The Salem Red Sox got a bravura performance from their bullpen Wednesday night, posting 2.2 scoreless frames of relief to hang on for a 5-3 victory over the Lynchburg Hillcats at Haley Toyota Field.
The Sox (36-23) earned a series split after losing the first two games of the four-game set in a doubleheader sweep. The Hillcats (32-25) fell back to three games behind the Red Sox, the same position in which they began the series. With the win, Salem’s magic number in the Northern Division’s first-half standings shrinks to just nine games, with only 11 games left on the docket for the Sox before the All-Star Classic at Haley Toyota Field.
Salem began the scoring in the bottom of the first against Lynchburg starter Aaron Civale (L, 1-1). Tate Matheny led off with a single, and zipped to second on a passed ball by catcher Daniel Salters. Civale hit Chad De La Guerra with a pitch, putting runners at first and second. Matheny swiped third as Michael Chavis struck out, and Salters muffed another pitch as Josh Ockimey was batting. Matheny sped home on the passed ball, putting Salem ahead 1-0.
The Hillcats jumped ahead in the top of the third against Sox starting pitcher Matthew Kent (W, 4-2). With one out, Jodd Carter hit a wall-scraping solo homer to right to tie the game, and Salters followed that with a single. With two away, Willi Castro pounded a huge homer to left, a two-run shot that ran Lynchburg’s lead to 3-1. Salem chipped away a bit in the bottom of the fourth, as Jose Sermo lifted an opposite-field solo homer to left. It was his fourth dinger of 2017, and cut Lynchburg’s lead to 3-2.
Salem moved back in front in the bottom of the fifth inning. Bryan Hudson reached on an infield single, and Sicnarf Loopstok’s errant throw allowed him to speed to second. Jeremy Rivera worked a walk to put runners at first and second with no outs. Tate Matheny dropped a bunt to the right side, and Loopstok’s throw to first was again off-line; the miscue allowed Hudson to score, while Rivera reached third and Matheny advanced to second. De La Guerra brought Rivera in on a groundout to first while Matheny beat a path for third, and Chavis blooped a single into right field, scoring Matheny and giving Salem a 5-3 lead they would not relinquish. Lynchburg threatened, getting the tying run to the plate or on base in each of the last three innings, but Austin Glorius and Marc Brakeman (S, 1) combined for 2.2 scoreless innings of relief to slam the door and secure the win for Salem.
Kent gave up three runs on eight hits and three walks over 6.1 innings, whiffing three. Glorius gave up two walks against two strikeouts in two-thirds of an inning. Brakeman fired two shutout frames, fanning three against one walk.
The Sox will try for a third straight win when they go on the road Thursday to open a four-game set against the Winston-Salem Dash. Righty Daniel Gonzalez will be on the hill for Salem against Dash lefty Tanner Banks. First pitch from BB&T Ballpark is set for 7:05 p.m., and Ben Gellman’s pregame show starts at 6:45 on the Red Sox Radio Network.
Lynchburg begins its final homestand before the All-Star Break when it faces Frederick Thursday at 6:30 p.m. The Hillcats will play eight games at City Stadium over the next seven days, including their first four matchups of the season against the Frederick Keys. Triston McKenzie (3-3, 2.65) will start the series opener.