SALEM, VA - Reliever Phil Bickford pitched a scoreless seventh and eighth and struck out one while running his scoreless innings streak to 26 and 2/3 consecutive innings, but the Red Sox earned a series and playoff berth clinching 3-1 victory versus the Mudcats on Sunday afternoon in Salem.
Salem (41-28 66-70) brought across two early runs in the opening frame while taking a 2-0 lead in the first. Carolina (26-43, 65-73) then came back with their lone run of the game in the third, but the Red Sox scored once more in the sixth while taking a two-run lead in Sunday's 3-1 series and playoff berth clinching victory versus the Mudcats.
Garrett Benge started the Salem first with a single before later scoring on a two-out passed ball charged to catcher Nick Kahle in the opening frame. Benge had moved to third earlier in the first after Devlin Granberg reached on a error at second by Jackie Urbaez. Granberg also scored in the first when Kole Cottom brought him in with a two-out RBI double off starter Wuilder Rodriguez.
Rodriguez (L, 0-3, 7.64) saw the two Salem runs score against him in the first, but only one was earned as the Mudcats had a passed ball and were charged with an error in the opening frame. Those two runs happened also to be the only two allowed by Rodriguez in his tough luck loss. In all, Rodriguez pitched through the fifth with three strikeouts and two runs (one earned) allowed on five hits in his start for Carolina.
Daniel Gonzalez started for the Red Sox and earned the win after holding the Mudcats to just one run and two hits over five innings pitched. He gave up a run scoring sac fly to Brice Turang in the third, but allowed just that one Carolina run while leading his club to the Northern Division's Second Half title. Gonzalez (W, 6-10, 4.36) scattered two hits, allowed one run, walked one and struck out four in the victory.
Trever Morrison scored the only run of the game for the Mudcats after he doubled and eventually scored on Turang's sacrifice fly in the third. Morrison went 1-for-3 with a run, Zach Clark was 1-for-3 and Rob Henry went 1-for-4 while accounting for all three of Carolina's three hits in the game.
The Mudcats trailed 2-1 after their one run third, but fell behind 3-1 in the sixth when the Red Sox scored a run while also collecting two hits against reliever Robbie Hitt. Triston Casas singled and scored on a RBI single from Tanner Nishioka in the sixth while extending the Salem lead. Casas was 2-for-4 with a double and a run in what was his Red Sox debut on Sunday. Nishioka went 1-for-3 with a RBI, Cottam was 1-for-4 with a RBI and a double, and Benge was 1-for-4 with a run scored.
Hitt, who allowed a run on two hits while also walking one and striking out one, was later followed by Phil Bickford who then went on to retire six straight over two scoreless frames. Bickford also struck out one while running his scoreless innings streak to 26 and 2/3 consecutive innings pitched.
Relievers Logan Browning and Andrew Schwaab worked the final four innings for the Red Sox and combined to blank the Mudcats the rest of the way. Browning struck out two and allowed just one hit over three innings while earning the hold. Schwaab (S, 13) earned the save after working a scoreless ninth with a strikeout.
The Red Sox took a three games to one lead in the series and clinched the Carolina League's Northern Division second half championship with the victory. Carolina's final game of the series and final game of the season is schedule for Monday at 1:05 p.m. in Salem at Haley Toyota Field.
The game will air on the Mudcats Radio Network, The Big Dawg 98.5 FM and online at carolinamudcats.com via TuneIn Radio. It will also stream in high-definition video on MiLB.tv via paid subscription.
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This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.