RiverDogs Fall in Early Hole, Drop Second Straight

Curtis and Espinal combine for 5 1/3 scoreless after rocky start

RiverDogs Fall in Early Hole, Drop Second Straight
Charleston RiverDogs

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.

Upcoming

Charleston looks for their first win of the series in Asheville on Saturday night at 6:05 p.m. from McCormick Field. Charleston will send Harold Cortijo (4-3, 2.86) to the bump to face the Tourists for the second time. In his season debut on June 6, the Puerto Rican righty held the Tourists to just a pair of runs over five innings at The Joe. He has gone at least five frames and allowed two runs or fewer in nine of 11 starts this year, including his last time out on Sunday in Hickory when he navigated around a rare four walks. The Tourists will throw sinker-ball specialist Jake Bird (7-1, 2.71) in opposition. The former UCLA Bruin has thrived working down in the zone, inducing contact on the ground on 65 percent of his balls in play, the highest rate among arms with at least 80 innings thrown in the league this year. Since joining the Asheville rotation on July 25, he has won two of four starts with a 1.99 ERA.