R’Dogs blank Shorebirds for sixth straight win

SALISBURY, MD. — Yefrey Ramirez led a combined shutout in his first start of the season as the Charleston RiverDogs blanked the Delmarva Shorebirds, 5-0, on Friday night at Arthur W. Perdue Stadium to win their sixth in a row.

The RiverDogs (16-5) sit atop the Southern Division standings with a 3½ game lead on their closest pursuer, Columbia. Charleston also moves into exclusive company as just the fourth team in the minor leagues to reach 16 wins on the season.

Ramirez (1-0) worked from the stretch for most of his debut as a Yankees farmhand, allowing baserunners to reach second base or further in each of his first three innings of work. With runners at second and third, two outs, and facing Yermin Mercedes, the South Atlantic League batting leader, Ramirez forced a flyout to center to get out of the jam in the first. The righty out of the Dominican Republic squeaked out of another jam with runners at the corners in the second and left a Delmarva baserunner stranded at third in the third frame before retiring the Shorebirds in order in the fourth. Ramirez finished with four scoreless innings while yielding three hits and two walks with a pair of strikeouts.

The RiverDogs offense put Ramirez in line for the win right from the start with back-to-back singles to lead off the first by Jeff Hendrix and Hoy Jun Park. Second baseman Thairo Estrada grounded into a double play on the next at-bat that allowed Hendrix to score and make it 1-0 Charleston.

In the second, the RiverDogs pushed their lead to two with an unconventional home run to lead off the inning. Chris Gittens stroked a ball into left-center in what should have been a clean single, but the ball rolled all the way to the base of the wall. Delmarva center fielder Cedric Mullins threw up his arms to appeal for a ground-rule double but the umpires did not grant it, and Gittens kept on going to score on a bizarre inside-the-park home run that made it 2-0 RiverDogs. It was the first home run of the season for Gittens and the first home run hit of the year at Perdue Stadium.

The RiverDogs tagged Shorebirds starter Reid Love (2-1) for two more in the sixth to double Charleston’s advantage. Charleston right fielder Jhalan Jackson walked and Gittens singled to lead off the frame before both were driven home on a two-out single by Angel Aguilar.

Charleston added its fifth run in the eighth on an RBI infield single by Kendall Coleman.

Daris Vargas (2-0) worked three solid innings of relief in a scheduled bullpen appearance with two walks and two strikeouts to keep the shutout alive. After originally being slated to start Game 1 of the series against Delmarva prior the rain cancellation from Thursday night, Anyelo Gomez appeared out the bullpen to record two more scoreless innings of relief with a pair of strikeouts and complete the shutout of Delmarva.

Charleston continues its four-game series with the Shorebirds at 7 p.m. Saturday. The RiverDogs will send RHP Christian Morris, who will make his debut after getting the callup from extended spring training, while the Shorebirds will counter with LHP Brian Gonzalez (2-0, 3.48 ERA). Fans can tune in on WTMA 1250-AM as well as online at riverdogs.com.