Welcome to the seventh installment of the Myrtle Beach Pelicans’ baseball Week in Review. Each week, I will take a look back at the Pelicans’ performances, pull out some of those who stood out from the rest and provide a preview for the following week of baseball in the Carolina League.
The week that was…
Maybe getting Buies Creek off the schedule is what the Myrtle Beach Pelicans needed to catch their footing this Carolina League baseball season.
Down four games this time a week ago to the Astros — leaders in the circuit’s Southern Division — Myrtle Beach has reeled off wins in five of its past seven games, earning a series sweep over the Winston-Salem Dash while managing a split in Zebulon, N.C., against the Carolina Mudcats.
The recent hot streak came on the heels of a cool for the Pelicans, one in which the club lost six of eight games while sitting a mere game above .500.
In each of its games against the Dash, Myrtle Beach found itself in an early hole, allowing runs in the opening inning. A self-proclaimed group of grinders, it was a workmanlike effort that allowed the club to earn wins in a driving rain last Wednesday before an 11-run explosion the following night earned the Pelicans a series sweep.
Things wouldn’t come as easily against Carolina, though, which much like the Pelicans is within striking distance of first-place Buies Creek.
In the opener of the four-game set, Myrtle Beach ran into the Carolina League’s hottest pitcher in Corbin Burnes. The Mudcats hurler gave up one run on two hits, stymieing the Pelicans en route to a 5-3 win last Friday.
Myrtle Beach would scratch and claw its way to a split, however, with solid starts by Adbert Alzolay and Justin Steele along with timely hitting proving key.
Going into Wednesday’s series opener with the Down East Wood Ducks, the Pelicans are 28-24 on the season.
Player of the week
Second baseman Bryant Flete: Setting the tone from his leadoff spot, the native of Venezuela played a key role in the Pelicans’ recent run of success. Over the course of the past week, he hit .348 with five RBIs. Flete also scored six runs. As a result, he has upped his batting average to .295 — a team-high.
Pitcher of the week
Right-hander Thomas Hatch: Sometimes, a pitcher deserves better. Such were the sentiments on Sunday, when the Oklahoma State product struck out 13 batters in 5 1/3 innings at Carolina. However, Hatch remained winless on the season, coming out on the wrong side of a 4-1 decision.
Another solid outing for Alzolay: For the fifth time in six starts, right-hander Adbert Alzolay went six innings or more, allowing only two runs on four hits to lead Myrtle Beach to an 8-2 win. As a result, the native of Venezuela moved to 5-1 on the season, with a 2.72 ERA. In 53 innings of work, Alzolay has walked only 13 batters while scattering less than a hit per inning.
Missing the target: Myrtle Beach and Carolina came rather close to joining some dubious company on Sunday. The clubs combined to strike out 30 times in the Mudcats’ 4-1 win. Nine players struck out on multiple occasions, none more than Carolina’s Luis Aviles, who was fanned on four occasions. The major league record for combined strikeouts in a game is 35, set by the Washington Nationals and New York Mets on Oct. 3, 2015. As for the American League high mark (31), it was set by Texas and Seattle on July 13, 1997.
“Can you handle it?”: Myrtle Beach has two of the top pitchers in the Carolina League in terms of ERA. As of Tuesday, left-hander Justin Steele sat third among the circuit’s hurlers with a 2.55 ERA in 10 starts this season, going 3-3. Adbert Alzolay sits three spots behind him, the righty claiming a 2.72 ERA, and a 5-1 mark. As a pitching staff, the Pelicans are second in starters’ innings pitched with 447 2/3, and third in terms of team ERA (3.76).
Tables turning?: With the first half of the Carolina League season drawing near, the pursuit of a division title is becoming all too real. In the circuit’s Southern Division, Buies Creek holds on to a two-game lead over Myrtle Beach, with the Carolina Mudcats a mere three games back in the win column. The Pelicans pay a visit to the Astros in a three-game set June 4-6, followed by a four-game series with Carolina. In the Northern Division, Lynchburg sits two games behind the Salem Red Sox, who at 31-20 hold the Carolina League’s best record.
The week ahead…
On deck: Myrtle Beach plays host to Southern Division foe Down East (20-31) for the first time, with the Wood Ducks visiting the Grand Strand for a four-game set. While the Pelicans have seen more than their share of Buies Creek in the first half of the season, this is only the second series between them and Down East thus far. The clubs met in April, splitting a four-game set.
In the hole: If Myrtle Beach wants to take the Carolina League Southern Division’s first-half title, a series win over Buies Creek is pretty much a necessity. The Pelicans have one more opportunity, paying the Astros a visit for a crucial three-game set. To this point, Buies Creek has won nine of the 14 games between the clubs this season.