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Salem steamrolls Myrtle Beach

Salem scored in five consecutive innings, building a 9-0 lead by bruising and battering Myrtle Beach’s top notch pitching staff in a 12-1 LewisGale Field laugher on Sunday afternoon.

Travis Shaw and Xander Bogaerts each homered and recorded three hits, leading the Sox’ 18-hit barrage against three Pelican righthanders. Salem set new season highs with eight doubles and ten extra-base knocks, avenging a pair of frustrating losses on Saturday with a cathartic butt-whipping on Sunday. To make a good day great, Winston-Salem’s loss moved the Salem Sox within a game and a half of first place heading into the Sox and Dash’s pivotal four-game series that begins on Monday.

Eleven position players took the field for the Sox, and every one of them picked up at least one hit. Michael Almanzar joined Shaw and Bogaerts in the three-hit club,  while Christian Vazquez added a pair of singles and an RBI. Seven different Sox drove in runs, with Shaw, Bogaerts, Matty Johnson, and Jackie Bradley, Jr. each driving in a pair. In the seventh inning, James Kang and Felix Sanchez entered as defensive replacements for Bogaerts and Bradley, and both substitutes delivered singles in their premier at-bats.

Salem starter Keith Couch tossed six superb innings, surrendering just one run on five hits to improve to 5-3 and shrink his ERA to 3.23. Couch did not strike anybody out, but utilized some great defense behind him to avoid the big inning. Charlie Rosario relieved Couch in the seventh and tossed three scoreless in his Carolina League debut to earn the save.

Myrtle Beach starter Roman Mendez, formerly of the Red Sox organization before being dealt at the 2010 deadline in the Jarrod Saltalamacchia deal, was pummeled in his three and two-thirds innings on the mound. He only recorded 11 outs, while giving up ten hits, two walks, and eight runs, all earned, raising his ERA from 4.11 to 5.17. Seven of the ten hits he allowed went for extra-bases in the first four innings of the ballgame.

Surprisingly, Bogaerts’ two-run bomb in the fourth was the only swing of the day that produced multiple runs. The home run was Bogaerts’ fifth of the season and momentarily tied him for the team lead in round trippers until Travis Shaw belted a solo shot, his sixth of the year, to lead off the sixth. The Sox improved to 16-2 in games when they belt a homer with Sunday’s triumph.

Myrtle Beach third-baseman Christian Villanueva belted a solo shot of his own on the first pitch of the sixth inning, scoring the only Pelicans run and providing the lone scratch on Couch’s otherwise sterling stat line.

While the Pelicans could not score, neither Couch nor Rosario could strike them out either. It wasn’t until Jake Skole swung and missed for the first out in the ninth that Salem punched out a Pelican batter. It was the only strikeout of the game for the Sox pitchers; previously, Sox arms had K’d at least three in every game this year.

At 31-23, the Red Sox trail the first-place Dash (33-22) by a game and a half in the Southern Division first-half pennant chase. Salem hosts Winston on Monday with a showcase pitching matchup on tap: Matt Barnes faces Matt Heidenreich in a rematch of Winston’s 1-0 win from back on May 24. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 at LewisGale Field in each of the four ballgames in the series.