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Six-run third inning dooms Mudcats vs. Red Sox

Carolina was doubled up by Salem in the hit department, 10 to 5 on Sunday

Six-run third inning dooms Mudcats vs. Red Sox
Carolina left fielder LeVon Washington raised his batting average to an impressive .322 on the season after going 2-for-4 with a RBI in Sunday's loss to Salem. (Photo credit: Tony Lastoria)
July 6, 2014
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ZEBULON, NC — One bad inning doomed the Carolina Mudcats Sunday as they were routed by the Salem Red Sox 8-2.

Salem rallied for six runs in the third to erase an early deficit and cruise to victory in the series rubber match.

Sunday just wasn’t Carolina starter Adam Plutko’s (1-4, 4.83) day, evident by the unusual start to his outing. Plutko began the game by hitting the first two Red Sox hitters, Matty Johnson and Michael Miller. Although the right-hander escaped the inning unscathed, Salem would pound Plutko two innings later.

 The Red Sox opened the third with six consecutive hits as the first seven men up reached base off Plutko. Johnson sparked the fire with a leadoff single to right before Miller’s double advanced him to third. Reed Gragnani opened the floodgates with a base hit to right scoring Johnson. Jantzen White then followed suit with an RBI single of his own to put Salem up 2-1.

The Red Sox never looked back as Kevin Heller drove in another run with a double to left followed by an Anuery Tavarez single to plate two more. The frustration of the inning then hit a boiling point for the Mudcats as Salem scored their sixth run on Mario Martinez’s grounder to second, with the Red Sox third baseman reaching base himself after a throwing error from Yhoxian Medina.

This brought Plutko’s afternoon to a very early end as manager Scooter Tucker turned to Rob Nixon. Plutko took the loss Sunday allowing six runs, five earned, on six hits in just 2.0 innings.  He walked one and struck out two.

Tucker gave the Red Sox hitters credit, but acknowledged Plutko didn’t do himself any favors.

“He kept the ball up and fell behind in counts,” said Tucker. “They did a good job of hitting him but it really just wasn’t his day.”

In relief, Nixon was one of the few bright spots for Carolina on Sunday. The righty came in and extinguished the fire in the third retiring Leonel EscobarJose Vinicio and Johnson in order. But the damage was done with the Mudcats already down 6-1 and Salem starter Corey Littrell (5-4, 3.99) breezing through the Carolina lineup.

The Mudcats managed their only run off the Red Sox southpaw early as Medina opened the bottom of the first with a double to left before Erik Gonzalez’s infield single moved Medina to third. Joe Sever then grounded to short, with Salem electing to trade two outs for the run turning a double play as Medina scored to put Carolina up 1-0.

After the first, Littrell dominated the Mudcats lineup on the way to his fifth win of the season. He went 7.0 innings allowing the one earned run on three hits while walking two and striking out four.

Littrell’s outing impressed Tucker, who watched the lefty befuddle his lineup for much of Sunday’s contest allowing just five base runners.

“He pitched really well. He came inside well and then really moved the ball around,” Tucker said. “He’s just a good pitcher.”

Even down 6-1, Nixon provided just a glimmer of hope for the Mudcats as he did his part to keep Carolina alive in the middle innings pitching three more innings of no-hit relief.

Tucker highlighted the importance of his reliever’s success coming at a time the team desperately needed it: “He came in and got us some much needed outs from the bullpen. Without him, we’d have really been in trouble.”

Salem tacked onto their lead in the top of the seventh with Benny Suarez on the hill for Carolina. Witte doubled deep to right before Heller followed with a base hit to put men on the corners. A Tavarez groundout then scored Witte as the Red Sox extended their lead to 7-1.

Both teams added a run in their respective halves of the ninth, with Salem’s coming via Tavarez’s towering tenth homerun of the year off Grant Sides. The Mudcats got the run back in the bottom of the frame thanks to a two-out single from LeVon Washington, which allowed Sever to score the game’s final run.

Carolina was doubled up on hits Sunday, with the Red Sox outhitting them ten to five.

The Mudcats drop to 10-8 in the second half and 39-46 overall. Salem moves above .500 improving to 9-8 in the second half to sit at 42-43 overall.

Carolina will head to Lynchburg for a four-game series with the Hillcats beginning Monday. Shawn Morimando (8-2, 2.93) will start the opener for the Mudcats against Cody Scarpetta (2-2, 2.86).

First pitch from Calvin Falwell Field is set for 7:05 PM. 

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