CHARLESTON, S.C. - A night removed from putting six runs on the board Friday night, the RiverDogs couldn't find their rhythm at the plate and dropped Saturday night's contest to the Greenville Drive 5-1 in front of 4,993 at Joe Riley Park.
All hope is not lost for the Dogs following the defeat, though Charleston's chances are grim entering play on the final day of the first half. The Rome Braves defeated the Augusta GreenJackets 3-2, keeping Charleston's playoff hopes on life support, but the Lexington Legends again beat the Columbia Fireflies to move into sole possession of first place by a half-game. For the Dogs to clinch a playoff spot Sunday afternoon, they need Lexington and Augusta to lose their respective games, as well as a win of their own over the Drive.
Charleston's (36-33) lone run came in the bottom of the fifth inning, when the first four RiverDogs reached against Greenville (32-37) starter Alex Scherff (3-5, 4.35). Welfrin Mateo, making his first start in three days, led off the frame with his first double since joining Charleston on June 9. Eduardo Navas attempted to lay down a sacrifice bunt in effort to get his teammate over to third with one away, and ended up with an infield single when the ball was not fielded cleanly by Scherff.
The table was set for Eduardo Torrealba, who grounded a 1-0 pitch the opposite way and through the hole on the right side of the infield to plate Mateo.
The run-scoring knock cut Greenville's 2-0 lead in half, bringing Charleston back into the contest after Nolan Martinez (1-1, 1.82) surrendered a pair of runs in the second and fourth innings. The Drive scratched the game's first run across on the strength of a sacrifice fly by Brandon Howlett, scoring Jordan Wren, who led off the inning with a walk.
Greenville doubled its lead in the fourth, on an RBI single by Cottam to drive Devlin Granberg, the second hit by a Martinez offering, home. Charleston's manager Julio Mosquera had seen enough from his starter after the inning, yanking Martinez in favor of Carlos Espinal in the top of the fifth. Martinez exited his shortest start of his young stint with Charleston having allowed two runs (one earned) on three hits and two walks in four frames.
The Drive mustered only a single hit in the fifth against Espinal, but touched him up for two in the sixth when Boston's No. 1 prospect Triston Casas took Espinal yard with Granberg on first. The two-run blast was the 12th of the season for Casas, and pushed Greenville's lead to 4-1.
Espinal was sent back out to complete the seventh and allowed one more tally on another sacrifice fly, this time from Grant Williams to push the Drive lead to the 5-1 score by which they would eventually prevail.
In the silver linings department for Charleston, Jefry Valdez completed the final two fames for the Dogs, striking out a career-high-tying five hitters without allowing a run.
T-shirt time! After the game, fans who stuck around witnessed and took park in a T-shirt toss of epic proportions. 1,000 'Make Fun' shirts flew into the stands following the final out, so fans certainly had their chance to take home a memento from Saturday night's contest. Those who showed up to the park early also got to meet some of their favorite RiverDogs and received pregame autographs.
The RiverDogs wrap up the first half with the fourth and final game of the series against the Greenville Drive. The Father's day contest is slated to start at 1:05 p.m. with Luis Gil (2-3, 1.81) scheduled to take the mound for the Dogs against the Drive for the second time this season. Gil is coming off his best start of the campaign on June 10, when he went toe-to-toe with former American League Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel on the road against the Rome Braves. Gil threw seven shutout innings allowing just three hits and a walk with ten strikeouts. In his previous start against Greenville earlier this season, he required 97 pitches to work just 4.2 innings, allowing two runs on two hits with nine strikeouts on May 3. Gil will be hoping for a more efficient outing this time around.