Keury De La Cruz homered and drove in four runs to lead the Greenville Drive to a 12-6 victory over the Charleston RiverDogs in South Atlantic League action on Friday night at Joseph P. Riley, Jr. Park with 4,772 in attendance.
The loss, combined with a win by the Asheville Tourists, knocked the RiverDogs out of first place for the first time in 44 days and put their record at 31-16, while Greenville crept within one game of .500, at 23-24.
"It was a tough start for Rutckyj, he just didn't have command of his pitches," said RiverDogs manager Carlos Mendoza. "Unfortunately, we had to get him out of there early. We were shorthanded in our bullpen because of the last three days, playing long games. We battled, got close in the end and just came up a few plays short at the end."
Charleston scored first when two first inning singles brought up Ben Gamel (2-5, RBI, run), who doubled to score Cito Culver, but Greenville came back in a big way in the second. After a single by David Renfroe started the inning, the Drive patiently waited out three straight walks from Charleston's Evan Rutckyj (1-1) to score one run. An infield single by Jordan Weems scored a second run and Rutckyj's fourth walk of the inning forced in another run. The last two runs of the inning came in on a single by Keury De La Cruz (2-5, 4 RBI, run) and a sacrifice fly by Garin Cecchini.
In the fourth, the first two batters got on thanks to a walk and a single and De La Cruz then cleared the wall in right-center with a long home run that blew the game open for Greenville and made the score 8-1. Lucas LeBlanc (2-4, HE, 2 RBI, 2 runs) hit his first home run of the year in the fifth to add to the lead, and an RBI single by Henry Ramos made the score 10-2.
Greenville starter Mickey Pena (4-2) kept the RiverDogs lineup in check through five strong innings. He allowed just two runs, only one earned, on six hits and just one walk, striking out nine. The RiverDogs got their second run off him in the fifth when Kelvin De Leon doubled and scored on an error.
Charleston put together a rally in the eighth when doubles by Angelo Gumbs (2-5, RBI, run) and Reymond Nunez scored two runs, and after an RBI groundout by De Leon, Mason Williams hit an RBI single to make the score 10-6, but it was as close as they would come. Two more runs by Greenville in the ninth off RiverDogs utility infielder Casey Stevenson, including a solo shot by Henry Ramos, secured their win.