Merritt, Mudcats cruise to 4-2 victory over Red Sox
Ryan Merritt is sporting an impressive 1.58 ERA following Friday's win.
SALEM, VA — Behind another gem from Ryan Merritt (8-2, 1.58), the Carolina Mudcats avoided the series sweep Friday by doubling up the Salem Red Sox 4-2.
Merritt earned his league-leading eighth win of the season in a commanding 7.1 inning start in which allowed two runs, one earned, on five hits. The lefty didn’t issue a walk and struck out five as he helped the Mudcats snap a four-game losing skid.
Ollie Linton led the Carolina offense, going 3-for-3 with a pair of RBI’s and a walk in Friday’s win.
The fist of Linton’s RBI’s put the Mudcats on the board in the top of the second as they made Salem starter Cody Kukuk’s (1-6, 8.33) rough season continue. With Alex Monsalve on first with one out, a wild pitch from Kukuk to James Roberts allowed Monsalve to move down to second. Roberts then pushed Monsalve to third with a base hit to center. Although Kukuk got Yhoxian Medina swinging for out number two, he followed by walking LeVon Washington to load the bases. With nowhere to put Linton, Kukuk again struggled to throw strikes, ultimately walking in Monsalve as the Mudcats drew first blood to go up 1-0.
Carolina then drove Kukuk from the game and widened their lead thanks to a rally in the top of the fourth. Kukuk walked Medina and Washington consecutively with one out, which prompted the Red Sox to turn to reliever William Cuevas. Linton then welcomed Cuevas to the game with a single up the middle to score Medina and put the Mudcats up 2-0.
Kukuk finished allowing two earned runs on two hits in a 3.1 inning outing. His struggle to fins the strike zone resulted in seven walks and ultimately his sixth loss of the campaign.
But Salem cut the lead back to just one in the bottom of the fifth thanks to Aneury Tavarez. The right fielder’s solo homerun to right was his eighth of the season and the only earned run Salem could muster off Merritt.
Carolina struck back adding insurance in the top of the seventh. With Cuevas still on the bump for Salem, Jerrud Sabourin, pinch-hitting for Washington, opened the frame with a double to left. Linton then put down a good bunt getting Sabourin to third and himself onboard again, but a panicked Cuevas complicated the situation for Salem with a throwing error allowing Sabourin to score. Cuevas recovered to force Joe Sever to fly out, but Yandy Diaz followed with a two-bagger down the leftfield line plating Linton as the Mudcats grabbed a 4-1 lead going into the eighth.
Salem threatened in the bottom of the eighth, finally forcing Merritt out of the contest. Jordan Weems opened the inning with a bunt single, and then advanced all the way to third on Jeremy Lucas’s throwing error. Merritt then forced Jose Vinicio to lineout in his last contribution as the Mudcats turned to Grant Sides. Sides quickly got the final two outs of the inning, but Salem did get a run thanks to Matty Johnson’s sacrifice fly to make it 4-2.
Elvis Araujo earned his sixth save of the season thanks to a one-two-three ninth inning to secure the win and also avoid the series sweep.
The Mudcats are now 4-5 in the second half and 33-43 on the full season. Salem sinks to 3-6 for the second half, and 36-41 overall.
Carolina’s road-trip will continue as they head to Winston-Salem for a three-game set against the Dash.
The series begins Saturday as the Mudcats are scheduled to start D.J. Brown against J.B. Wendelken in a matchup of righties. First pitch is set for 7:00 PM.