GREENVILLE, S.C. – With a slim lead over their Upstate rivals, the Charleston RiverDogs ended up having to hang on in the ninth to keep their winning streak alive. RiverDogs catcher Josh Breaux touched off for his third home run in the last four days and shortstop Wilkerman Garcia added a key insurance tally with a leadoff blast in the eighth as Charleston rode the longball for their fifth consecutive victory on Friday night with a 7-5 win over the Drive at Fluor Field.
Breaux’s three-run blast on the first pitch he saw from reliever Brendan Nail sailed over the left-center wall and into an open apartment window for a no-doubt blast that made it 6-2 RiverDogs (15-13) in the sixth inning. It marked the second-round pick’s club-leading fifth homer of the season; the Texas native has now driven in 15 runs for Charleston in his last seven games, a scorching span when he has gone 13-for-31 (.419) as the Dogs’ leading run producer with 22 RBI on the season.
The Drive (11-16) answered back quickly from what could have been a decisive blow, scoring three times themselves in the bottom half. Left fielder Jordan Wren launched his third of the season to right-center, his second of the campaign against the RiverDogs, the first of three extra-base hits in the inning to pull the Red Sox affiliate back within a run.
Shortstop Wilkerman Garcia continued look comfortable in the confines of the Fenway Park replica, blasting his fourth career home run at Fluor Field to make it 7-5 RiverDogs in the eighth. The Venezuela native collected three of his six home runs as a RiverDog in the Upstate last season, before slamming his first of the year on Friday night, once again against the Boston affiliate.
Newcomer Wellington Diaz (1-0) gave up the three Drive runs in the sixth but settled in after that during his South Atlantic debut to pick up the win in relief. Starter Luis Gil struggled with command at times, but still racked up the punchouts, fanning nine over 4 2/3 frames of two-run ball. The 20-year-old right-hander was charged with one earned run and walked four while recording at least eight strikeouts for a third consecutive start.
Aaron McGarity allowed the winning run to get to the plate in the ninth but finished the game with a strikeout of Wren to tie up his second save of the season.
With a double in the seventh, centerfielder Josh Stowers extended his hitting streak to a RiverDogs season-high nine straight games. The Louisville product is batting .412 (14-for-34) during the stretch going back to April 16, interrupted by a stay on the injured list after a play at the plate last week Tuesday at Riley Park. Canaan Smith singled to knock in the tying run of the game in the fifth and has now hit safely in eight straight for a second time this season.
Charleston continues the series on Saturday night with another 7:05 p.m. tilt with the Drive at Fluor Field.