ENCORE PERFORMANCE: A night after playing the hero with a walk-off single in Friday’s thrilling 6-5 come-from-behind victory over visiting Myrtle Beach, Salem first baseman Pedro Castellanos again led the way with a dominant effort on Saturday.
The powerful Venezuelan drilled two home runs and finished with five runs batted in to help the Red Sox to a 7-5 victory in front of an announced crowd of 4,848 at Haley Toyota Field.
The first home run came in the bottom of the first inning, a two-run laser that just cleared the wall in left-center field. His second homer came with a bit of controversy, as he barely snuck a high fly ball past the foul pole in left field, eliciting an argument from the Myrtle Beach manager that the ball was foul. The home run stood and gave the Red Sox a 7-4 lead they did not relinquish.
Castellanos entered the game on a tear, batting nearly .325 over his previous ten games, and doubled his season total with the two long balls.
SECOND GLANCE: Myrtle Beach starting pitcher Paul Richan was facing Salem for the second straight contest, having just shut down the Red Sox on Sunday with 6 2/3 innings of scoreless work with six strikeouts.
The right-hander entered Saturday’s game on a roll, with four straight starts of at least six innings pitched and 11 consecutive games in which he went at least five innings. Salem quickly ensured that streak would not last, scoring two runs in both the first and second innings and adding three more in the fourth, sending Richan to the showers early with his worst start of the season.
The loss moved Richan’s record to 10-5 on the season and raised his ERA from 3.64 to 3.87.
DIFFERING DEFENSE: On a night when the Pelicans made several costly defensive miscues, the Red Sox outfield made several outstanding plays when it mattered most.
On back-to-back outs in the top of the eighth inning, outfielders Keith Curcio and Jagger Rusconi each made a play that likely saved a run. First, Curcio made an impressive backpedaling catch just in front of the warning track in right field to prevent an extra-base hit.
Rusconi followed with the defensive highlight of the night, running in and making a diving catch with full extension on a soft fly ball to left.
The home crowd stood and roared with approval before closer Andrew Schwaab slammed the door shut in the top of the ninth with his ninth save of the season. Back-to-back fielding errors from Pelican shortstop Aramis Ademan led to two Salem runs in the bottom of the second inning.
MIDDLE INNINGS: Despite winning by just the two-run final, the Red Sox pitchers completely shut down the Pelicans over the middle part of the game. From the top of the third inning to the top of the eighth, the only Myrtle Beach hitter to reach base was a double from first baseman Tyler Durna in the sixth inning, as Salem sat down 16 of 17 Pelicans in order. Jhonathan Diaz evened his record at 6-6 on the season with the win and Anyelo Gomez picked up his first hold with two innings of one-run ball.
ON DECK: The Red Sox will look to finish off the sweep of the Pelicans with the final game of the series Sunday. First pitch is scheduled at 2:05 p.m. Salem has an off-day Monday before a short three-game road trip to Potomac. They will be back in action in Salem next weekend, as Friday’s contest against Lynchburg will kick off a six-game homestand against the rival Hillcats.