Carolina Mudcats put up 4-run 6th to beat the Winston-Salem Dash
ZEBULON, N.C. — The Carolina offense remained as hot as Monday afternoon’s weather as the Mudcats (16-10, 45-48) took down the Winston-Salem Dash (13-13, 43-52) by a score of 6-4.
After trailing for much of the game despite holding an initial advantage, the Mudcats grabbed the lead back during a four-run bottom of the sixth, highlighted by homers from Yandy Diaz andAlex Monsalve.
Carolina got to Dash starter Tony Bucciferro (6-9, 4.33 ERA) in the bottom of the first as Erik Gonzalez quickly extended his hit streak to nine games with a one-out double, then advanced to third on Joe Sever’s deep fly out to right. This allowed Diaz to put the Mudcats ahead with an RBI single up the middle as Carolina took a 1-0 lead.
The Mudcats doubled their advantage an inning later. Luigi Rodriguez earned a walk before James Robertssingled and Ryan Battaglia watched ball four to load the bases with only one away. Todd Hankins then chopped what could have been an inning-ending double play ball to second, but Joey DeMichele couldn’t get the ball out of his glove cleanly meaning the Dash could only get one out on the play as Rodriguez scored to put the Mudcats up 2-0.
But the Dash rallied back in the top of the third roughing up Mudcats starter Michael Peoples. Omar Navarez walked on four pitches before Cleuluis Rondon sent a bloop single to right, just over the head of Sever at first. Peoples then buckled down retiring Jacob May and Keenyn Walker. But the next batter, Courtney Hawkins, got Winston-Salem on the board with an RBI single to center. Peoples then gifted the Dash another run as a pair of wild pitches to Jason Coats plated Rondon and moved Hawkins all the way up to third as Winston-Salem tied the game at 2. Coats then continued to make Peoples pay with a triple to dead center as the Dash spurted ahead 3-2.
These would be the only Dash runs off Peoples, who earned no decision after going 5.0 innings Monday. He allowed three earned runs on four hits while only walking one and striking out four.
Mudcats manager Scooter Tucker was pleased with the right-hander’s ability to cope with the draining midday summer heat.
“He’s a guy that really hasn’t been extended past five or so innings very often, so that’s about all we were really looking for today with the weather the way it was,” said Tucker. “Overall, he did a good job getting us to the bullpen at the right time, he had a few little rough spots but made some good adjustments.”
Carolina’s offense then exploded in the sixth as they retook the lead. Diaz began the rally with a homerun, the first of his career, to level the score at 3. After a Jerrud Sabourin groundout, Monsalve deposited Bucciferro’s offering over the fence in left putting the Mudcats ahead 4-3.
Tucker felt the two homeruns in such quick succession energized his guys, while deflating the Dash: “Back-to-back homeruns, or close to them, usually seem to knock a lot of wind out of the other team’s sail especially when it’s to tie and go ahead. Two big swings there, and our guys really started feeding off of it.”
With two outs in the inning and two men on, Hankins sent a liner just fair towards the left field corner, easily enough to drive in his second and third RBI’s of the afternoon as the centerfielder cruised into third with a triple after putting his team up 6-3.
Hankins credited hitting coach Tony Mansolino for helping him make the adjustments that facilitated the big hit.
“My first couple at-bats I was seeing a lot of off-speed stuff and not doing a good job of staying back, and our hitting coach was letting me know,” Hankins said. “I made the adjustment and with a new pitcher in the next time up, I was patient but looking for a fastball and got it the second pitch.”
Winston-Salem clawed one back in the top of the seventh off reliever Clayton Cook (2-3, 5.08). Nick Basto and Navarez opened the frame with a pair of singles, with the duo advancing to second and third after Rondon’s groundout to first. May followed with a groundout to second, enough to score Basto as the Dash drew within two at 6-4.
However, they would not get any closer as Cook, Ben Heller and Josh Martin combined for 4.0 innings of solid relief, allowing just one run. Martin earned his first save of the year, not yielding a hit in his 2.0 innings.
Tucker had compliments across the board for the trio’s relief effort: “They all did a really good job. They pitched out of, sometimes after pitching into, some really tough spots. We probably used more (relievers) than usual with the day off tomorrow, but they all stepped up for us.”
With Monday’s win, the Mudcats have now won four of their last five series. Asked about the reasons behind the lengthy hot spell, Tucker pointed to his team’s consistent effort.
“They’re playing hard, and they’re playing hard the whole game which I guess can translate into confidence,” he said. “We’ve told them, you’re going to make errors and mistakes, that’s just where we are. The effort, though, always has to be there and it has been,” added Carolina’s skipper.
Hankins agreed that his team’s hard work is paying off, and the centerfielder can see confidence and enthusiasm spreading through the Mudcats clubhouse.
“It’s a lot more fun when you win the games, everything from showing up to the field to take batting practice to the games,” Hankins said. “There’s a lot more talking going on, guys are enjoying themselves. It’s a great environment to be around when you’re winning,” added Cleveland’s 15th-round pick in 2011.
Carolina will have Tuesday off before traveling to Lynchburg for three games against the Hillcats beginning Wednesday. In the opener, the Mudcats will start D.J. Brown (2-5, 4.79 ERA) against Lucas Sims (6-8, 4.97 ERA) in a matchup of righties.
First pitch is set for 7:05 p.m.