Salem loses pitchers’ duel with Keys

Keith Couch was very, very good, but Trent Howard was even better on Saturday night, shutting down the Sox for six shutout innings in Frederick’s 1-0 win over Salem at LewisGale Field.

Howard scattered one hit and two walks, retiring the final 11 batters he faced over six innings in his second ever Carolina League start. Two Keys relievers pitched in and out of trouble, navigating through Salem opportunities as the Sox came up empty with runners in scoring position in the seventh and eighth frames. Couch permitted just four hits in six phenomenal innings, but one big swing from Aaron Baker provided all the offense Frederick needed in acquiring its fourth shutout win of the season. It was the second shutout loss for the Red Sox.

The lone tally came on the second pitch of the fifth inning, with Baker launching his sixth homer of the year deep over the right field wall. The bomb on the 1-0 delivery from Couch broke the scoreless draw and gave the Keys a 1-zip lead that would not be relinquished.

If not for Xander Bogaerts’ infield single to third base in the second inning, Howard would have dealt six no-hit innings. When Matt Bywater replaced Howard in the top of the seventh, Bogaerts led off with Salem’s second hit of the day, drilling a hard line drive to greet the Keys’ reliever. After Christian Vazquez dropped down a sac bunt that moved Bogaerts to second, Shannon Wilkerson’s looping line drive single to center moved the potential tying run to third with just one away. But Bywater struck out Michael Almanzar and induced a James Kang line-out to left to escape the precarious threat.

In the last of the eighth, Jackie Bradley, Jr. cracked a one-out double down the right-field line to give Salem another opportunity with the tying run in scoring position. But once again, Bywater rung up the next two Salem hitters to preserve the shutout, punching out Sean Coyle and Travis Shaw to retire the side.

Salem struck out twice more in the bottom of the ninth against Ryan Berry, who dealt a perfect final frame to earn his first save of the season. Howard picked up his first Carolina League victory, while Couch, as the hard-luck loser, saw his record drop to 4-3.

Having fallen in two straight tight games against the Keys, the Salem Sox will seek to avoid a sweep in the three-game series on Sunday. Brandon Workman will make his sixth start of the year opposite Kyle Simon, who is slated to make his ninth start for Frederick. First pitch is scheduled for 4:05.


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