After going from worst to first in the second half of the season, the Salem Red Sox are brimming with confidence as they open the Carolina League playoffs.
Game 1 of the best-of-five Division Series against Wilmington is set for 6:35 p.m. Wednesday at Haley Toyota Field. The Sox enter the opener having won 10 of their final 11 games of the regular season to finish the second half at 42-28 -- the best record in the league.
"I think we just keep the ball rolling, man," Salem manager Corey Wimberly said. "I don’t like to add pressure to us. Pressure’s when you’re not prepared for the situation. All year long, we’ve been preparing. So there’s no pressure.”
With the call-up of top Red Sox prospect Triston Casas adding some serious thump to the lineup, Wimberly will send left-hander Enmanuel De Jesus (9-9, 3.58) to the mound for Game 1.
De Jesus has been one of the top performers in the Carolina League this season -- especially lately.
"He’s been a guy who’s pitched in high-leverage situations," Wimberly said of the 22-year-old Venezuelan. "He’s played winter ball. He’s been in the spotlight. He knows how to handle big situations.”
Game 2 will be played at 6:35 p.m. Thursday in Salem, with right-hander Thad Ward (3-3, 2.33) scheduled to pitch for the Sox.
“I’m very excited," Ward said. "This will actually be a first experience for me in a professional postseason, so I’ll finally get to experience what that’s going to be like. The goal is just to go out there and treat it as another start. It’s just another opportunity to showcase what I can do and really just rely on the guys behind me on defense to help get me through it.”
The Sox will be offering drink specials for both home games in the Division Series. Tickets start at $10 and can be purchased here.
The final three games (including two "if necessary" contests) will be played in Wilmington. The Blue Rocks, who are a Royals farm team, posted an 82-56 overall record this season and won the first half division title with a 44-25 mark.