This is where a picture I took of the stadium from behind home plate should go, but my phone is having issues, and I can’t get it online.
Fans in Wilmington were treated to a pitcher’s duel from unlikely sources Sunday: Mike McCarthy, making his Salem debut, and Matt Ridings who has spent much of the 2012 season in the bullpen. In the end, it was Wilmington’s offense scraping by in a 5-0 win over the Red Sox. The win put the Blue Rocks in first place by a game in the Carolina League’s North division while Salem dropped to a league worst 18-31.
For the first two and a half innings, each side remained hitless despite McCarthy’s early inning jitters. After quickly walking leadoff hitter Angel Franco, he was erased just as quickly as he reached base trying to steal second on a pitch in the dirt that didn’t get very far away from catcher Jayson Hernandez. Meanwhile, Ridings was quickly recording outs and benefited from some strong defense. To end the top of the 2nd inning, shortstop Luis Piterson made a tremendous diving stop on a ball up the middle that took an odd hop on Frawley Stadium’s rocky infield. He got up and fired a strike across the diamond to record the final out of the frame.
McCarthy allowed his first hit of the game with an out in the 3rd inning on a line drive hit by catcher Jose Bonilla that landed in front of left fielder Brandon Jacobs. He retired the next two in order to stay out of trouble, but his second time through Wilmington’s order would soon prove to be problematic. Blue Rocks batters were better prepared for his fastball-heavy gameplan in their second at-bats and drew first blood in the top of the 4th. After Brett Eibner led off the inning by doubling down the left field line before being tagged out taking a wide turn around the base, right fielder Lane Adams walked to get McCarthy back in the stretch. Designated hitter Matt Fields followed that up with the second double of the inning to make the score 1-0.
While Murray Watts hit a majestic home run the next inning to extend their lead to 2-0, Ridings continued cruising. After hitting DH Adalberto Ibarra with two outs in the first, Ridings would only face the minimum through the next four innings, maintaining his no-hitter through five. Salem third baseman James Kang led off the 6th and hit a chopper down the third base line, three innings after reaching on an error committed by Cheslor Cuthbert. He wouldn’t be charged with an error this time, but it proved to be a clumsier play. After getting his glove on the ball ready to make a routine play, he tripped over the bag and was unable to throw Kang out. The no-hitter was over. Two batters later, shortstop Heiker Meneses hit a clean double to the left-center gap, but Kang was caught stealing just pitches earlier, so Salem was still not on the board.
McCarthy was relieved after 5.1 innings, allowing two runs on six hits and two walks with five strikeouts. Not great, but he kept the Red Sox in the game and gave them a chance to win. He was relieved by Charlie Rosario who would run into trouble in the 7th inning after recording two outs to finish the 6th for McCarthy. With a changeup that proved to be effective retiring lefties, Rosario struggled against righties. His cause certainly wasn’t helped by the defense behind him; two errors with two outs allowed Wilmington to add insurance and finish with five runs. With a run already in earlier in the inning, Lane Adams singled to left field, and Brandon Jacobs’ throw overshot everyone, allowing Brett Eibner to go first to third. He would then score on the next batter when James Kang couldn’t handle a ground ball and extended the inning.
Ridings was done after seven scoreless innings, a new career high. He struck out three and only allowed three hits before being relieved by Nick Rogers who had no problem retiring Salem the last two innings without a threat. After a two out single by Adalberto Ibarra, Brandon Jacobs ended the game with a flyout to right field. Rogers finished with three strikeouts, only allowing two baserunners in his two innings of work. In addition to his strong defense, Luis Piterson added two hits including a double. Ibarra was the only Red Sox with two hits. Wilmington swept the weekend series just a week after losing two of three in Salem. Wilmington will play a three game set at Potomac before returning home while Salem will wrap up their six game road trip at Winston-Salem.