Myrtle Beach, SC - A pair of Myrtle Beach home runs and another quiet offensive night for Wilmington cost the Blue Rocks as the Pelicans handed them a 4-2 defeat Friday night, the team's second straight loss to open up the season's second half. With the defeat, Wilmington fell to a season-low four games below the .500 mark at 33-37.
Nick Vickerson hit a two-run homer off of Blue Crew starter Sean Manaea in the second inning to kick off the night's scoring. Jorge Alfaro singled to lead off the frame and advanced to second on a passed ball by Cam Gallagher. Vickerson then ripped one out of the park to left, putting the Pelicans up, 2-0.
The Rocks would claw their way back into the game, however, with a run in the top of the sixth inning. Bubba Starling singled up the middle off of reliever Justin Sprenger to lead off the inning. After Cody Stubbs and Zane Evans struck out, Cam Gallagher singled to left, plating Starling to pull Wilmington within 2-1.
Myrtle Beach responded quickly in the bottom of the sixth, however, re-extending its lead to 3-1. Chris Garia drew a free pass off of Manaea to lead off the inning and then stole second base. He advanced to third on a bunt single by Hanser Alberto, putting runners at the corners with nobody out. Manager Darryl Kennedy then lifted Manaea for righty Yender Caramo, who allowed a sacrifice fly to Preston Beck, but settled in after that to limit the damage.
In the top of the eighth inning, Wilmington once again pulled to within one. Starling greeted reliever Abel De Los Santos by doubling to center to start the frame. Stubbs then grounded out, bringing up Zane Evans. Evans reached on a throwing error by third-baseman Luis Mendez, allowing Starling to score.
Alberto answered right back for the Pelicans in the bottom of the eighth by crushing a homer to left off of reliever Zeb Sneed, bringing the score to 4-2 Myrtle Beach.
Starter Sam Wolff (7-3, 2.60) picked up the victory for the Pelicans by throwing five shutout innings and yielding just four hits. Manaea (2-6, 4.89) suffered the defeat for the Blue Rocks and tossed five innings while giving up three runs on four hits. The southpaw also punched out six. Alex Claudio earned his third save of the year with a scoreless ninth.
Wilmington will try to avoid the sweep against Myrtle Beach on Saturday night at TicketReturn.Com Field. The Blue Rocks will send righty Glenn Sparkman (3-1, 1.33) to the mound, while the Pelicans will counter with southpaw Andrew Faulkner (4-1, 2.20). First pitch is slated for 7:05 p.m. and fans can listen to the broadcast on 89.7 WGLS-FM. The Blue Rocks return home on Wednesday, June 25, to open up a three-game homestand against the Lynchburg Hillcats. For tickets, call 302-888-BLUE or visit BlueRocks.com.
PEBBLES OF KNOWLEDGE:
Bubba Starling has kicked off the second half in style. He went 2-for-4 with a triple and an RBI on Thursday and 3-for 5 with a double and two runs on Friday and. The outfielder endured a rough close to the opening half of his season and entered the All-Star break mired in an 8-for-57 slump. Starling has had moments of brilliance this season, though. His defense in center field has proved to be the best in the Carolina League. He also strung together a 15-game hitting streak between May 12 and May 26. The highlight of Starling's first half may have been the grand slam he hit off of Washington Nationals star Gio Gonzalez on June 6. Gonzalez was on a rehab assignment with the Potomac Nationals at the time. Overall this season, Starling is batting .198 with 14 doubles, three triples, three homers and 31 RBIs in 67 games.
Cam Gallagher stole his first base this season and the second of his career on Friday night. The theft came on a hit-and-run attempt with Jack Lopez at the plate. The pitch was in the dirt and Lopez could not make contact, but Gallagher beat the throw. It was Gallagher's first steal since August 6, 2012, when the catcher was with the Burlington Royals in the Appalachian League. Gallagher has enjoyed a strong start to the second half; he went 1-for-3 Friday night with a walk and 1-for-2 Thursday night with two bases on balls and a run.
Wilmington has had a lot of missed opportunities with runners on base in the first two games of the second half. The Blue Rocks offense has stranded a combined 17 runners on base the last two nights, including nine in scoring position. Blue Crew batters were 3-for-10 with runners in scoring position on Thursday night and 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position on Friday night. Overall this season, the Rocks are batting .224 (142-for-635) with men on second or third base.
Friday night's loss to Myrtle Beach dropped the Blue Crew's record against the Pelicans to 2-10 on the season. Wilmington has been outmatched both at home and on the road this season against Myrtle Beach. The Rocks are 2-4 at Frawley Stadium against the Pelicans and they are now 0-6 at TicketReturn.Com Field. Wilmington's numbers against Myrtle Beach this year are not pretty. As a team, the Rocks are batting just .197 with 37 runs scored and a single home run in 12 games against the Pelicans. The pitching staff has posted a 5.60 ERA against the Pelicans, who are collectively batting .271 against Blue Rocks hurlers. Myrtle Beach has also slugged nine home runs against the Blue Crew, far and away the most allowed to any team by Wilmington. No other team in the league has hit more than four dingers off of the Rocks' pitching staff. Pelican pitchers have a 2.10 ERA in the head-to-head series, but they have walked 55 Rocks in 102.2 innings.
THEY SAID IT:
Manager Darryl Kennedy:
"They were pitching a good ballgame. We were clawing in there. They made a couple of big plays that kept us off the board early. We get the one run to cut it down to 2-1 and have a chance and then that one run in the bottom of that sixth inning kind of took the wind out of our sails. The guys battled back and kept fighting. We cut it to 3-2 there and then we get a chance in the ninth inning. Kenny Diekroeger [came up] with another big hit there to lead off the ninth inning and gave us a shot. We had the tying run at the plate in Bubba [Starling], who is swinging the bat well. Everything was in our favor but we just couldn't get it done."
"It has nothing to do with the ballpark, really. It's a tough ballpark - and they play well here, they know the dimensions of the field and take advantage of it. They're a very good team. No doubt about it. Even with [Joey] Gallo gone, they seem to find a way to replace him and get by. Probably not as powerful as they were in the first half, but they still have guys who scrap. They're a tough ballclub to beat. They run the bases hard. They create a lot of movement. They have very good pitching; they're leading the league in pitching."
"[Cam Gallagher] is starting to swing the bat much better. He's getting some hits and some timely hits, as well. He was deserving of [making] the All-Star Game and it seems like that last at-bat, that one at-bat [he got a hit] in the All-Star Game hopefully kick-started him in the right direction. He's played two pretty good ballgames behind the plate [to start the second half]."
"I thought [Sean Manaea] pitched real well. He had a little fire underneath him. The key was when his command was off, he was able to rebound and get back in the zone. He got deeper in the game. He did run out of gas there in the sixth inning but it was a good outing. 3-and-2 fastball, and the guy got ahold of it. That was his only mistake."
"[Yender Caramo] has quietly thrown the ball real well for us. He came in [the game in] a tough situation. Would you like him to get out of it? Yeah, but I thought he did a great job by just limiting the damage to one run. He gave up the sac fly and then looked great on the next two hitters to get out of the inning and then pitched a solid seventh inning. He did a good job."
"You don't want to get swept, no matter where you are in the season or where you are in the standings. I think we'll be fine. I like how the guys are playing hard. Bubba [Starling] going first to third on the ball down the left-field line, that's what it's all about. We'll get things going. Some good things are starting to come our way and we've just got to ride the storm and be ready to take advantage when it pops up."
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