Kinston, NC – A monsoon arrived in the top of the ninth, allowing Salem’s 4-3 lead to stand as a final score in the series finale at Grainger Stadium. The victory improved the Red Sox to a Carolina League-best 14-5 on the season heading into a 10-game homestand at LewisGale Field that kicks off on Friday.
Dan Butler blasted the game-changing homer in the top of the fourth, a two-run blast off Kinston’s T.J. House that transformed a 3-2 deficit into a one-run lead that would not be relinquished. Butler’s jack, his fourth of the season, gave him a league-best 22 RBI and catapulted the Sox into the driver’s seat.
Salem starter Chris Balcom-Miller lasted four innings and did not receive a decision, but the Salem bullpen stymied the Indians the rest of the way. Anatanaer Batista earned the victory to improve to 3-0 on the season by tossing three scoreless innings, while Cesar Cabral earned his league-leading fifth save by tossing a scoreless eighth.
The top of the ninth began with Butler leading off, but in the midst of the at-bat, the skies opened and buckets of rain stampeded the infield. The umpires quickly cleared the field and the Kinston field crew attempted to unfurl the tarp, but the downpour was so voracious that the crew was unsuccessful. A large chunk of the first-base side of the infield remained uncovered and quickly became unplayable. The decision to call the game arrived promptly thereafter.
Peter Hissey delivered a double and a triple for the Sox, scoring a run and driving in a run from the second-spot in the order. Hissey scored on Kolbrin Vitek’s sac fly in the first to make it 1-0, and following Kinston’s three-run rally in the second, he drove in Vladimir Frias from second base in the third to get the Sox back within a run.
In the fourth, Butler, who went 2-3, hammered the long ball that surged Salem ahead. The Sox managed just two hits the rest of the way, but prevailed because of the dominant bullpen.
Abner Abreu led the Indians offense with two hits, including a two-run homer off Balcom-Miller in the second-inning. Balcom-Miller allowed three runs on six hits over four frames, the first time in four starts this year he did not pitch five innings and earn a win. Balcom-Miller did record a season-high seven strikeouts.
House suffered the loss for Kinston, falling to 0-3 on the year. House struck out six in five innings, but also yielded four runs on five hits.
With a game and a half lead over Myrtle Beach in the Southern Division, the Sox are back in the Valley for the next ten games, beginning with a weekend series against Potomac. Salem sends Pete Ruiz to the mound in the opener on Friday night opposite Marcos Frias for the Nationals. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05.
Submitted by Evan Lepler, Radio Broadcaster for Salem Red Sox Professional Baseball