Charleston RiverDogs starting pitcher Brady Lail tossed six shutout innings, but the Lexington Legends’ bats came alive against the Charleston bullpen to score six runs in the final three innings and take the series opener 6-4 on Thursday night in South Atlantic League action at Whitaker Bank Ballpark.
Charleston falls to 30-37 with the loss. Lexington pulls within one game of the RiverDogs in the SAL Southern Division standings with the victory and advances to 29-38 on the season.
Michael O’Neill began the game with a single off Lexington starter Matt Tenuta. After a walk to Tyler Wade moved O’Neill to second base, Aaron Judge doubled off the right field wall to score O’Neill. Wade was thrown out trying to score from first base on the play. Lail then struck out two batters in a perfect first inning of work to begin his night.
After a couple of singles by Gosuke Katoh and Wade had runners on the corners with only one out in the top of the third frame, Judge again drove in a run with a sacrifice fly to right field to put the RiverDogs up 2-0.
The lead became 3-0 on Eduardo de Oleo’s solo homer on the very first pitch of the seventh inning. The homer is de Oleo’s team-leading ninth of the year.
Brady Lail departed after six dazzling innings of scoreless baseball during which he allowed just three hits and one walk with six strikeouts and his team in front 3-0. However, he would not factor in the decision in the end.
Lexington’s bats woke up in a big way against Charleston lefty Rony Bautista. The first four batters in the bottom of the seventh reached for the Legends on a pair of doubles by Elier Hernandez and Humberto Arteaga, a walk by Chad Johnson, and a two-run homer by Fred Ford. With Charleston now down 4-3, Angel Rincon came in with the bases empty and nobody out. An error on the shortstop Tyler Wade allowed Kevin Kuntz to reach, and he later scored on a single by Dominique Taylor to make it a 5-3 game.
Three consecutive singles off Lexington reliever Jose Rodriguez to start the eighth inning by Wade, Judge, and Reymond Nunez cut the Legends’ lead to 5-4, but an unlucky 3-6 double play ended the inning and stranded the tying run at third base for Charleston.
Arteaga tripled to right in the bottom of the eighth to drive home Chad Johnson who reached on error and give Lexington a 6-4 lead with three outs to go.
In the ninth inning, three walks loaded the bases for the RiverDogs with two outs. Aaron Judge came to the plate with the tying run at second base, but Rodriguez settled down and struck out the Charleston slugger to end the game and seal the win.
Tripp Davis recorded the final two outs in the seventh frame without allowing a run to earn the victory, stay unbeaten, and improve to 2-0. Rony Bautista was tagged with the loss to fall to 0-1. Jose Rodriguez earned his fourth save of the season.
COMING UP: Charleston stays in Lexington to take on the Legends in game two of the four-game series on Friday night at 7:05pm. The RiverDogs will send out RHP Rookie Davis (2-6, 5.57 ERA) to make the start while the Legends will counter with RHP Luke Farrell (1-5, 5.20 ERA). The RiverDogs will return to Joseph P. Riley, Jr. Park for the start of the second half. On Thursday, June 19, Charleston will host the Minor League Baseball Game of the Week on CBS Sports Network against the Kannapolis Intimidators on another Budweiser Thirsty Thursday, presented by 95SX, with $1 drafts and DJ Natty Heavy. Tickets may be purchased at the Riley Park Box Office, (843) 577-DOGS (3647) or on-line at www.riverdogs.com. If fans cannot make it to the ballpark, they are encouraged to tune in to all the action this year both home and away worldwide on www.riverdogs.com and locally on 1250 WTMA, the new radio home for RiverDogs baseball.