Aaron Judge drove in all four of Charleston's runs, including his sixth home run of the season, but the RiverDogs dropped their fourth straight in an 8-4 loss to the Asheville Tourists on Saturday night in front of 3,922 fans at Riley Park in South Atlantic League baseball.
The Tourists (31-23) have won this series with three victories against the RiverDogs (27-28) and can earn a sweep with a win in Sunday's finale.
Asheville grabbed a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning. Raimel Tapia reached on a two-out single against Ian Clarkin and scored during a triple to center field by Ryan McMahon.
The RiverDogs answered by surging ahead 2-1 in their half of the first. Jose Rosario singled and Jackson Valera doubled off Zach Jemiola, putting runners in scoring position. Judge doubled to bring in Rosario and Valera to put Charleston ahead.
Clarkin retired eight straight batters after McMahon's triple until the Tourists got rolling in the fourth. McMahon had a one-out single and moved to second base after a two-out walk to Jordan Patterson. Jose Briceno drove in McMahon on a single that tied the game at 2.
In the fifth, David Dahl sent a drive to right field that just cleared the wall for a go-ahead home run to give the Tourists a 3-2 lead. It was Dahl's ninth round-tripper this season.
The Tourists strengthened their lead during the top of the seventh. After two straight walks from Rony Bautista, Cesar Vargas came in and fielded a sacrifice bunt that moved Cesar Galvez and Dahl into scoring position. Raimel Tapia grounded out and Ryan McMahon had an 0-1 count when a wild pitch was thrown. Galvez was hit by the throw to home plate before he scored, and the deflection allowed Dahl to score to give Asheville a 5-2 lead.
Judge closed Charleston's gap to 5-4 with an eighth-inning home run. Valera received a four-pitch walk from Daniel Palo before Judge homered to center field. Mike Ford singled and Miguel Andujar walked to continue the scoring threat, and John Murphy's sacrifice bunt against Andrew Brown pushed the runners up a base. However, Briceno picked Tyler Wade off third base and Brown finished the inning with a strikeout.
After escaping the eighth with a lead, Asheville extended the lead to 8-4 in the ninth. A two-out single from Tapia, coupled with an error, brought in Ashley Graeter and Galvez for a three-run lead. Tapia reached second base on the play and scored when McMahon singled.
Jemiola evened his record at 5-5 with the victory. Brown earned his first professional save.
Clarkin (1-3) recorded a career-high seven strikeouts in the loss.
The City of Charleston's annual picnic was held at The Joe, with Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. announcing that Gary Smith and Gary Smalls were the Employees of the Year. The SweetRight Brothers performed several routines during the game as the featured ballpark entertainment. Groundskeeper Mike Williams worked his 44th game this month at The Joe, the most Williams has covered in any month in his 22-year professional career.
The finale of this four-game series is Sunday matchup between Charleston LHP Caleb Smith (4-3, 1.51 ERA) and Asheville RHP Antonio Senzatela (5-1, 3.90). First pitch is at 5:05 p.m. Bark for Your Brew at 3 p.m. precedes the ballgame, featuring a craft beer sampling at The Joe that fans can attend with their dog. The homestand finale is another Kids Club Sunday, Dog Day, Seersucker Sunday and Luau Night. Tickets may be purchased at the Riley Park Box Office, (843) 577-3647 or online at www.riverdogs.com.