Christian Morris spun five shutout innings of one-hit ball and the RiverDogs broke out of an early offensive funk to bounce back and blank the West Virginia Power 3-0 to avenge a 7-0 shutout loss in game one and salvage a doubleheader split on Wednesday at Appalachian Power Park.
With the twin bill split and a Rome loss on the evening, the RiverDogs’ magic number to clinch the second-half is down to just seven with 11 games remaining.
A superb piece of Charleston’s rotation in 2016, Morris (5-2) made his first official start of the season, filling in after Tuesday night’s opener was postponed. The former Hoosier righty struck out five batters and issued two walks to pick up his fifth win.
The RiverDogs (70-58, 36-22) backed Morris in the second when Isiah Gilliam scored on a base hit by Dermis Garcia after left fielder Ryan Nagle juggled the ball for an unearned run that put Charleston on the board for the first time after they were held to just two hits and three total baserunners in the opener. Key two-out knocks by catcher Ryan Lidge in the fourth and Gilliam in the seventh pushed across insurance runs to pad the lead to 3-0.
Matthew Wivinis logged two scoreless innings out of the bullpen, including striking out the side in the seventh to secure his first Class-A save.
In game one, Gilliam broke up a no-hit bid with two outs in the seventh inning to avoid what would have been the second no-no thrown against the RiverDogs on the season after a 9-inning outing by Nick Fanti on July 17 in Lakewood. Second baseman Oswaldo Cabrera followed up with the only other Charleston hit with a single on the next at-bat as Charleston were blanked 7-0. A completion of the feat would have marked the first time a Charleston club has been no-hit twice in one season since the 1985 Rainbows.
Right-hander Eduardo Vera (6-7) finished with a complete game shutout, allowing just three baserunners over the seven innings while fanning six RiverDogs batters.
Righty Alex Vargas had his roughest outing since joining the RiverDogs in mid-July. The 20-year-old Dominican yielded three straight hits to open the game, two doubles and a triple, in a rude welcome by the Power before coughing up three runs in the inning. Kevin Mahala roped a leadoff homer in the fourth as part of a two-run inning, and designated hitter Henrry Rosario made it 7-0 with a two-run homer in the sixth as part of his Power debut.
Vargas had not allowed more than two runs in any of his previous six starts with the RiverDogs as his ERA rose to a 3.53 mark. It was the 12th time this year and the second time in the previous four games that Charleston’s offense had been shutout.
Cabrera had an evening at the plate, going 3-for-7 while splitting time between both positions up the middle.
The RiverDogs wrap up the series with the West Virginia in the season finale against the Power on Thursday evening at 7:05. Charleston will send right-hander Nick Green (8-8, 4.80) to the hill as the Power counter with righty Mike Wallace (4-6, 3.80). The game can be tuned into on “The Big Talker” WTMA 1250 AM and online with streaming audio via riverdogs.com and the RiverDogs’ TuneIn Radio app station.