MINOR LEAGUE BASEBALL

Myrtle Beach Pelicans lose third straight to Salem Red Sox

ablondin@thesunnews.comApril 5, 2014 

With a roster full of the Texas Rangers top prospects, this isn’t the start the Myrtle Beach Pelicans envisioned.

Their tough start to the season continued Saturday night with their third consecutive loss, 5-2 to the Salem Red Sox at Ticketreturn.com Field at Pelicans Ballpark.

“I’m not worried about it. This is a good ballclub,” Myrtle Beach manager Joe Mikulik said. “… It’s a development process and I think patience is a big key to the whole thing, so that’s what we’re worried about.”

Even trotting the top pitching prospect in the Texas Rangers organization couldn’t end the Pelicans’ early season slide.

Alex “Chi Chi” Gonzalez, a 22-year-old who is rated the Rangers’ No. 1 pitching prospect by Baseball America, allowed seven hits and four runs – two earned – in 3.2 innings to take the loss.

The Pelicans have been outscored 19-5 in their first three games by defending Carolina League champion Salem, which goes for the four-game series sweep and its 14th consecutive victory dating back to last season and the playoffs in a matinee 3 p.m. start Sunday.

Pitching had been the culprit in the season’s opening two games, as Myrtle Beach had surrendered 18 walks. Myrtle Beach limited Salem to two walks Saturday, but the defense failed the pitching staff, committing four errors. Two came in the first inning.

Salem leadoff hitter Matty Johnson reached on an error by first baseman Preston Beck, who threw wildly toward Gonzalez attempting to cover the base on a slow roller.

Gonzalez hit Ryan Dent with the next pitch, and lefthanded designated hitter Matthew Gedman slapped two-run a double down the left field line to plate both runners.

Consecutive singles by Mario Martinez and Reed Gragnani plated another run and left runners on second and third with one out.

Gonzalez managed to strand both runners, upping his velocity to 94 mph by the seventh batter and putting away both Kevin Heller and Jayson Hernandez with nasty sliders to limit the damage to three runs.

“It’s one inning that has been getting us,” Mikulik said. “It was the first inning tonight. After that we played pretty good.”

The Red Sox added an unearned run in the fourth before Gonzalez was pulled, benefitting from an error by Gonzalez on a slow chopper, and throwing error into left field by catcher Jorge Alfaro.

Gonzalez is a 6-foot-3, 200-pound righthander out of Oral Roberts University who was the Texas Rangers’ first-round pick in the 2013 June draft. He’s still seeking his first professional victory after a combined 15 starts in short-season Spokane and Myrtle Beach. Saturday’s start was his sixth with the Pelicans.

“He settled down there after it got a little out of hand,” Mikulik said. “We didn’t really play the greatest defense tonight that we wanted to. But his composure was good and he threw some quality pitches to get himself out of trouble.”

Rodriguez gave up another couple hits with two outs in the third as Martinez slapped a single to right field and Gragnani lined a single up the middle, but a ground ball to shortstop ended the inning.

Salem loaded the bases with two outs on lefthanded reliever Alexander Claudio in the sixth inning on a pair of softly-hit singles and a walk, but another ground ball to shortstop ended the threat.

Myrtle Beach’s first run may have been a gift from the umpiring duo. Christopher Bostick hit a line drive into left field that appeared to hit at the base of the wall and bounce into the bleachers. But with the only two umpires behind the plate and down the first base line, neither had a good view and ruled the hit a home run as left fielder Ryan Dent looked bemused with his hands and arms turned upward at his sides.

The Pelicans made it interesting in the bottom of the eighth after a pair of one-out singles by Edwin Garcia and Chris Garia and a two-out RBI double by Nick Williams put the tying run in scoring position, but Alfaro grounded out to end the inning. The Red Sox added an insurance run in the ninth.

Despite their four errors, the Pelicans flashed some impressive leather at times.

Alfaro made a diving catch on a popped up bunt attempt in the second inning, sprinting straight back and making the catch near the backstop before bouncing off the turf while fully extended.

In the fourth inning, shortstop Hanser Alberto ranged deep up the middle and spun for a throw that was scooped by Beck to get Jayson Hernandez, and in the ninth third baseman Joey Gallo lunged into the shortstop hole and spun to throw and retire David Chester.

“I’ve gone through a lot of losing streaks in my career,” Mikulik said. “When you’re not prepared accordingly then you panic and put pressure on yourselves. But if you prepare, have quality pregame work and you’re teaching kids how to prepare and how to be a professional, I think things will sooner or later fall in line. I’m not really concerned with the wins and losses right now.”

Contact ALAN BLONDIN at 626-0284.

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