SALEM, Va. – Courtesy: Ben Gellman/Salem Red Sox
The Salem Red Sox opened the 2018 season in victorious fashion Thursday night, nipping the Buies Creek Astros 4-3 behind a tremendous relief effort by Daniel Gonzalez at Haley Toyota Field in Salem
The Red Sox (1-0) rode Gonzalez (S, 1) and his long relief effort to victory, as the right-hander recorded 10 strikeouts for just the second time in his career and the first time since August 9, 2014, against the DSL Cardinals. Buies Creek (0-1) fell behind early and never caught up, despite getting the tying run in scoring position with no outs in the ninth inning.
The Astros opened the scoring in the top of the first against Salem starting pitcher Roniel Raudes (W, 1-0). With Josh Rojas at third and only one away following a throwing error by catcher Jhon Nunez, Abraham Toro lifted a sacrifice fly to left, plating Rojas and giving Buies Creek a 1-0 lead.
The Sox answered back in short order in the bottom of the frame against Buies Creek starter Jorge Alcala (0-1), who walked leadoff man Santiago Espinal. Brett Netzer poked a single into right, and Espinal raced to third to put runners on the corners with nobody out. Bobby Dalbec fanned, but Ryan Scott slashed a single of his own into right to score Espinal and send Netzer to third. A wild pitch by Alcala moved Scott to second, and Nunez atoned for his earlier mistake by slapping a single to center that scored both runners and put the Sox in front 3-1.
Salem tacked on another in the bottom of the second. Chris Madera rapped a single with one away, and scooted to second when catcher Chuckie Robinson mishandled a high pitch for a passed ball. Espinal grounded out, but Madera moved up to third, and came home on a single by Netzer to make it a 4-1 lead.
The Astros started chipping away in the top of the third. Osvaldo Duarte cracked a triple to right to open the inning, and Ronnie Dawson walked to put runners at first and third. The Astros attempted a double steal, and Nunez threw out Dawson at second, but Netzer's return throw didn't quite catch Duarte, who slid home safely to trim the lead to 4-2.
Gonzalez entered in the sixth, and walked Toro to begin his outing before fanning the next two batters. Toro swiped second, and Chas McCormick tripled off the wall in left, scoring Toro and cutting the lead to 4-3. Gonzalez locked it down from there on, and even worked around a leadoff double by Troy Sieber in the top of the ninth to fan the next three batters and secure victory for the home team.
Raudes earned the win, allowing two runs (one earned) on five hits and two walks while fanning three in five innings. Gonzalez allowed a run on two hits and a walk in his four frames to go with his 10 strikeouts.
The Sox will try to make it two in a row to start the 2018 season Friday night, with House Salem taking over on Game of Thrones night. Righty Jake Thompson makes his Salem debut on the hill against Buies Creek right-hander Hector Perez. First pitch is at 7:05 p.m., and Ben Gellman's pregame show with Suzie Cool starts at 6:45 p.m. on ESPN Roanoke, ESPN Blacksburg and online at SalemSox.com.