FREDERICK, MD (Thursday, August 31, 2017) - The Salem Red Sox couldn't right the ship in a must-win game Thursday night, as they got the tying run to the plate in the ninth but lost 6-4 to the Frederick Keys at Harry Grove Stadium.
As they lost for the fourth straight game, the Sox (32-34, 71-63) continued to struggle with run-scoring chances, going just 2-14 with runners in scoring position; in 20 losses since July 27, they've batted .158 in such opportunities. Frederick (34-32, 65-70) took firm control of the wild card race in the Northern Division and earned the tiebreaker against the Sox as they swept Salem for the first time since July 7-10 at Salem. Salem would need to be three games better than the Keys over the final four games of the season to earn the playoff spot. Salem starting pitcher Matthew Kent set multiple records in the game, with his third strikeout of the game making 142 on the year to give him the single-season record for most whiffs in the Red Sox era. The previous record holder was Eammon Portice, who fanned 141 batters in 2009.
Salem got the scoring going in the top of the second against Frederick starting pitcher Ofelky Peralta. Jordan Betts cracked a leadoff single to left, and Tate Matheny doubled to deep center to advance him to third. With one out, Chris Madera lined a single into right-center, scoring the runners and putting the Sox in front 2-0.
Frederick drew even in the bottom of the second against Kent, who walked leadoff man Yermin Mercedes. With one away, Jomar Reyes belted a fastball over the fence in right field for a two-run homer, knotting the game up at 2-2.
The Keys moved ahead in the bottom of the third inning. Jay Gonzalez knocked a one-out single, and sped to third on a double by Ademar Rifaela. Glynn Davis knocked in Gonzalez on a single, putting the Keys ahead 3-2.
Salem got even in the top of the fourth inning. Victor Acosta led off the frame with a double to center, and Madera sacrificed him to third. Following a soft ground-out by Jhon Nunez, Jeremy Rivera lined a single to center, scoring Acosta and tying the score at 3-3. That truce was short-lived, as Reyes smacked a triple with one out in the bottom of the frame before Shane Hoelscher singled him home to give Frederick a 4-3 advantage.
Frederick threatened in the bottom of the fifth inning, as Rifaela singled with two away and Davis belted a fly to deep center. But Matheny showed off his tremendous defensive ability, galloping back to the warning track and leaping to make the catch for the third out before slamming into the wall. The play energized the Red Sox, as Nunez came to the plate to lead off the top of the sixth inning and smashed a fastball from reliever Franderlin Romero over the right field wall, tying the game at 4-4. Conrad Gregor doubled off new reliever Mitch Horacek (W, 5-3) with two outs, but Jose Sermo fanned to end the inning. The tie was broken almost immediately, as new reliever Harrison Cooney (L, 0-2) allowed a solo homer to Mercedes to lead off the bottom of the inning, which put Frederick back ahead 5-4.
The Keys added an insurance run in the bottom of the seventh, as Cooney gave up a leadoff single to Brallan Perez and then hit Chris Clare with a pitch that looked very much like a foul ball. A wild pitch by Cooney advanced the runners to second and third before he fanned Jay Gonzalez for the first out. The Sox intentionally walked Rifaela to load the bases, and new reliever Adam Lau came on to try to stem the damage. Davis brought home Perez with a sacrifice fly, but Lau got Mercedes to pop out and end the inning. Salem got runners at first and third with nobody out in the eighth against reliever Jefri Hernandez (S, 3), but grounded into a double play to quell the rally. Hernandez hit Matheny with a fastball with two outs in the ninth, but Acosta flew out to center to end the game.
Kent took a no-decision in his 28th start of the season, a record in Salem baseball history for a left-hander. He gave up four runs on seven hits and a walk in five innings, fanning three. Cooney took the loss, allowing two runs on two hits and two walks while whiffing two in 1.1 innings.
The Sox will open their final series of the regular season Friday night, as they return home to face the Winston-Salem Dash in a four-game set. Righty Daniel Gonzalez will get the ball for Salem against Dash righty Yosmer Solorzano. First pitch from Haley Toyota Field at Salem Memorial Ballpark is at 7:05 p.m., and Ben Gellman's pregame show starts at 6:45 p.m. on ESPN Roanoke, ESPN Blacksburg, and on the Red Sox Radio Network online.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.