The Salem Red Sox won their 16th straight game on Tuesday night, matching the greatest winning streak in the history of the Carolina League, by narrowly holding on to defeat the Winston-Salem Dash 12-11 in the home opener at LewisGale Field. Although the Sox never trailed, and still have not trailed yet this season during the first 5-0 start in Salem history, the Dash nearly crawled all the way back from an eight-run deficit, scoring three runs each in the seventh and eighth innings to inch within one. But the Red Sox, as has been the case in every single game since August 28, 2013, simply found a way to hang on, despite a resurgent Winston offense that came alive in the late innings. Consequently, the Winston-Salem Cardinals record that stood for 64 years is no longer a singular achievement in the annals of Carolina League history.
In the first 15 games of Salem's sensational streak, the Sox pitchers permitted only 15 earned runs, compiling a team ERA of 0.94. Tuesday was a different story, with all 11 Winston-Salem runs going as earned against the trio of Red Sox hurlers. Alas, Salem's underdog offense, buoyed by four Dash errors that led to six unearned runs, did just enough to emerge victorious again.
Early in the game, it appeared that the 16th win in the streak might be the easiest of them all. Matty Johnson launched a two-run homer in the second, Aneury Tavarez blasted a three-run shot in the third, and the Sox batted around in a five-run fourth to build up an 11-3 advantage after four innings. But Winston responded, scratching two more runs off Sox starter Brian Johnson before knocking him out of the game with two outs in the fifth. Johnson struck out eight, but was charged with five runs allowed in four and two-thirds innings.
In relief, Kyle Martin authored a dominant sixth, but struggled in the seventh, yielding a three-run rally that brought the Dash within four. Winston's Courtney Hawkins drilled an RBI double in the seventh, a harbinger of greater damage in the eighth. Facing Kyle Stroup with two on and two out, Hawkins crushed a three-run missile over the left field fence to bring the Dash within a run.
While Stroup walked the leadoff batter in the ninth, he retired the next three Dash hitters consecutively to finish the win, fielding a Mike Marjama chopper to the mound and throwing him out to end the wild three hour, 25 minute game.
Tavarez led the Red Sox with three hits and four RBI, while Jonathan Roof added three hits and four other Salem batters chipped in with two hits apiece. The Dash outhit the Sox 16-15, but Salem pitchers struck out 14 to help the Sox survive, as Martin picked up the win in relief. Dash starter Mike Recchia, who yielded six runs on seven hits in two and two-thirds, suffered the loss.
On Wednesday, the Salem Sox could ascend to the top of the historical pyramid as far as Carolina League winning streaks are concerned. William Cuevas, who last started at LewisGale Field in the Mills Cup clinching game last September (Game #11 in the streak), will get the ball for the Red Sox in the middle-matchup against the Dash. Former Greenville Drive pitcher J.B. Wendelken, who moved to the White Sox organization in last summer's Jake Peavy deal, will counter for Winston-Salem, looking to preserve the 1950 Winston-Salem Cardinals now shared perch in the record books. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05.