SALEM, VA (Saturday, September 1) - Slugging first baseman Jerry Downs homered and drove in two runs Saturday afternoon, but the Salem Red Sox still fell in a 9-3 loss to the Lynchburg Hillcats in the first game of a doubleheader at Haley Toyota Field.
The Red Sox (30-37, 62-73) tumbled to a season-worst 11 games below .500 with the loss, and managed to snap a 23-inning scoreless streak in the third inning. The Hillcats (40-27, 68-65) got a complete game effort from their starter, and cut their magic number to clinch a playoff spot to just one game.
Lynchburg got things going right away against Salem starting pitcher Daniel Gonzalez (L, 8-8), who plunked Mitch Longo with one out. Nolan Jones singled, and Trenton Brooks cracked an RBI double to advance Jones to third while Longo scored. Anthony Miller popped out, but Gavin Collins slammed a three-run homer to left, giving Lynchburg a 4-0 lead.
The Hillcats blew it wide open in the third inning. Jones and Brooks led off with consecutive singles before Miller doubled Jones home, and Collins singled in Brooks. After Emmanuel Tapia plated Miller on a fielder's choice, Austen Wade cracked a two-run homer to right, making it 9-0 in favor of the Hillcats.
Salem finally got on the board in the bottom of the third inning against Lynchburg hurler Tanner Tully (W, 6-11), who walked Nick Sciortino to lead off the frame before Jagger Rusconi singled Sciortino to second base. Tyler Hill knocked Sciortino home with a single. Brett Netzer bounced to second, but Alexis Pantoja dropped the flip from Persinger, allowing the Sox to load the bases with nobody out. After C.J. Chatham struck out, Downs lifted a sacrifice fly to right, scoring Rusconi and trimming the margin to 9-2. Downs' solo homer in the sixth inning cut the lead to 9-3, but that was the last run scored by the Sox in the loss.
Gonzalez was shelled for a career-worst nine runs on nine hits and a walk in three innings, fanning five. Durin O'Linger fired four shutout innings of relief, walking one and allowing one hit while whiffing four.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.