WILMINGTON, Del. — The Salem Red Sox home two-game sweep of the Wilmington Blue Rocks to open the Carolina League playoffs seems like a distant memory now.
After comfortably winning the first two games of the Northern Division series at home, then surrendering their lead in the bottom of the ninth inning in Friday’s Game 3 loss in Wilmington, the Red Sox lost another heartbreaker to the Blue Rocks Saturday night at Frawley Stadium.
The 5-4 loss in 10 innings in Game 4 forced a rubber match in the best-of-five series.
Salem, which finished in last place in the Northern Division after the first half of the season, will attempt for a third consecutive game to advance to the league’s championship series.
Minor league baseball’s extra-innings rule, which allows teams to start each extra inning with a runner on second base, made for a lively final frame. The Red Sox failed to score in the top of the inning, when Devlin Granberg was thrown out at the plate on a fielder’s choice.
Wilmington took advantage of its opportunity in the bottom of the 10th, as Tyler Hill singled in the winning run and sent the crowd of 2,983 into a frenzy.
Down 4-1 with one out in the top of the ninth inning, Salem rallied on the strength of back-to-back RBI-doubles by Grant Williams and Garrett Benge to send the game into extras.
The starting pitchers, Salem’s Jhonathan Diaz and Wilmington’s Austin Cox, each threw six scoreless innings, while striking out eight batters.
Neither team’s bullpen could hold a lead, as Wilmington, down 1-0 after the Red Sox scored on a wild pitch, plated all four of its regulation runs in the bottom of the eighth.
Williams was 3-for-4 for Salem, while Victor Acosta, Tanner Nishioka, and Triston Casas each added two hits.
With a smooth swing and patience at the plate, Casas, the 2018 first-round draft pick of the Boston Red Sox, displayed why baseball fans may not have many more chances beyond a potential Mills Cup finals to see him on his journey to the big leagues.
With the game still scoreless in the bottom of the seventh inning, Red Sox catcher Elih Marrero threw out a pair of runners at second base.