ASHEVILLE, N.C. – On a night that was chalked up to be a battle of two division-title contenders, the RiverDogs fell behind early and couldn’t find their offensive rhythm as they dropped their second straight to first-place Asheville, enduring a 12-3 defeat on Friday night at McCormick Field.
Entering play with one of the highest ground ball rates in the league, right-hander Charlie Ruegger (L, 2-3) came equipped with the stuff to survive the mostly hitter-friendly park in the league but quickly saw the Tourists (60-64, 31-23) jump all over him. Third baseman Kyle Datres drifted an opposite-field grand slam to right that added the exclamation point to a seven-run second that ultimately chased the Charleston (64-60, 27-27) starter from the ballgame after recording just four outs.
With the Tourists leading 9-0 after just two, the Charleston bullpen settled the game down from there with Keegan Curtis and Carlos Espinal combining to navigate through the next 5 1/3 innings scoreless.
Infielder Max Burt came on to toe the rubber in the seventh and promptly had his first professional pitch drilled out to left by first baseman Johnny Cresto to push Asheville out to their largest lead of the night at 12-0. Burt came back on and threw a scoreless eighth. It marked the first time since July 10, 2015 that the RiverDogs threw a position player on the mound when Ryan Lindemuth recorded just one out against Kannapolis at The Joe.
Designated hitter Josh Breaux provided one of the few highlights on the night otherwise for Charleston, drilling a first pitch offering to center in the eight for a three-run round tripper. It was the Tomball, Texas native’s ninth of the season and his second in the last week since a two-month long stint on the injured list.
With the defeat, the RiverDogs fall to 4.0 games back of Asheville in the Southern Division second-half standings. Over their 16 remaining games, six will be against the Tourists at McCormick Field. Charleston have gone just 2-7 in road contests against the Rockies affiliate this year, including dropping their last three at McCormick Field.
With Datres’ grand slam in the second, the Tourists tied the South Atlantic League record with eight four-run homers on the season, matching the 1969 Greenwood Braves. Four of their record eight grand salamis have come against the RiverDogs this season.