Myrtle Beach, SC - Hanser Alberto went 3-for-4 and launched a fifth-inning grand slam off of Wilmington starter Luis Santos, catapulting the Myrtle Beach Pelicans to an 8-2 victory over the Blue Rocks in the opening game of the second half. The loss dropped the Blue Crew to 33-36 on the season and 0-1 in the second half.
Entering the home half of the fifth inning at TicketReturn.Com Field, Santos was cruising along and the Blue Rocks led, 2-1. However things changed in a hurry when Jose Cardona singled to left-center with one out in the frame. Luis Mendez followed that up with a bunt single and Chris Garia with an infield single, loading the bases for Alberto. The right-handed hitting shortstop belted a grand slam on the first pitch to left-center field, putting the Pelicans up, 5-2. Santos escaped the inning without giving up more runs, but the damage was done.
Myrtle Beach extended its lead to 8-2 with two more runs in the seventh and one in the eighth. All three runs scored off of Daniel Stumpf, who yielded three runs on five hits over two innings of work. In the seventh inning, Garia and Alberto hit back-to-back singles with one out in the frame. Alberto's base hit moved the speedy Garia to third while Alberto ended up taking second on the throw. Both came in to score on Preston Beck's RBI single. In the eighth inning, Chris Grayson tripled with one out and came plateward when the next batter, Kevin Torres, singled him home.
The Blue Rocks went ahead, 1-0, in the top of the third inning on an RBI triple by Bubba Starling. Jack Lopez singled off of Pelicans starter Chad Bell with one out in the frame, before Starling drilled an opposite-field three-bagger to right, plating Lopez from first.
Wilmington extended its lead in the top of the fourth inning on an RBI grounder by Terrance Gore. Cam Gallagher led off the frame with a single and advanced to second on a perfectly placed sacrifice bunt by Daniel Rockett. Kenny Diekroeger then singled, advancing Gallagher to third, putting runners at the corners for Gore. Gore grounded into a force out at second, but it was enough to score Gallagher and hand Wilmington a 2-0 lead.
The Pelicans answered right back with a tally of their own in the bottom of the fourth to draw within 2-1. Alberto doubled to left-center and then advanced to third on a flyout by beck. David Lyon plated Alberto with an RBI infield single.
Bell (1-0, 3.18) picked up his first Advanced-A win of the season for the Pelicans while Santos (0-1, 6.23) suffered his first Advanced-A defeat of the campaign for the Blue Rocks. Bell tossed 5.2 sterling frames and yielded two runs on eight hits. Santos threw six innings and gave up five runs on seven hits while striking out three and walking just one.
Wilmington returns to action Friday night at TicketReturn.Com Field for the second of three games against Myrtle Beach. The Blue Rocks will send southpaw Sean Manaea (2-5, 4.84) to the mound, while the Pelicans will counter with righty Sam Wolff (6-3, 2.77). 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 kicked off the second half in style, going 2-for-4 with a triple and an RBI. 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. The outfielder has had moments of brilliance this season, though. His defense in center field has proved to be the best in the Carolina League this season. 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 .190 with 13 doubles, three triples, three homers and 31 RBIs in 66 games.
Hanser Alberto's fifth-inning grand slam off of Luis Santos was the first allowed by the Blue Rocks this season. Wilmington had not allowed a grand slam since June 24, 2013, when Lynchburg's Robby Hefflinger took Cory Hall deep. Hall pitched in 19 games a year ago for the Blue Rocks and went 1-2 with a 5.88 ERA. The Blue Crew has also hit two grand slams this season. One was by Hunter Dozier on May 6 in the ninth inning at Salem, which led the Blue Rocks to a 6-3 come-from-behind win. Bubba Starling's grand slam at Potomac was the other one. Wilmington ultimately lost that game, 11-10.
Left-handed reliever Daniel Stumpf has had a rough month of June. He is 1-0 with an 11.05 ERA in four appearances this month, while allowing nine runs on nine hits over 7.1 innings pitched. He began the year in the starting rotation and went 1-7 with a 4.19 ERA as a starter. Stumpf was moved to the bullpen in May and it seemed like the southpaw had turned things around. Stumpf posted a 1-3 record and 2.92 ERA in six May outings (four starts). At one point in late May and early June, Stumpf had a stretch of six consecutive scoreless frames as a reliever. On the season, Stumpf is 2-7 with a 5.06 ERA in 14 games (eight starts). He has given up 29 runs (27 earned) on 64 hits while striking out 51 and walking 12 in 48 innings pitched.
Thursday night's loss to Myrtle Beach dropped the Blue Crew's record against the Pelicans to 2-9 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 0-5 at TicketReturn.Com Field. Wilmington's numbers against Myrtle Beach this year are not pretty. As a team, the Rocks are batting just .193 with 35 runs scored and a single home run in 11 games against the Pelicans. The pitching staff has posted a 5.70 ERA against the Pelicans, who are collectively batting .278 against Blue Rocks hurlers. Myrtle Beach has also slugged seven 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 2.31 ERA in the head-to-head series, but they have walked 53 Rocks in 93.2 innings.
THEY SAID IT:
Manager Darryl Kennedy:
"[Luis] Santos didn't throw that bad. He just made a couple of bad pitches. The 0-and-2 hit that led to the first run, he just hung a breaking ball there and the guy put a good swing on it and got a double out of it. Then the grand slam on a pitch that wasn't a bad location, just probably not the right pitch to throw in that situation. [It was] a changeup and the guy golfed it out in this small ballpark. Definitely not a [good] way to start the second half but it's still early. I thought we swung the bats okay tonight [after] taking the three days off for the All-Star Break. Unfortunately, they swung better."
"[We're] definitely going to miss [Hunter Dozier] on the offensive side but defensively, it kind of went unnoticed, he did a really, really, good job over there at third base. I think his defense will be missed more than his offense, simply from a pitching standpoint and all of the plays he made right there. Offensively, we're going to have to do a lot of manufacturing, no doubt about it, to get guys in scoring position and be able to capitalize when they get to third base with less than two outs. We just have to do what we can. He was deserving of going up to Double-A, no doubt about it. It was the right move. We're just going to have to pick it up. Somebody is going to have to pick it up."
"I thought [Bubba Starling] swung the bat well the first two times. He got a nice infield hit his first AB and [then] put a really good swing on it for the triple and an RBI in his second at-bat. It was good to see. We need him to get hot, no doubt about it. We've got to have him in the lineup to get going. Hopefully everybody else will follow suit."
"He knows what he's got to do. If anybody is hard on himself, it's him. Sometimes he beats his head up against the wall a little too much. It's important for him to get going offensively and it's one of those things you really don't want to talk too much about with him because he is so hard on himself. He's figuring some things out on his own, which is what you like to see."
"If anybody has learned more this year, I think Kenny [Diekroeger] has. He's really taken a step back and started viewing the game a little differently, I think. It's showed. He's starting to put good swings on the ball on a nightly basis. I'm hoping it continues and he becomes a regular guy in that lineup."
Blue Rocks Baseball = AffordaFUNability!
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.