(Wilmington Blue) Rocks This Town: Dash lose second straight to Blue Rocks, 7-6

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — The summer doldrums have officially settled over Winston-Salem. Despite a late-inning comeback attempt, the Dash fell 7-6 to the Wilmington Blue Rocks on Thursday night, the victims of untimely hitting and hittable pitching.

Thanks in part to injuries to many top pitching prospects, the Dash boast one of the strongest fronts-of-rotation in the system, trotting out Jonathan Stiever, Kade McClure, and Konnor Pilkington every few days. They still have to fill out the backend, though, because baseball is played nearly every day, and they’ve had to turn to a rotating cast of characters for that purpose.

Zach Lewis is one of them, switching from a mostly relieving role to starting about halfway through the season. Lewis was selected late in the 2014 draft by the Pittsburg Pirates but did not sign. He ended up on the White Sox as an undrafted minor league free agent in mid-2017. Lewis breezed through the AZL Sox and Kannapolis, but Winston has provided him with his first real challenge. Like most pitchers are, he was a little better in relief, and while he’s thrown two or three clunkers as a starter, he’s also shown some promise.

The “clunker” side of things outweighed the “promise” side tonight, though, as Lewis gave up a run in the first inning and labored through the rest of his outing. Things started on a high note when the first pitch of the game was rolled to Tate Blackman at second base for the ground ball out, but that was pretty much the peak of the game. The next batter hit a ball that ended up nestled cozily in its new home beyond the outfield fence in left center, and two men in, the Dash were facing a deficit they never overcame (it’s symbolic).

The Blue Rocks added another two in the second, one of them unearned on Craig Dedelow’s throwing error in right that skipped by a waiting Carlos Perez at the plate (Dedelow typically a left fielder, if that makes a difference). The final two runs off Lewis came in a lengthy fourth inning. He walked Nick Pratto to open the frame, and a sacrifice bunt moved him to second. A Sebastian Rivero single put runners on the corners, and a sacrifice fly scored Pratto. Rivero stole second and took third on a wild pitch, then scored on Michael Gigliotti’s single. The inning ended on a nigh-perfect throw by Perez to cut down Gigliotti trying to steal second, and that was it for Lewis, who gave up five runs (four earned) over four innings, striking out three and walking two.

The Dash were able to do some damage to Blue Rocks starter Austin Cox, the Royals’ fifth-rounder from 2018, but not much. They tied it up in the first inning, Tyler Frost singling to lead off, needlessly advancing to third through sacrifices, then scoring on Dedelow’s seventh triple. Dedelow has this pocket in deep right, right center field that he loves dumping the ball in and just taking off for third. You wouldn’t necessarily expect a 6’4” hitter who generates a LOT of power when he makes contact to lead his team in triples, but you expect wrong.

Blackman hit a second-inning home run, solo, just his second of the season after mashing 17 in Kannapolis last season. Blackman missed about a month of this year with an undisclosed injury and suffered from chronic limited playing time before that (it comes with the territory when Nick Madrigal is blocking you), so it’s only in the last month or so that he’s been both healthy and able to play every day. His overall numbers on the year aren’t great, but at least his OBP is above .300, with a full line of .158/.301/.241.

It wasn’t until the sixth and Cox was out of the game that the Dash were able to score again, trailing 5-2 at this point. With two outs, JJ Muno hit a well-placed bunt single, then Yeyson Yrizarri sliced his first triple of the year to right field to score the run. Yrizarri has struggled most of this year, despite playing an electric if wild third base, but is looking at his first hot streak of 2019: in 12 games in July so far, he’s hitting .333/.371/.545. This made the score 5-3.

The last three innings saw some excitement. Jake Elliott pitched the fifth and sixth in relief of Lewis, and was relieved himself by Bennett Sousa. It took nine games, but Sousa finally stumbled, giving up two solo shots in the seventh (7-3, Blue Rocks). In the bottom of the seventh, the Dash responded with two runs of their own, both scoring on the same swing as Jameson Fisher sent his seventh tater of the year just over the short right field fence, bringing Dedelow home after a HBP as well. Score, 7-5.

The ninth was a tightrope walk for both teams. Andrew Perez took over for Sousa and issued a leadoff walk to Blue Rock Kyle Kasser. Michael Gigliotti hit a bunt that Yrizarri made a great play on but bad throw, and the error allowed Kasser to make it to third and Gigliotti to second with nobody out. Perez (Andrew) got two crucial strikeouts, intentionally walked Dennicher Carrasco to load the bases, then got a third, even more crucial strikeout, ending the threat without allowing a run.

Steele Walker led off the bottom of the ninth with a single, his only hit of the day. Dedelow doubled him over to third, clearly looking for another triple but unable to get it. Perez (Carlos) grounded one through the left side, scoring Walker to make it a 7-6 ballgame, but that’s the ballgame it would remain.

Jorgan Cavanerio, who threw seven quick four-hit innings in his last home start, is on the mound on Friday at 7 pm.

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