After going a near-perfect 5-1 in their last away stand of the season, the Salem Red Sox found themselves on the brink of their first playoff birth since 2009. Scoring a total of 44 runs and only giving up 24, in those six games, the Sox made a clear push for the playoffs throughout the month of August (hence the trendy social media hashtag; #playoffpush).
With one mindset, the Sox proved to be the post-season contender they knew they could be all season, winning 20 of the last 28 games (since July 30).
Bringing it all back home to Salem on Wednesday evening for a double-header, Salem had the opportunity to give the hometown fans something to enjoy in their last regular-season home stand of the 2013 campaign.
Salem played host to the Frederick Keys but came up short in game one of two by score of 3-1. After giving up two early runs to the Keys and stranding a plethora of base runners throughout the game, the Sox just couldn’t fade the Keys’ lead.
The better of their chances came in the bottom of the fifth and sixth innings where Blake Swihart doubled in both frames, recording the only RBI of the game for Salem in the sixth. Henry Ramos had a controversial home run blast that the umpires deemed a foul ball. The pitchers down in the Sox dugout probably had the best angle on it and were signaling fair ball – sending 2,463 Sox fans in an uproar of disagreement.
But regardless of popular opinion, Salem still couldn’t manage a comeback inevitably keeping them two wins away from clinching a playoff birth.
In between games I didn’t have much to do so I observed the facilities operations workers as they broke down the infield and got it ready for game two. I have to say, those guys do a fantastic job and are very, very efficient…not to mention how lovely they make the field look. Also, the new and improved live-cam they have going up on the video board had a crisp look and was very fan-friendly…I like it! Kudos goes to Emily Roberts for the phenomenal on-field camera work.
Game two had a sluggish start offensively, from both teams respectively.
Defensively, the pitchers from both teams (Salem- RHP Mike McCarthy & Frederick- LHP Ashur Tolliver) were dealing; each posted seven straight scoreless frames.
Shaking things up inside LewisGale Field though, was the promotions team. With the new “Bubble Gum Toss” and “Shake It” competition, the fans in attendance got a taste of some of the changes that will likely be made for the 2014 season. I must add in that Salem Sox Radio Broadcaster, Evan Lepler, went two-for-two from the press box with his fishnet during the T-Shirt Toss. And for those of us who have been at the majority of the home games this year, that hasn’t happened all season!
It wasn’t until the ninth inning when Carson Blair smacked a ground ball that rolled all the way to the left-field wall and was good for a stand-up double. David Chester then stepped in the box and ripped a liner down the third base line that squirted past Keys’ third basemen, Jason Esposito, and went far enough for Blair to round third and make it home to secure the walk-off win for Salem!
It didn’t take long for his fellow teammates to run out of the dugout and absolutely mug Chester.
The winning pitcher for Salem in game two was Mike McCarthy who improved his season record to 6-2. Pitching tomorrow night (Thursday) for Salem is expected to be RHP Luis Diaz (1-0).
The win in game two turned out to be the seventh walk-off win of the season for the Sox and now there are just one, YES ONE win away from clinching a their post-season position. These two teams will be back at it again tomorrow night (Thursday August 29) and Salem will be looking to finally punch their ticket into September.
Salem will be holding a number of different promotions this weekend inside the ballpark, starting on Thursday with College Football Rivalry Night and how convenient is this when the season kicks off on the same night! Friday will be Star Wars Night and will also be good for a post-game fireworks show. Saturday, the Mayberry Deputy will be making his annual appearance that no Andy Griffith fan wants to miss out on.
With plenty of promotions to benefit from during the last three regular-season home games, fans have more than enough reasons to come out and support Salem as they look to make Salem Red Sox history!