Sweep times two: Salem takes doubleheader for second night in a row

salem red soxAfter not playing any baseball for about 140 hours, the Salem Red Sox won four games in a 29-hour span over Potomac, bolting past Carolina and Winston-Salem to lead the race for the final playoff spot. With two well-pitched victories (2-1 and 3-1) on Thursday, the Sox gained momentum in their quest to return to the Carolina League playoffs and defend their 2013 championship.. With 19 games remaining, the Red Sox are a half-game ahead of the Mudcats and one game better than the Dash.

Simon Mercedes and Heri Quevedo helped hurl the Sox past the Nationals on Thursday, with each Dominican righty earning a victory. For each, it was their first taste of Carolina League success in quite some time, as Mercedes had not won since May 23, while Quevedo’s last triumph came in the Mills Cup Championship Series last September.

Mercedes dueled with Potomac’s Brian Rauh in the opener, with the game staying scoreless through six innings. In the seventh, Reed Gragnani led off with a double and advanced to third on Mario Martinez’s single. The Sox attempted a safety squeeze, and it appeared that Dreily Guerrero’s bunt would not get the job done. But Potomac first-baseman Shawn Pleffner’s throw home soared way over the catcher’s head, allowing Gragnani to score and give the Sox a 1-0 lead. One batter later, Jake Romanski’s RBI ground out plated Martinez to make it 2-0.

In the last of the seventh, Matty Ott surrendered one run on Brandon Miller’s RBI double, but Pedro Severino lined out with the tying run at second, and the Sox survived with a 2-1 win.

The Nationals matched their scoring output from game one in the opening inning of the nightcap, taking advantage of a Salem error that allowed Tony Renda to scurry home from second. But Potomac’s 1-0 lead had little shelf life, with Martinez opening the second inning with a double and Leonel Escobar driving him in with a single to tie it up.

In the second, Matty Johnson’s leadoff single–extending his hitting streak to 14 consecutive games–preceded Jantzen Witte’s RBI fielder’s choice to give the Sox a 2-1 edge. One inning later, Kendrick Perkins launched a towering solo homer for his first Carolina League bomb, giving Salem a 3-1 advantage.

The two-run cushion was enough for Quevedo, who struck out seven over five innings and did not allow another run after the unearned tally scratched him in the first. Madison Younginer struck out two over two hitless frames out of the bullpen to earn his second save of the season.

The Salem Sox are back at LewisGale Field on Friday night for a three-game weekend series against Myrtle Beach. Cody Kukuk takes the mound in the opener, opposite Pelican lefty Victory Payano. First pitch is slated for 7:05.

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