SALEM, VA (Friday, May 11) - The Salem Red Sox saw victory slip through their fingers yet again Friday night, blowing a ninth-inning lead and losing 6-5 in 10 innings to the Lynchburg Hillcats at Haley Toyota Field.
Salem (17-18) dropped beneath .500 for the first time all season and falling for the sixth straight night. The Hillcats (17-17) picked up their third straight win and found their way back to .500, moving past Salem into second place in the Northern Division. Salem's bullpen was again heavily taxed, as their starting pitcher failed to make it out of the first inning; the relief corps has pitched 15.2 of the last 18 innings for the team.
The Hillcats got their offense cooking in the top of the first against Salem starting pitcher Darwinzon Hernandez (ND), who retired Mitch Longo and Jodd Carter to begin the frame. However, Hernandez's control disappeared, as he walked Conner Capel, Li-Jen Chu and Trenton Brooks to load the bases. Dillon Persinger knocked home Capel with a single, and Emmanuel Tapia drew a bases-loaded walk to make it 2-0. Reliever Jared Oliver entered, and fanned Erlin Cerda to end the inning.
Salem got on the board in the bottom of the second inning against Lynchburg starter Zach Plesac, who faced off against leadoff man Bobby Dalbec. The Red Sox slugger fell behind 0-2 before battling back to 2-2, and he then hammered a towering fly over the left field wall for a solo homer to trim the lead to 2-1.
The Hillcats earned that run back in the top of the third. Oliver walked Chu, and then fired a wild pitch that moved the runner to second. Oliver recovered to whiff Brooks and Persinger, but Tapia laced a single to right and Chu came in to score and make it 3-1.
Salem edged a run closer in the bottom of the third, as Brett Netzer worked a one-out walk before C.J. Chatham doubled him home. The Sox got level in the fourth inning, with Ryan Scott cracking a one-out double prior to an RBI single from Nick Sciortino to tie the game at 3-3.
Salem moved ahead for the first time in the series in the bottom of the fifth inning. Netzer and Chatham cracked consecutive one-out singles, and Jerry Downs lashed a double into the gap in right-center, scoring the runners to put Salem in front 5-3.
The Sox maintained that lead until the top of the ninth, as new reliever Yankory Pimentel (BS, 1; L, 0-1) entered. The righty walked Alexis Pantoja to start the inning, and gave up a one-out single to Carter to put runners at second and third. Pimentel got Capel to pop out, but Chu delivered a two-run single to center to tie the game at 5-5 and send the game to extra innings.
In the 10th, Pimentel fanned Tapia for the first out, and got Cerda to ground out to third, moving Persinger up to third base. Pantoja swung at the first pitch and sliced a single to right to score Persinger. In the bottom of the 10th, lefty Billy Strode (W, 1-0) fanned Downs to start the inning before he was pulled for righty James Karinchak (S, 2). The righty fanned Dalbec before walking Scott to put the go-ahead run on base, but recovered to strike out pinch-hitter Isaias Lucena to end the game.
Hernandez's erratic start ended after only two outs recorded; he surrendered two runs on one hit and four walks. Oliver was terrific in a career-long 4.1 innings, allowing one run on four hits and two walks while whiffing six. Hunter Smith fired three no-hit frames, walking one and fanning two. Pimentel gave up three runs (two earned) on four hits and a walk in two innings and recording two batters.
The Sox will try to avoid dropping a seventh straight game Saturday night, with righty Tanner Houck answering the bell against Hillcats southpaw Tanner Tully. First pitch from Haley Toyota Field is at 6:05 p.m., and the pregame show with Ben Gellman and Suzie Cool begins at 5:45 p.m. on the Red Sox broadcast network.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.