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Gonzalez, Mudcats cruise past Dash, 9-2

Carolina smacked 14 hits in Friday's win over Winston-Salem.

Gonzalez, Mudcats cruise past Dash, 9-2
Carolina shortstop Erik Gonzalez had a memorable game on Friday. Gonzalez went 3-for-5, and belted a grand slam in the third inning his third of the season. (Photo credit: Tony Lastoria)
July 11, 2014
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ZEBULON, NC — An Erik Gonzalez grand slam propelled the Carolina Mudcats to a 9-2 win over the Winston-Salem Dash on Friday.

The Mudcats threatened to open the scoring in the bottom of the first after Gonzalez’s one out base hit to right. The Carolina shortstop took big leads off first, noticeably perturbing Dash starter Angel Sanchez (1-1, 4.26).

Sanchez struck out Joe Sever, but Gonzalez managed to create mayhem with Yandy Diaz at the plate. Sanchez attempted to pick Gonzalez off at first, but his throw got past Keon Barnum at first and went into the Winston-Salem bullpen down the right field line.

Gonzalez immediately took off to second, and was eventually waved home by manager Scooter Tucker. However, Gonzalez couldn’t get past Omar Navarez’s tag as he was retired to end the inning

The breakthrough came off Sanchez in the bottom of the third. Singles from Alex MonsalveJames Roberts and Luigi Rodriguez loaded the bases with nobody out.

Sanchez managed to get the first out on a comebacker to the mound from Todd Hankins, but Gonzalez then cleared the bases with a grand slam to right as Carolina grabbed a 4-0 advantage.

Gonzalez’s first career grand slam was about taking advantage of a bad pitch, the shortstop said.

“I was looking for a fastball,” said Gonzalez. “It was a mistake and I got it,” Gonzalez added with a smile beaming from ear to ear.

Tucker felt jumping out to the four-run lead was important for his club: “A grand slam is always a big momentum boost. It really gets you going.”

Winston-Salem got on the board and threatened with a rally of their own in the top of the fifth. Joey DeMichele opened the inning with a single to right before a pair of base hits from Navarez and Justin Jirschele loaded the bases.

Mudcats starter Adam Plutko (2-4, 4.31) minimized the damage, forcing Cleuluis Rondon to ground into a double play as the Dash scored their first run. Plutko then forced Jacob May to pop out ending the inning and escaping the jam with Carolina up 4-1.

This would be the only run Winston-Salem would manage off Plutko. The right-hander bounced back well Friday, following his shortest outing of the year by allowing one earned run on five hits in 7.0 innings. He struck out nine and walked one while cruising to his second win with the Mudcats.

Tucker praised the outing from Plutko: “I thought he pitched well. He stayed ahead in counts and let them put the ball in play when he had to. He was just much more under control tonight.”

Carolina quickly got the run back and added to their lead with a rally of their own in the bottom of the sixth. After Diaz’s one-out single, a Jeremy Lucas double put a pair in scoring position before Sanchez loaded the bases by walking Jerrud Sabourin.

Monsalve then brought in a run after a fielding error by Keon Barnum on a grounder to first. Roberts followed with a sacrifice fly plating Lucas as the Mudcats extended their lead to 6-1.

The inning also saw Sanchez chased from the contest after 5.2 innings. The righty took the loss for Winston-Salem allowing six runs, five earned, on nine hits. Sanchez stuck out three and walked one.

The Mudcats added to their lead in the bottom of the seventh off Dash reliever David Putman. Gonzalez opened with a single to right then advanced to third on Putman’s wild pitch to the next batter, Sever. Putman struck out Sever and Diaz, but issued walks to Lucas and Sabourin as Carolina mounted a threat. Monsalve then brought in Gonzalez and Lucas with a base hit up the middle as Carolina’s lead ballooned to a comfortable seven-run margin at 8-1. 

Carolina tacked on an additional run in the bottom of the eighth as Sever’s sacrifice fly to right scored Rodriguez allowing the Mudcats to take a 9-1 lead into the ninth.

With his offense on fire, Tucker can’t explain the hot bats but just hopes they can keep it up.

“I really have no idea what’s behind it, if I did I’d have it working all the time,” Tucker said with a smile. “I’ve always said hitting is contagious good or bad, and it’s been good lately,” added the Mudcats skipper.

Winston-Salem added a run in the top of the ninth off Rob Nixon as Jirschele’s one-out groundout scored Jason Coates to make it 9-2.

The Mudcats improve to 14-9 on the second half and 43-47 overall. The loss drops the Dash to 12-11 since the halfway point to sit at 42-50 overall.

The series continues Saturday from Five County Stadium, as Carolina will start lefty Shawn Morimando (8-3, 3.10) against Winston-Salem right-hander Tyler Danish (2-1, 4.29).

First pitch is set for 6:00 PM EST.  

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