ERA.

On Friday, the Salem Sox will kick off a four-game weekend wrap-around series against the 1797447_656951954340862_7528114285323486313_nWinston-Salem Dash. Since I’ll once again be stepping away for a couple days to broadcast the AUDL on ESPN3, I’m pleased to introduce Andrew Africk, another talented young broadcaster who will handle the play-by-play on Friday and Saturday nights. A former voice of the Hillcats and Dash, Andrew currently works at IMG College in Winston-Salem, where he has served as studio host for many of the top college football and basketball programs around the country. I think you’ll enjoy listening to him, if you tune in.

Meanwhile, I’ll be journeying north of the border to the wonderful city of Montreal, where this week’s AUDL Showcase Game will be held.

If you’re curious what an AUDL game on ESPN3 looks like, take a peak at what transpired out in California this past weekend. There were an extraordinary number of great highlight reel plays!

Baseball’s back on the air at 7 PM, with the Sox looking to snap their six-game losing streak. For more on the skid, Kevin Heller’s red-hot hitting, and other hot-off-the-presses game notes, simply scroll down!

Talk to you soon,

April 17, 2014 7:00 PM Salem Red Sox (6-7) vs Carolina Mudcats (8-5) Game # 14
Five County Stadium        Zebulon, NC        Road Game # 7
Probable Starters: LHP Corey Littrell (0-1, 1.69) vs RHP Cole Sulser (0-1, 2.53)

Streaking in the Wrong Direction: Salem won its first five games of the 2014 season and matched a Carolina League record with 16 consecutive victories spanning two seasons, a streak that now seems in the distant past. The Sox suffered their first loss in 224 days last Wednesday and have gone 1-7 since their 5-0 start, dropping the last six. It’s Salem’s longest losing streak since May 9-13 of 2013, a six-game skid that began by getting swept in a doubleheader against Carolina. The Salem Red Sox have not lost seven straight August of 2012, when seven straight setbacks occurred from August 9 to August 15.

The Constant: While the team has enjoyed a tremendous peak and suffered through a deep valley, one Salem hitter has been hot from Opening Day to the present. Outfielder Kevin Heller, who’s been in the lineup for 10 of the team’s 13 games, is the only member of the club who’s reached base in every game he’s played. Consequently, Heller is hitting .433 (13-for-30), second-best in the league, and his on-base percentage is .541, #1 in the circuit. In fact, his on-base percentage is tops in the entire Advanced-A level, superior to any hitter in the California League and Florida State League too. Only two players in the minors, Memphis’ Joey Butler and Albuquerque’s Joc Pederson, have better OBPs than Heller entering Thursday night.

Sloppy Sox: Salem did not help itself defensively in Wednesday’s doubleheader. The Red Sox committed two errors in each game of the twin-bill, giving them 17 miscues in 13 games, third most in the league. Looking back, one of the keys to Salem’s remarkable championship run in 2013 was the team’s sensational defensive consistency. Salem made only 114 errors in 140 games last year, fewest in the league. Moreover, the Sox made multiple miscues only seven times in the entire second half and just twice in the final 36 games.

Leadoff Lacking: One of the sources of Salem’s struggles has been the inability to put the leadoff man on base. In 13 games, Red Sox leadoff hitters are batting only .126, the lowest clip in the league. Wilmington’s second worst with a .172 average, while everyone else is at .215 or higher. Matty Johnson is just 1-for-19 (.053) leading off innings. Ironically, the Sox have hit a league-best .307 with runners on base. Johnson’s 8-for-18 (.444) with men on.

Monitoring Mookie Madness: While Salem’s 16-game winning streak ended eight days ago, one streak we’re still watching is continuing to unfold in Double-A, where second-baseman Mookie Betts has reached base in 10 straight games to begin the 2014 season. Considering that Betts reached safely in the final 35 games of 2013, including the playoffs, he has now recorded at least a hit or a walk in 45 consecutive games dating back to last August. In these 45 games between Salem and Portland, Betts is hitting .425 (71-for-167). In 10 games with the Sea Dogs, Betts is hitting .450 (18-for-40) with five walks and only three strikeouts. In addition to Betts, former Salem catcher Blake Swihart has enjoyed a fine start to his time in Double-A. In eight games, Swihart is batting .323 (10-for-31) with two doubles, a triple, and five RBI for the 7-4 Sea Dogs.

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