Right-hander Rony Garcia turned in the second straight scoreless outing by a Charleston starter and catcher Jason Lopez mashed his fifth home run of the season to pad an early lead as the RiverDogs cruised to their third straight victory, 6-2, over the Greenville Drive and continued their league-best start to the second-half on Monday night at Fluor Field.
Garcia’s (3-4) six scoreless frames was a marked difference from his four starts in June, when the 20-year-old went 0-2 with an ERA over 6.00. The second-year RiverDog struck out three while yielding just two hits and one walk in his first quality start since May 27 at Hickory.
The victory sets up a potential four-game sweep on Tuesday night in Greenville (29-52, 4-8) after the RiverDogs (41-37, 8-2) had lost their first three series against their in-state rivals. The Holy City’s 8-2 record since the All-Star break is the best in the South Atlantic League and Charleston’s best 10-game stretch of the season.
For the fourth straight game, the Dogs found themselves locked in an early pitchers’ duel that was 0-0 after three. A pair of two-out knocks by DH Miguel Flames, an RBI single in his first game after a disabled list stint, and right fielder Mitchell Hansen, a triple, pushed Charleston out to a 2-0 advantage in the fourth.
Lopez doubled the lead to 4-0 with one of the more impressive home runs of the 2018 campaign, a two-run fly off the batter’s eye that traveled an estimated 394 feet in the fifth. The backstop’s fifth of the season continued to run up his career-best total after never tallying more than one long ball in each of his first three pro seasons.
Center fielder Pablo Olivares used an infield knock to extend his hitting streak for the second straight game, hustling out his lone hit in the seventh to push the stretch out to 11 in a row. The Venezeulan 20-year-old is now 17-for-43 (.395) since the All-Star break after reaching base three times on Monday from the leadoff spot.
The Charleston bullpen’s scoreless streak of 8 1/3 innings in the series came to an end when Austin DeCarr yielded a pair of runs in his first outing off the DL in the eighth. Braden Bristo mopped up the rest of the game, turning in 2 1/3 scoreless with four strikeouts down the stretch.
In the eighth, second baseman Welfrin Mateo belted his third home run in 15 games as a RiverDog to stretch Charleston’s lead to 6-2. It was Mateo’s second home run at Fluor Field this year, his first since homering in his Class A debut on June 9.
Charleston goes for their first four-game series sweep on Tuesday night in Greenville, sending a former Rangers prospect, left-hander Reiver Sanmartin, to make his RiverDogs debut. Greenville will counter with southpaw Jhonathan Diaz (3-5, 3.71). Tuesdays’s game can be tuned into on “The Big Talker” WTMA 1250 AM with audio streaming live at riverdogs.com and the RiverDogs’ TuneIn radio station.