NO HANGOVER: Having clinched the second half division title and a spot in the Carolina League postseason on Sunday afternoon, the Salem Red Sox spent much of that evening celebrating.
It did not affect their regular-season finale.
In a crisp game that breezed by in 2 hours and 26 minutes, the Sox got crucial contributions from two of their newcomers to defeat the Carolina Mudcats 3-1 Monday in front of a Labor Day crowd of 3,636 at Haley Toyota Field.
“We had our fun, and then we put it behind us,” pitcher Thad Ward said. “We knew we had to come out and win another ballgame and end on a really good note to carry us into the postseason.”
QUITE THE TURNAROUND: In winning for the 10th time in 11 games to close the regular season, the Sox finished the second half 42-28 — the best record in the Carolina League. That came on the heels of a 25-42 first half.
“I think if you go back and look at our first half, a lot of our games were lost by one run,” said Salem skipper Corey Wimberly, whose team went 6-12 in one-run games before the break. “We lost a lot of tough ones, came out on the wrong side quite a bit.
“But we learned from it, man. We always went into it as a loss is not a loss, it’s a lesson. We took that mindset into the second half, and we were able to come out on the other side of those ballgames.”
WELCOME TO SALEM: The majority of the damage done Monday was by two players who just got here.
Making his Carolina League debut, right-hander Alex Scherff tossed 6 1/3 innings, allowing just one run on five hits.
First baseman Triston Casas — the top prospect in the Red Sox organization, according to MLB.com — clobbered a three-run homer in the bottom of the sixth inning that gave the Sox all the runs they would need.
Casas was just promoted to this level on Sunday.
TENSE FINISH: Carolina threatened in the top of the ninth inning, putting runners on second and third with one out against Sox reliever Rio Gomez.
Gomez got Leugim Castillo to line out to shortstop for the second out. Zach Clark followed by hitting a sharp ground ball that appeared ticketed to right field, but second baseman Garrett Benge made a diving stab and threw to first for the final out.
“Our defense has been huge,” Wimberly said. “We’ve been making some incredible plays on defense. And I think without giving extra outs in innings, our pitchers have really been able to control damage.”
LOOSE ENDS: Elih Marrero and Tanner Nishioka each had two hits for Salem. … Casas’ 437-foot home run was his first in the Carolina League and 20th overall between Salem and Greenville. … Joan Martinez retired all five batters he faced in relief of Scherff.
ON DECK: The Sox open the best-of-five Division Series against Wilmington on Wednesday night, with LHP Enmanuel De Jesus (9-9, 3.58) slated to pitch Game 1 for Salem.