The Salem Red Sox overcame two-run deficits to take the lead in both games on Sunday, but only managed one win against the visiting Blue Rocks at LewisGale Field.
Salem scored the final five runs in a 7-4 triumph to begin the day, but dropped the nightcap 5-4 in 11 innings, failing to hold on to a 4-3 lead after eight. The Sox are now just a game and a half ahead of the Carolina Mudcats, who beat Winston-Salem on Sunday, in the race for the final playoff spot in the Southern Division. Salem has 10 games over eight days remaining in the regular season.
Carlos Asauje, Reed Gragnani, Jantzen Witte, and Mario Martinez all had three hits for the Sox in Saturday’s contest, which resumed in the sixth inning on Sunday. Down 4-2, Salem immediately capitalized on its bases loaded opportunity, plating three runs to surge ahead 5-4. In the last of the eighth, the Sox subscribed to a two-run insurance policy, taking a 7-4 lead that would hold up behind the strong relief work of Madison Younginer and Matty Ott.
In Sunday’s regularly scheduled contest, both Sean Manaea and Jacob Dahlstrand tossed seven innings quickly, and the Blue Rocks led 3-2 into the eighth. Matty Johnson greeted reliever Luis Santos with a leadoff double, and Asauje followed up with an RBI double of his own to tie the score at three. After a sac bunt from Gragnani and an intentional walk of Witte, Martinez laced a line drive to left-center. Even though Bubba Starling made the running catch, Asauje sprinted home and gave the Sox a 4-3 lead on the sacrifice fly.
The Blue Rocks rallied in the top of the ninth, however, with Starling leading off with a single, stealing second, and scoring on Frank Schwindel’s double to left. All square at four, the Sox went 1-2-3 in the last of the ninth and the two clubs journeyed into extras for the second time in three days.
The Sox missed a golden chance to win it in the last of the 10th, failing to deliver despite back-to-back singles from Johnson and Asuaje to start the frame. And in the top of the 11th, the Blue Rocks mustered a run, taking advantage of a leadoff walk issued to Raul Mondesi. A balk moved him to second, a wild pitch urged him to third, and Schwindel hammered an RBI single to left to bring him home and make the score 5-4.
In Salem’s final chance, Blue Rocks reliever Kyle Bartsch struck out the side to give Wilmington the win.
Johnson led the Red Sox with three hits in the Sunday game, extending his consecutive games on base streak to 25 in a row. Asauje went 5-for-7 with three walks in the two contests on Saturday and Sunday, giving him a 10-game hitting streak.
The Sox and Rocks wrap up their four-game set on Monday evening, with Pat Light scheduled to pitch opposite Carolina League ERA-leader Glenn Sparkman. First pitch of the regular season finale at LewisGale Field is set for 7:05.