As the saying goes -- alright, maybe it's just a saying around the Minor League complexes of Florida -- you can't keep the GCL Nationals down for long. The Red Sox learned that the hard way Saturday afternoon.
After going down three runs going into the seventh-inning stretch, the Nationals, who owned the league's best record at 49-9 in the regular season, posted eight runs in the bottom of the seventh and two more in the eighth to claim a 10-3 win over the Red Sox and a 1-0 advantage in the best-of-three Gulf Coast League championship series.
Each of the eight tallies in that big frame came with two outs. Bryan Mejia, the fifth batter of the inning, plated Randy Encarnacion for the first run with an RBI single off Red Sox reliever Kelvin Heras, and following a pitching change to Oscar Perez, pinch-hitter Luis Guzman doubled in Mejia and Raudy Read to tie the ballgame up in the next at-bat.Following a pair of singles and a walk, Encarnacion capped the inning with a three-run homer to left.
Both runs in the eighth scored on a pair of passed balls by Red Sox catcher Carlos Coste, giving the Nationals more than enough of a cushion going into the final frame. Jake Walsh, who worked out of a two-on, no-out jam an inning earlier, tossed a perfect ninth to seal the series advantage.
Encarnacion, batting out of the cleanup spot, led the way offensively, going 3-for-4 with the homer, three RBIs and two runs scored for the Nationals. The 19-year-old outfielder owned a .349/.437/.523 slash line with three homers and 12 RBIs in 34 games during the GCL regular season. He would have led the circuit in batting average had he accrued enough at-bats to qualify.
Mejia also went 3-for-4 and added an RBI, two runs scored and a stolen base.
The Red Sox loss wasted a solid first six innings from its pitching staff. Trey Ball -- the organization's first-round pick last June and its No. 8 prospect -- struck out one over two perfect frames as the Red Sox starter. That marked the best GCL appearance thus far for the 6-foot-6 left-hander, who gave up seven runs (five earned) on 10 hits and six walks in seven innings during the regular season.
Randy Perez allowed four hits and one walk but didn't surrender a run either in his four innings of relief. Red Sox second baseman Wendell Rijo went 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI in the loss.
The two sides meet again at 12 p.m. ET in Game 2 of the championship series. Game 3 is scheduled for the same time on Monday, if necessary.