Diaz, Merritt dominate as Mudcats crush Pelicans 6-1
Yandy Diaz went 2-for-4 with a double and 4 RBI in Sunday's win.
Diaz went 2-for-4 with four RBI’s, including three on his key seventh inning double that sealed the victory for Carolina.
In his first outing since starting the All-Star for the Carolina League Tuesday, Merritt was brilliant in an eight-inning outing in which he was a master of efficiency. The southpaw threw only 87 pitches allowing one run on three hits.
Manager Scooter Tucker praised Merritt’s ability to pitch to his strengths: “He’s not a power pitcher, so there’s no use trying to strike everybody out. His attempt to get you out is getting you out in front for weak contact. Honestly, the earlier you make contact the better off he feels.”
Carolina broke the deadlock in the bottom of the third thanks to a favorable bounce from the hometown turf. With LeVon Washington on third and two outs, Diaz’s chopper to short skipped right over the outstretched arm of befuddled Myrtle Beach shortstop Hanser Alberto to put the Mudcats up 1-0.
This would be the lone run generated by the Mudcats off Pelicans starter Victor Payano (3-4, 5.01). The towering lefty took the loss going 3.2 innings allowing the one earned run on seven hits. Surprisingly, the Mudcats earned just one walk off the Carolina League leader in bases on balls issued.
The Mudcats provided more than enough insurance for Merritt in the bottom of the seventh. Alex Monsalve singled to start the rally then took second on his first stolen base of the season. After James Roberts lined out, Luigi Rodriguez singled up the middle, but Tucker elected to hold Monsalve at third as Rodriguez alertly took second on the throw home. With Washington batting, Pelicans reliever Cody Buckel’s wild pitch allowed Monsalve to slide in safely as the Mudcats doubled their lead.
Although Washington ultimately struck out, walks to Todd Hankins and Erik Gonzalez loaded the bases for Diaz with two outs. After falling behind 0-2, Diaz battled back to a full count. The Carolina cleanup man then broke the game wide open on a bases clearing double down the left field line. Joe Sever followed with a bloop single over second baseman Christopher Bostick to bring in Diaz and put Carolina up 6-0.
Tucker was pleased with Diaz’s patience during the pivotal at-bat.
“He’s been pretty patient since he got back (from injury). He did well not trying to do too much and came up with the big hit,” Tucker said.
Myrtle Beach finally managed to get a run off Merritt through back-to-back hits in the eighth. Jose Cardona reached on a grounder up the middle as James Roberts couldn’t get a throw off with his momentum carrying him away from first. Luis Mendez followed with a double off the wall in left on a line drive that just missed clearing the fences. Merritt retired the next batter to end the inning, but the Mudcats still elected to go to the bullpen for the last three outs.
Jacob Lee closed the door for the Mudcats with a one-two-three top of the ninth as Carolina took the first of three with the Pelicans.
Carolina has opened up the second half with a 3-1 start to sit at 32-39 for the full 2014 campaign.