Salem completes sweep of Mudcats
Keith Couch became the fifth Salem starter to earn a victory in the last five games, delivering another sterling performance to perpetuate the consistency of the starting rotation. Salem’s quintet of starters—Drake Britton, Miguel Celestino, Brandon Workman, Ryan Pressly, and Couch—has tossed 29.1 innings over the past five games, allowing just three earned runs on 16 hits, an ERA of 0.92. On Sunday, Couch worked into the seventh inning and struck out five, pelting the scoreboard with zeroes to improve to 3-1 on the season.
While the pitching has been the storyline for the past five days, the top of the lineup was the top star for Salem on Sunday, with Jackie Bradley, Jr., Sean Coyle, and Brandon Jacobs combining for seven of the Sox’ nine hits and scoring seven of their eight runs. Salem scored twice in the last of the first, surged to a 3-0 lead after two innings, and boosted the advantage to 6-zip through four.
Carolina starter Michael Goodnight issued five walks in his three plus innings, including a free pass to Bradley to begin the ballgame. Bradley stole second and scored Salem’s first run when Sean Coyle doubled him home. Later in the frame, Coyle crossed on Shannon Wilkerson’s sac fly and the Sox led 2-0. An inning later, Bradley singled with two outs, stole second again, and scored on the first of three Mudcats’ fielding errors.
In the fourth, four straight Red Sox reached to begin the inning and knock Goodnight out of the game. Another Mudcats error allowed Salem to make it 4-0, while Jacobs’ RBI single and Drew Hedman’s RBI ground-out combined to give the Sox a 6-0 edge. Two innings after that, Hedman smacked a bases-loaded double down the right field line, scoring a pair and giving the Sox an 8-0 lead. Hedman matched his season-high with three RBI.
Carolina scored a pair of unearned runs in the top of the seventh to break up the shutout, inching within five on Anthony Gallas’ solo homer to lead off the ninth. But neither Andrew Jones or Ruben Flores ever felt seriously threatened in their relief roles, pitching with plenty of cushion thanks to Salem’s early offense. Jones did not allow a hit over an inning and a third, while Flores yielded the solo homer but struck out one while closing out the win.
In the three game sweep of Carolina, the Sox outscored the Mudcats 18-7. Salem also stole 14 bases in 14 tries in the series.
The Sox hope to ride the momentum of their five-game winning streak into a week-long road trip, beginning Monday evening in Wilmington. Drake Britton gets the start for Salem opposite Blue Rocks righty Greg Billo, with the first pitch set for 6:35 from Frawley Stadium.