The Wilmington Blue Rocks (39-31) swept the doubleheader against the Salem Red Sox (40-29) taking the first game 3-1 before blanking the Red Sox 5-0 in the second game on Sunday afternoon. The two wins for Wilmington knocked Salem out of the First Half Northern Division Title race. Starting pitching continued to be the theme as RHP Andres Machado tossed five innings of one-run ball in the opening victory while spot-starter RHP Jared Ruxer dazzled in the backend of the twin bill with five scoreless innings of one-hit ball, setting a season-high with six strikeouts. With the pair of wins, the Rocks have extended their season-best winning streak to six games and are a season-high eight games above .500 entering the All-Star Break.
Salem struck first in the second inning on a Jeremy Rivera RBI single to centerfield to score one run, but Cody Jones threw out Austin Rye at the plate to keep it just a single tally lead for Salem. In the fourth inning, the rolling offense of the Rocks got to work. Chris DeVito tied the game with an opposite-field RBI single before Wander Franco laced a two-run double down the left field line to make it a 3-1 ballgame.
The combination of Machado and All-Star Richard Lovelady held the Salem offense in check after the second inning. Machado notched his third win of the year and allowed just one run on four hits in five innings of work and set a season-high with seven strike outs. Lovelady entered in the sixth inning and tossed two scoreless innings to earn his team-leading sixth save of the year.
In the second game of the double dip, it was all Blue Rocks as they spoiled Salem's chance to clinch the First Half Northern Division title. Wilmington cracked the scoreboard in the second inning. After three straight one-out singles, Jecksson Flores blooped a two-run single to right field to score Franco and Kort Peterson to give the local nine offense an early 2-0 advantage.
The Rocks were at it again in the fourth inning when Flores executed a safety squeeze bunt to drive Peterson in from third to take a 3-0 lead. In the fifth inning, Wilmington broke the game open with two more runs. DeVito drove in his second RBI of the afternoon with a single to right field while Burt scored on an infield single off the bat of Anderson Miller and an error on a dropped catch from Salem's starter Matthew Kent to pad the Rocks lead 5-0.
Ruxer put together an excellent outing on the hill and silenced the Red Sox offense in five innings of work, allowed just one hit and struck out a season-high six batters to earn the win.
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The Northern Division added the seventh Blue Rock to their All-Star Game roster as A.J. Puckett recently was selected to the midsummer classic. Puckett joins Yunior Marte, Richard Lovelady, Cristian Castillo, Foster Griffin Nicky Lopez, and Anderson Miller as Wilmington All-Stars. Griffin will be the only Blue Rocks not participating because of his promotion to Double-A earlier this season. Puckett has been a staple point in a talent starting pitching rotation for the Blue Rocks, starting 13 games and accruing a 6-4 record with a 3.86 ERA whil striking out 67 batters in 70 innings of work. The honor marks the first All-Star selection for Puckett, who is ranked the fifth best prospect in the Royals organization per Baseball America.
The Blue Rocks concluded their first half in dominant fashion. During their six-game winning streak, the Blue Crew have outscored their opponents 34-2 and have allowed just two runs in their last 48 inning of play. Wilmington is also a season-best eight-games over .500 and finished just 1.5 games out of first place.
With the doubleheader sweep, it marks the first time this season the Rocks swept and opponent in a four-game series. The Blue Rocks have posted four consecutive wins on three different occasions, but never stringing the victories together in the same series. Wilmington have now won two of their four doubleheaders played this year while splitting the other two.
The shutout victory in the second game of the doubleheader marked the fourth time in the last five games the Blue Rocks have shutout out their opponent. On the year, the Blue Crew have now blanked opponents for the tenth time this season. In the previous two season, the Blue Rocks had shutout the opposition a total of 14 times. In 2016, Wilmington tossed just five shutouts.
25 Years of Blue Rocks Baseball
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