Mudcats let Red Sox snag 4-2 win in extras
ZEBULON, N.C. – After tying the game in the bottom of the ninth inning, the Carolina Mudcats lost a battle to the Salem Red Sox 4-2 in 12 innings on Saturday night. The loss drops Carolina four games behind Salem in the division race with nine games remaining.
Mudcats manager David Wallace was proud of the effort put forward by the team, but said they did not really deserve to win the game.
“I’m proud of the way the guys fought, but we didn’t really do the things we needed to to win the game. Mental mistakes we made early came back to bite us there in the end," Wallace said. “I’m proud of the fact our guys really believed we were going to win right until the end. We’re going to fight now, being this close to the playoffs.”
Right hander Francisco Valera ran into in the 12th inning after giving up a lead-off single and a walk to follow. After a wild pitch allowed both runners to advance to second and third. A double to center field allowed both runners to score and for the Red Sox to take the lead.
Right hander Robert Whitenack took the mound for Carolina and gave the Mudcats another dominant pitching performance from a starter. Over six innings, Whitenack allowed only one hit, a solo home run, and two walks to go along with four strikeouts.
Wallace had nothing but good things to say about Whitenack.
“We’re so proud of him. He showed a lot of guts to weather that storm there in the first. He deserved to win that game we just couldn’t back him up,” Wallace said.
Whitenack had trouble finding his command in the first inning, walking the first two batters he faced on a combined 10 pitches. Despite allowing two runners to reach on free passes, Whitenack retired the next three batters to escape the inning without giving up a run.
Whitenack was very happy with his start from the beginning, even after the way the first inning began.
“I was just trying to go out there and get a feel for my pitches, especially my fastball. The first six or seven pitches were pretty rough, but then I got into a groove and started getting outs” said Whitenack.
Carolina also threatened in the first inning when center fielder Bryson Myles walked to lead off the game, and second baseman Joey Wendle walked with one out. However, third baseman Paddy Matera grounded into an inning ending double play before a runner could score.
Carolina threatened again in the third inning after left fielder Todd Hankins reached on a bunt single, and Myles reached for the second time on an error. After right fielder Jordan Smith flew out for the first out of the inning, Wendle hit a ground ball to second base, and but reached on a fielder’s choice as Myles was out at second, before Matera grounded out for the final out of the inning.
Shortstop Erik Gonzalez ripped a double down the third base line with one out in the fourth inning. However, Gonzalez was thrown out attempting to steal third base.
After a difficult first inning, Whitenack settled down and found his command, and retired 12 of the next 13 batters he faced. Through five innings, only three Red Sox batters had reached base, on two walks and an error.
Whitenack said he was effective because of the mentality he brings to the game.
“My thing is I try to get guys on or out in three pitches or less. If you get a hit I tip my hat and move on to the next guy. I just happened to get a lot of guys that weren’t getting a hit,” Whitenack said.
Wallace said the home run is not what should be taken away from Whitenack’s performance.
“Nobody is going to remember that home run. It was a great start, and we’ll take that any time,” Wallace said.
The Mudcats threatened once again in the sixth inning, with two runners reaching with two outs. Matera reached on an error, and designated hitter Tony Wolters singled to put two on.
Left hander Francisco Jimenez relieved Whitenack in the seventh inning and struggled from the beginning. After allowing a leadoff double, the runner advanced to third on a wild pitch with one out. When the next batter hit a groundball to shortstop, the throw came home, and the runner got caught in a rundown. The throw came back to the pitcher to apply the tag, but Jimenez dropped the throw, allowing the runner to score on an error.
After the run scored, the runner was at second base with one out. A stolen base put a runner on third base, and a walk put runners on the corners. However, Jimenez was able to get out of the jam when he induced an inning ending double play.
Carolina threatened again in the seventh inning. First baseman Jerrud Sabourin singled to lead off the inning, and catcher Alex Lavisky crushed a double off the left field wall to put runners on second and third with no outs. After back-to-back strikeouts, a wild pitch with Smith at bat allowed Sabourin to race in to score to break up the shutout and cut the lead to one.
Matera and Wolters walked with one out in the eighth inning to put runners on first and second. Matera was lifted for a pinch runner, and was replaced by Logan Vick.
Right hander Benny Suarez relieved Jimenez in the ninth inning.
Lavisky led off the ninth inning with a double to left field, and Hankins laid down a perfect bunt to sacrifice him to third base. Myles slapped an RBI single into right field to score Lavisky and tie the game. However a fly out by Smith and a strikeout by Wendle stranded Myles at first to send the game to extra innings.
Valera came on in relief in the 11th inning, and despite allowing three runners to reach, pitched a shutout inning to preserve the tie.
With two outs in the 11th inning, Hankins walked to bring up Myles. A wild pitch advanced him to second base, but a strikeout by Myles stranded Hankins and ended the inning.
Smith led off the 12th inning with a double, and with two outs, Wolters reached on a walk to put runners on first and second. However, Gonzalez grounded out to third base to strand both runners and end the game.
Carolina continues the series against Salem on Sunday afternoon. Right hander Cole Cook gets the start for Carolina with first pitch scheduled for 2:00 p.m.
NOTES: Wolters single in the sixth inning was his 200th career hit with the Carolina Mudcats, extending his franchise record since moving to the Carolina League.
Zachary is a senior at NC State where he is majoring in communication-media, with minors in journalism and theatre. You can follow him on Twitter @RealZachFrancis.