ASHEVILLE, N.C. – Opening up a pivotal four-game series over the weekend against Asheville, the playoff-hopeful Charleston RiverDogs stumbled out to a slow start on the road trip as they fell 6-3 to the Tourists on Thursday evening at McCormick Field.
The RiverDogs (64-59) began the road trip on an 11-2 run to start the month of August, propelling them from 7.0 games back to within 2.0 of Asheville (59-64, 30-23) in the Southern Division second-half standings entering play Thursday. Yoendrys Gomez (L, 0-2, 5.40) looked shaky out of the gates and put the Dogs into an early hole, hitting Niko Decolati and Kyle Datres in a three-pitch sequence with one out in the first to set up a chance for second baseman Coco Montes. The active South Atlantic leader in RBI with 75 on the season added two more to his total when he crushed a double off the top of the centerfield wall to push the Rockies affiliate out to a lead they would hold for good.
Gomez would yield runs in each of his three innings of work on the night, but exited on a positive note, striking out shortstop Cristopher Navarro and designated hitter Cade Harris back-to-back to strand the bases loaded. The 19-year-old Venezuela native finished allowing four runs (three earned) while issuing three walks and striking out five to take his second loss in four outings since a call up from Pulaski. He departed with the Holy City trailing 4-1.
Left fielder Canaan Smith entered play trailing Asheville’s Terrin Vavra by 10 points in the chase for the league batting title and finished the night 2-for-5 with an RBI. With the Tourists’ All-Star shortstop on the 7-day injured list to open the series, Smith put Charleston on the board with an RBI knock in the third two at-bats after centerfielder Brandon Lockridge unloaded his 31st double off the left field wall to start the rally. Smith came up to bat with the bases loaded and the Dogs down 6-3 but watched three pitches over to strike out and end the threat after P.J. Poulin had walked a batter and hit another to pin down a shaky ninth save of the season.
With the two-hit night, Smith’s batting average gained a point up to .310 with 16 games left to play. Charleston has not seen a batting title winner since Cliff Pastronicky hit a franchise record .343 for the Royals in 1982.
Tim Hardy turned in his best outing as a RiverDog to date, striking out two over four scoreless innings following the shortened start. He walked just one and allowed only a single to face one over the minimum and keep Charleston within a run until the Tourists added two crucial insurance tallies off Ron Marinaccio in the eighth.
With the loss, the RiverDogs’ woes at McCormick Field continued. The Yankees affiliate are now just 2-6 against the Tourists in North Carolina this year and have not won a series at the league’s oldest park since June of 2015. Of the club’s remaining 16 games, they will play seven more against the Tourists, all on the road.