Shortstop Wilkerman Garcia touched off for two home runs, including a go-ahead two-run shot in the seventh inning, to lead the Charleston RiverDogs past the Greenville Drive, 7-2, on Saturday night at Fluor Field.
The RiverDogs (11-12) cruised to a rare comfortable win in a season thus far punctuated by tight games late with the Charleston having nine of their last 11 decided by just one tally and a league leading 14 overall this season. Garcia drove in three of Charleston’s first four in the game to tie a career-high in his first multi-home run performance of the year. The 20-year-old infielder now has hit a career-best four longballs on the season after owning just two in his first three MiLB seasons.
Garrett Whitlock kept pitching to his Opening Night starter pedigree for the Holy City, turning in five more shutout frames while punching out seven batters for the third time this year to lower his ERA to 1.33. The Georgia right-hander set down the first 11 Greenville (4-19) batters of the ballgame before yielding a two-out double to first baseman Victor Acosta in the fourth.
Charleston broke up a scoreless tie in the fourth. After catcher Jason Lopez doubled with two gone, right fielder Leonardo Molina got the RiverDogs on the board with an RBI, two-strike single up the middle. In the fifth, Charleston doubled their lead with another two-out strike, Garcia’s first home run of the game, a no-doubt solo blast to left-center to make it 2-0.
The Drive capitalized on wildness from reliever Anderson Severino (1-0) in the sixth. The Dominican southpaw walked three and issued two wild pitches to allow Greenville to tie the game. Severino was charged with a blown save but got the win.
Garcia went deep in his second straight plate appearance, cranking a 2-1 pitch out to right, this time off reliever Alberto Franco (0-1), to put Charleston back in front, 4-2, in the seventh.
The RiverDogs found some more breathing room in the ninth, plating three to secure the win. Molina walked to open the frame before left fielder Pablo Olivares singled. Dalton Blaser and Ricardo Ferreira followed with back-to-back RBI knocks. After a fielder’s choice ground out by Garcia put runners at the corners, the Dogs got a third run on a delayed double steal, scoring Blaser as Oswaldo Cabrera struck out swinging and a return throw from second was late.
Chad Martin (H, 1) pitched two scoreless frames, including striking out the side in the seventh, to get the RiverDogs bullpen back on track after the relief corps lost a two-run lead in the ninth inning on Friday.
Garcia’s performance was the second two-homer game for the RiverDogs this year after Chris Hess went deep twice on April 9 in Rome.
-per Charleston RiverDogs