Mudcats come up just short vs. Red Sox, lose 3-2
Carolina could not comeback to beat Salem on Saturday
ZEBULON, NC -- A late rally from the Carolina Mudcats fell short as the Salem Red Sox escaped Five County Stadium with a 3-2 win on Saturday night.
After trailing by two runs for most of the game, the Mudcats began to fight their way back in the final two frames.
In the bottom of the eighth, Yhoxian Medina earned a leadoff walk and used his speed to steal second base to give Carolina a scoring opportunity. After a Logan Vick strike out, LeVon Washington scored Medina with a line drive shot into shallow right that bounced off the outstretched glove of Aneury Tavarez.
Reliever Clayton Cook kept the Red Sox batters off the bases in the top of the ninth to set up an exciting finish for the crowd of 6,900.
Down 3-2 heading in the bottom of the ninth, the Mudcats put together a single from Yandy Diaz and walks of Jeremy Lucas and Jerrud Sabourin to load the bases. Yhoxian Medina came to the plate with the chance to cap the second comeback win in a row for the Mudcats, but after falling behind 0-2 and fouling off a couple of pitches, the Carolina second baseman finally went down swinging for a disappointing end to the low scoring affair.
Despite the tough loss, manager Scooter Tucker was proud of his ball club and had no complaints.
"You have to give yourself a chance to win and sometimes that's all you can do," said Tucker. "We did that and we had a shot".
"You always want to come through in that position but it was just another good game," he went on to say.
Carolina starter Cole Sulser (3-8, 5.09) was in control of Red Sox hitters early but a tough fourth inning gave him the loss. The right hander surrendered just three earned runs off of four hits and three walks in just 5.1 innings. Sulser added five strike outs on the night, bringing his season total to ninety.
"I thought he played great," Tucker said. "He had a tough inning but other than that he gave us a nice game and kept us in the game".
Red Sox starter Pat Light (3-4, 5.92) produced one of his best outings of the season on Saturday night. The big right hander hurled 6.0 innings in which he allowed just one earned run off of three hits and two walks on his way to the win.
Dayan Diaz earned the save for the Red Sox after keeping Carolina from scoring in the bottom of the ninth.
Earlier in the game, the Mudcats created a one run lead in the third behind back to back doubles from the bottom half of the order. Yhoxian Medina first poked a double down the third baseline and then rounded home after a Logan Vick double bounced off the wall in right.
Carolina's one run lead was short lived as Salem began to build their own lead behind a couple of fourth inning scores. Sulser had kept the Red Sox hitless through the first three frames, but a Mike Miller leadoff single put the Red Sox in business.
From there, Sulser began to struggle with his command on his way to consecutive walks of Carson Blair and Kevin Heller that loaded the bases. Aneury Tavarez made him pay with an RBI single to right that knotted the game at one run apiece. Sulser's third walk of the inning brought another run in, giving the Red Sox a 2-1 advantage.
With the bases still loaded, Salem short stop Jose Vinicio hacked his way to a three pitch strike out that ended the inning.
Sulser recovered to make quick work of the Red Sox in the top of the fifth but a one out triple from Aneury Tavarez in the sixth brought the Carolina starter's night to an end.
Clayton Cook replaced Sulser and gave up a sac fly to Ryan Dent that scored Tavarez from third to make it 3-1. The right hander got out of the inning by forcing a Jordan Weems ground out to first that kept the damage to a minimum.
Cook pitched well in relief of Sulser and held the Red Sox scoreless so that his Mudcat hitters could begin their late rally. In 3.2 scoreless innings, Cook allowed only two hits and fanned four in the process.
The reliever's effort had the approval of his manager and teammates.
"I thought he was outstanding. His ball had great movement tonight, he threw multiple pitches during the outing, and I was very encouraged by what I saw," said Tucker.
While Carolina's batters managed to make good contact, the offensive production that has been typical of the second half was not there tonight. Home plate umpire Adam Beck seemed to frustrate both hitters and pitchers with what appeared to be an inconsistent strike zone which may have played a factor.
"You try not to let it affect you at all and you try to not let it expand your zone as a hitter," said Tucker.
But he went on to acknowledge that the calls did not seem to favor one side or the other.
The loss ends Carolina's four game winning-streak and puts them at 10-7 for the second half and 39-45 on the year. Salem improves to 8-8 during the second half and 41-43 overall.
The Mudcats resume their series with the Salem Red Sox on Sunday afternoon. Right hander Adam Plutko (1-3, 3.92) is prepared to take the mound for Carolina and will face Salem south paw Corey Littrell (4-4, 4.23). First pitch is set for 2:00 PM.
Daniel is a communication and broadcast media major at North Carolina State University.