Boston’s first-round pick dazzles against Dash

Matt Barnes flashed his fastball, commanded his curve, mixed in his change, and never once looked overwhelmed in his first Advanced-A opportunity.

With 12 strikeouts in six innings, Barnes tossed 70 of his 92 pitches for strikes in Salem’s 6-4 victory over Winston-Salem on Saturday night at BB&T Ballpark. The Dash scored a single run against Barnes in the last of the sixth, but with multiple runners aboard, he picked up his 11th and 12th punchouts consecutively, finishing off Winston’s cleanup man Dan Black with a breaking-ball on his 92nd and final pitch of the night. In six professional appearances since being drafted in the first round out of UConn, Barnes has compiled a remarkable 54 strikeouts compared to just five walks.

Offensively, Salem used a five-run third inning to collect all the offense it would need to even its series with Winston at one game apiece heading into Sunday’s rubber match. Dash starter Ryan Buch had struck out four over two scoreless innings, but Shannon Wilkerson’s one-out double commenced a stretch of five straight Red Sox reaching base in the third. Following Wilkerson’s double, consecutive walks to Jackie Bradley, Jr. and Sean Coyle loaded the bases for Travis Shaw. The slugging first-baseman proceeded to clear the bases with a laser-beam double into the right-center field gap, lifting the Red Sox to a 3-0 advantage. Brandon Jacobs drove in Shaw with an RBI single to left, and the score became 5-0 when Jacobs stole second and advanced home on two Dash errors. Trying to throw out the basestealer, Mike Blanke fired a fastball into center field, and it rolled under the glove of Trayce Thompson as Jacobs easily trotted home.

Salem added to its lead in the fifth, with Bradley drawing his third walk of the day to begin the frame. Three batters later, he scored on Jacobs’ RBI grounder, giving the Sox a 6-0 cushion. Although the Sox only finished the game with five hits, the offense was buoyed by Barnes’ dominant pitching performance.

Marcus Semien battled through an 11-pitch at bat to begin the first inning against Barnes, singling to left to culminate the feisty combat. Undeterred, Barnes picked up his first strikeout by whiffing Carlos Sanchez and then induced a first-pitch double-play from Thompson. The first was the only inning in which Barnes failed to strike out multiple batters, punching out two in every other frame except the fifth, when he struck out the side in order. In his Salem debut, he finished with one run allowed on four hits over six innings, punching out a career-high 12 while walking one.

The Dash scored three unearned runs off Jeremiah Bayer in the bottom of the eighth, but Andrew Jones and Mike Olmsted tag-teamed to close out the game, with Olmsted retiring the final batter with the tying runs on base to earn his sixth save of the year. Although the Dash outhit the Sox 7-5, Winston left seven men aboard and went just 2-for-8 with men in scoring position.

Shaw (three) and Jacobs (two) drove in all five Red Sox runs, while Bradley scored twice, reaching base four times with three walks and a hit-by-pitch. Buch suffered the loss for Winston, tagged for five runs (four earned) over three innings.

Inching within a game and a half of the first-place Dash with Saturday’s win, the Red Sox will try to make it two out of three against the Dash in Sunday’s series finale. The matinee will commence at 2 PM, with Drake Britton scheduled to start opposite Matt Heidenreich.


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