Winston Gets the Wilmington Blues: Dash fall to Blue Rocks 4-1

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — The Dash were unable to summon a strong offense against top Royals pitching prospect Kyle Bubic and Konnor Pilkington ran into a home run problem he previously did not have, as the team fell 4-1 to the Wilmington Blue Rocks on Wednesday night.

There have been some struggles at the plate in the second half, with the All-Star Break apparently coming at the perfect time to stop any momentum, that half-mythical beast, dead in its tracks. The team is 11-15 since returning, a .423 winning percentage. Generally, the pitching has held up (number of runs given up by the pitching staff in July losses, per game: 2, 4, 3, 6, 3, 4, 4, 3, then 4 tonight). As a group, Dash hitters just haven’t been pushing runs across the plate.

They were helped in the first half by consistent output from Zach Remillard and Jameson Fisher, both repeating the level; Remillard has gone from a .304/.378/.424 pre-All-Star line to .261/.310/.304 post, and Fisher, while still playing a truly solid first base, has gone from .257/.367/.414 before the break to just .176/.274/.231 after. Steele Walker was unstoppable in June with a line of .330/.379/.523 over 88 at-bats that month but has dropped to .222/.288/.356 in July. Craig Dedelow had a similarly scorching June and has had a similarly slow July, all of these contributing to a lower spot in the standings than really works for playoff purposes.

Fisher did pick up a hit today, a two-out, second-inning single that ended up going nowhere. Dedelow had a better outcome: He killed a baseball straight dead, like he does pretty much every time he makes contact, putting it deep in the right field seats for his 11th dong of the year. This was one of those loud home runs, the ones that hurt your ears as it bursts off the bat, but it was also the only run the Dash was able to score. Tyler Frost was caught stealing after his first-inning single; Tate Blackman and Mitch Roman were both aboard with singles in the third, but Roman got picked off first base (with Blackman at second) to end that inning. The Dash did not get a hit after Dedelow’s fourth-inning homer, a streak of 17 straight batters not even reaching base.

A quick note on Walker: this isn’t a signal to catastrophize. Walker is in a slump that’s almost certainly temporary. He’s walked four times and has struck out only five over his last 10 games, so it’s not like he’s getting badly fooled. This is likely a midsummer cool-down and with temperatures this week in the mid-high 90s, who can blame him? He’s making plenty of contact and eventually, those hits will start dropping in again.

On the Pilkington side of things, Pilkington didn’t even really have a rough inning, just a few rough at-bats. He finished essentially one batter away from a quality start, which requires an outing of six innings and three earned runs; Pilkington allowed a fourth run to score on a two-out single in the fifth before finishing the inning. The first Blue Rocks run came in the third, when Pilkington gave up a leadoff single, then a double to left that might have been a single if Dedelow hadn’t dived for it, not scoring the leading runner but advancing him to third. He scored on a ground ball out. The big inning was the fifth, when Pilkington gave up back-to-back one-out home runs, symmetrically to left and right field.

But that was really all the trouble he had. He struck out five and only walked one and even only gave up six hits. Most of his pitches went for strikes (57-33, 90 total). Those two home runs were only the fourth and fifth he's given up since his promotion to Winston over two months ago, spanning 11 starts and 56 innings, so it's even more unusual that he gave them up consecutively.

Tyler Johnson came out of the bullpen and appears to be fully healed from the lat strain that’s kept him out for most of the season. He went two innings and struck out five, taking only 30 pitches (21 strikes) to do it all in his most dominant outing yet. Kevin Escorcia pitched a scoreless ninth to wrap things up.

TBD will be on the mound tomorrow for game two of the homestand at 7 pm, and what a mysterious treat that will be.

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