Pelicans snap losing skid, reduce magic number to 5

pel-22slideThe Myrtle Beach Pelicans, Class A-Advanced affiliate of the Chicago Cubs, snapped a three-game losing skid with a 7-1 win over the Lynchburg Hillcats on Sunday night at TicketReturn.Com Field at Pelicans Ballpark. Victor Caratini clubbed his first home run of the year in support of starting pitcher Jonathan Martinez, who picked up his fifth win.

The Hillcats (31-32), who lead the Carolina League in homers, flexed the long-ball muscle in the third inning. Third baseman Joe Sever blasted a solo homer to lead off the frame, his second home run in as many games. Martinez would settle in after that to retire the next ten consecutive batters, finishing his night with one strikeout while surrendering a season-low two hits. Six of the right-hander’s ten starts have spanned five innings or more this year, and in those starts, Martinez has allowed one or fewer runs each time.

Trailing 1-0, the Pelicans (36-26) responded in the fourth. Chesny Young extending his hit-streak to seven games when he bounced a groundball up the first base line to beat out an infield single. Caratini then jumped on the first pitch from starter Luis Lugo, sending it over the left-center field wall to give the Birds a 2-1 advantage. It was the switch-hitting catcher’s first homer of the year, and first as a Cubs minor leaguer, which marked the first dinger he has hit since July 21, 2014 – also a fourth-inning, two-run shot.

The Birds poured on four more runs in the fifth. Trey Martin bunted for a hit and Daniel Lockhart was hit by a pitch before Mark Zagunis slapped an RBI single to right on a hit-and-run. Pin-Chieh Chen followed with an RBI single to left, and after a walk to Young forced a pitching change, right-hander Robbie Aviles entered the game and coaxed a ground ball double play out of Caratini. An earned run scored on the play, and Jacob Rogers capped the frame with an RBI double to right field to stretch the lead to 6-1.

With Martin at second base in the sixth, Zagunis widened the gap to 7-1 when he bounced an RBI ground-rule double over the center field wall.

Other than Sever’s homer, Eric Haase was the only other Hillcats batter to notch a hit all night when he singled in the second inning, however the Lynchburg catcher was thrown out at second base while trying to stretch the hit into a double. Designated hitter Luigi Rodriguez reached on a throwing error at shortstop in the sixth, but Martinez turned the next two hitters away to finish his night. The Pelicans bullpen of Fernando Cruz and James Pugliese teamed up for three perfect innings to wrap up the win.

Lugo (3-5) was saddled with his fifth loss of the year, working four complete innings while being taken for six earned runs on eight hits. Martinez (5-1) is tied with Duane Underwood Jr. for the Pelicans team lead in wins after throwing six frames and collecting one strikeout along the way. Cruz also struck out one in his inning of work, as did Pugliese, who fired two frames from the bullpen.

With seven contests to play in the first half, Myrtle Beach’s lead in the Carolina League Southern Division remains at three games ahead of Salem, who beat Wilmington on Sunday. The Blue Rocks lead the Northern Division by three games over Lynchburg and Frederick, who are tied for second place. The Pelicans’ magic number to clinch the First Half Division Championship is trimmed to five.

The Birds will hit the road to begin a three-game set against the Winston-Salem Dash on Monday.

– Photo by Larry Kave/MB Pelicans

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