GREENVILLE, S.C. – Zach Nuding threw 6.0 shutout innings, and Gary Sanchez and Kyle Roller homered, as the Charleston RiverDogs downed the Greenville Drive, 6-2, in South Atlantic League action Friday night in front of a crowd of 5,593 fans at Fluor Field.
The RiverDogs moved to 15-20 with their third consecutive win, while the Drive fell out of a first-place tie and dropped below .500 at 17-18 with the loss.
An hour-long rain delay pushed the start time back to 8:05 pm, but the two rivals provided some immediate fireworks once the game did get under way.
Greenville starter Miguel Celestino (2-3) plunked Slade Heathcott in the shoulder with the second pitch of the night, prompting a benches-clearing brawl. When the fracas ended, Heathcott and reliever Kelvin Perez were ejected for the RiverDogs, while catcher Christian Vazquez and reliever Garett Rau were sent to an early shower for the Drive.
After the dust settled and both clubs returned to their respective dugouts, the RiverDogs offense jumped on Celestino to take a 2-0 lead.
Jose Mojica extended his career-best hitting streak to nine games, ripping a double off the Green Monster in left to chase home Eduardo Sosa, who had entered for Heathcott. Mojica advanced to third on the throw to the plate, and came in to score himself when Celestino uncorked a wild pitch with Rob Segedin batting.
Celestino settled in to match a season-high with seven strikeouts, but once again failed to work through the fifth inning. The 6-6 righty lasted 4.2 innings, surrendering the two runs on four hits and three walks.
Nuding (4-2) appeared unfazed by the waiting around, penning 6.0 shutout innings in his third start of the year versus Greenville. Nuding allowed only two hits and three walks, fanning four in the process. The Drive could never get the engine started against Nuding, advancing only two runners into scoring position and failing to put two men on base at the same time.
Juan Rodriguez, the SAL's leader in strikeouts per nine innings, came out of the Greenville bullpen to relieve Celestino. Rodriguez struck out Ramon Flores to strand a runner in scoring position in the fifth, but could not escape the sixth unscathed as Charleston extended its advantage to 3-0.
Sanchez provided the tally with one swing, hammering his second home run of the season well over the Monster in left. It was Sanchez's first tater since an opening night blast in Lexington.
Sanchez struck again in the seventh off Drive reliever Charle Rosario, chopping a RBI double inside the third base bag to score Flores for a 4-0 RiverDogs lead. Kyle Roller stepped to the dish next and upped the margin to 6-0 with his fourth round tripper of the campaign. Roller smoked the Rosario offering over the left-centerfield wall for his third home run in as many nights.
The Drive finally got on the board in the eighth off RiverDogs righty Danny Burawa, as Bryce Brentz continued his assault on SAL pitching. Brentz, a 2010 first round selection of the Red Sox, stroked a two-run shot for his ninth home run of the year, increasing his circuit-best RBI total to 33.
That was as close as Greenville would get, though, as Burawa recovered to author a 1-2-3 ninth and record his third save.
The RiverDogs and Drive play the second of a four-game set on Saturday at 7:05 pm. Right-hander Shane Greene (2-3, 4.75 ERA) is expected to pitch for Charleston, versus left-hander Manuel Rivera (4-1, 2.38 ERA) of Greenville.