The imports are looking awfully shiny on the showroom floor.
Recent additions to the team continued to provide huge contributions for the Salem Red Sox on Thursday, as Tyler Esplin homered twice to back another strong outing from Thad Ward in a 5-2 victory over Wilmington in Game 2 of the Carolina League Division Series.
A crowd of 2,646 at Haley Toyota Field erupted as closer Andrew Schwaab struck out the final batter of the ninth, giving Salem a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series. The Sox will travel to Delaware for Game 3 having won 12 of their past 13 games.
“It’s awesome, especially this last 10, 15 games that we’ve had,” DH Devlin Granberg said. “We’ve had a really good stretch, and we’ve got a lot of confidence right now. We’re just being really aggressive and going out there and doing the job.”
Granberg walked, singled and scored a run Thursday and now has four hits in this series, including a home run in Game 1. The 6-foot-2, 224-pound slugger is part of the wave of talent that’s come up from Greenville late in the season to aid this playoff push.
Esplin got into town Sunday — just in time to partake in the team’s clinching celebration that night. Ditto for top Boston prospect Triston Casas, who went 2 for 4 on Thursday and scored the game’s first run.
Perhaps a little Greenville pride has been showing through lately?
“Oh, yeah, definitely,” Granberg said with a smile. “These are guys that we’ve spent the entire season with —120 games or whatever it is — together. So there’s definitely a little bit of pride now that we’ve come up and we’re having some success and we’re able to contribute to the team.”
Ward spent the first half of the season at Greenville before becoming a Salem stalwart during the second-half surge. The 6-foot-3 right-hander took charge again in this one, allowing just one run over six-plus innings.
Ward faced the minimum in the first four innings, with the three hits he allowed getting wiped out by a caught stealing and a pair of double plays. Mixing a fastball that topped out at 96 mph with his signature slider, he struck out seven.
“Oh, it was awesome, man,” Granberg said. “He pitches with a lot of fire. He’s a really good competitor, and he’s going to bring some really good stuff for you every night. We got what I thought we would get from him, and that’s a really good start.”
Esplin gave Salem a quick lead with a two-run homer in the second inning. In the eighth, he hit a solo shot off the scoreboard in right field to produce the final margin.
“I didn’t think I got all of it,” he said of the latter blast. “I went hard out of the box, and I didn’t think it was going to get out. Guess I had some luck with the wind tonight.”
The 6-foot-4, 225-pound Esplin hit only five home runs in 100 games at Greenville.
“There’s power in there, for sure,” Granberg said. “It’s only a matter of time before he’s going to figure it out, and it showed today. Those were not cheap home runs. They were monster bombs. We’re excited to have him.”
After an overnight bus trip to Delaware, the Sox will look to close out the series at 7:05 p.m. Friday, with pitchers to be determined.
To say they’ll rest easy with a 2-0 lead might be a stretch given that any sleep will have to come on the charter.
“I’ve gotten good at it,” Granberg said, laughing. “You go a whole season and you have these 10-, 11-hour bus rides and some crazy stuff. You have to sleep on ’em. You’ve got to learn.”