Pelicans sneak past Salem Red Sox
Pelicans third baseman Christian Villanueva drove in five runs, all with two outs, including an RBI single off Pete Ruiz in the top of the ninth that broke a 5-5 tie and lifted the Birds in front. Although the Red Sox loaded the bases in the bottom of the ninth, Lucas LeBlanc grounded to shortstop for a game-ending fielder’s choice. Salem left 12 runners on and bizarrely lost two runs at home plate in the first inning.
A topsy-turvy first inning resulted with the Red Sox in front 3-1, a strange conclusion considering Salem’s chances to score even more. The first six batters of the bottom of the first reached base against Pelicans starter Kyle Hendricks, with Salem leading 3-1 after four singles, a walk, and a hit-by-pitch. Adalberto Ibarra flew out to left with the bases loaded, and Pelican outfielder Santiago Chirino fired a strike home to gun down Xander Bogaerts as he attempted to score from third. After the double play, LeBlanc hammered a single down the left-field line, and Michael Almanzar sprinted toward home from second while Christian Vazquez hurried to third from first. Chirino threw out Vazquez at third-base, and the umpire John Bacon ruled that Almanzar had not touched the plate before the tag at third. Despite a vociferous plea from Salem skipper Billy McMillon that Almanzar had actually scored, the controversial decision would not change and the Sox only led by two.
The score remained 3-1 into the sixth inning, when Myrtle Beach capitalized on a strikeout wild pitch that eventually led to a run. Brett Nicholas cut and missed on a Jeremiah Bayer breaking ball, but raced safely to first as the ball squirted past Vazquez at the dish. Four batters later, Nicholas scored on Chirino’s two-out RBI single to bring the Birds back within one at 3-2.
In the top of the seventh, Villanueva launched a three-run homer with two gone off Ruiz to surge the Pelicans back in front. Up 5-3, reliever Ben Henry could not sustain the difference, as Bogaerts crushed a solo homer in the last of the seventh and Ibarra doubled home Almanzar from first to tie it up. The Bogaerts bomb, his 13th of the season, soared over the batters’ eye in straight-away center, clearing the 401-foot marker. Bogaerts finished with three hits, while Ibarra added two doubles, his first multi-double game of the season, for the Sox.
Almanzar went 4-for-4 with a walk to extend his streak to 13 consecutive plate appearances reaching base. In his last three games, Almanzar has gone 8-for-8 with four walks and a hit-by-pitch, a remarkable stretch of success. Alas, the Sox have only tasted victory one time in the last three games.
Despite allowing a pair of runs, Henry picked up the win to improve to 4-1, while Ruiz suffered the loss, dropping to 4-2. Ben Rowen pitched around two hits and a hit-batter in the ninth, earning his 11th save for the Pelicans.
Barnes struck out three and did not walk anybody in five solid innings, permitting five hits (all singles) and one run. He departed with a 3-1 lead, but his stretch of 40 consecutive days without a victory will grow to at least 45. Barnes has not won since June 14; he’s slated to be back on the mound for the Sox on Sunday afternoon against Lynchburg.