SALISBURY, Md. – The RiverDogs offense showed signs of life late, scoring the final three runs of the contest in a comeback effort that fell short as Charleston dropped a 4-3 contest in Friday night’s series opener from Perdue Stadium.
Yoendrys Gomez (L, 0-1) cracked first in an early pitchers’ duel with Orioles first-rounder Grayson Rodriguez (W, 8-3), allowing six straight hits to open the fourth inning, leading to all the offense the Shorebirds (72-32, 24-11) would need on the evening. Outside of the rocky inning, Gomez allowed just two other baserunners otherwise in six innings in his first start after a call up from Pulaski. The 19-year-old Venezuela native faced one over the minimum and hadn’t allowed a hit over his first three innings of work on the night before Delmarva rudely greeted him the second time through the order. He flashed 94-95 mph on the radar gun in his first outing to take All-Star call up Luis Gil’s spot in the rotation.
Rodriguez was as good as advertised for the Shorebirds for the home nine, matching a season-best with 10 strikeouts across five shutout frames before Charleston (51-54, 14-21) chipped away at the bullpen. Last year’s 11th overall selection out of the high school ranks in Texas fanned 8 of the first 14 batters he faced on the night while allowing just three hits and a pair of walks to put a rocky outing that saw him chased in the first inning in his last start.
In the sixth, left fielder Canaan Smith continued his hot month of July, greeting reliever Matt De La Rosa with a leadoff single. After two impressive running catches by Nick Horvath in center and a balk that moved Smith into scoring position, Oliver Dunn hit a routine pop up that shortstop Adam Hall lost in the twilight for an RBI double that, fortunately, put the Holy City on the board. After reaching twice with a hit on the night, Smith is now batting .389 (28-for-72) in the month of July. The Rockwall, Texas product leads the league in on-base percentage (.406).
In the seventh, centerfielder Brandon Lockridge and DH Josh Stowers came up with two-out knocks off De La Rosa before ‘Birds manager Kyle Moore lifted his reliever for Ruben Garcia. The hard-throwing righty settled in right away to strand the tying and go-ahead runs on a ground out to end the inning. Overall, he retired seven-in-a-row to finish the game, including fanning the side in the eighth as part of his second save of the year.
Lockridge went 3-for-5 on the night, marking his third multi-hit effort in the last five games after a cold start since the All-Star Break.
With the defeat, the RiverDogs have dropped three of their first four on their longest road trip by mileage this season. With an Augusta win on the evening, Charleston fell to a season-high 6.0 games back in the second-half standings.