The Lynchburg Hillcats continued their fight for the second half crown in the Carolina League’s Northern Division, but ended the day on Saturday four games in back of first place Potomac. The Hillcats have already secured a playoff berth with their first half title, but remain in the hunt for home field advantage in the High-A postseason.
The Hillcats finished last weekend on a down note, dropping three straight in a four-game set to the rival Salem Cubs. After a day off on Monday, they took two of three from the Nationals to cut into that deficit in the division, winning the games on Tuesday (2-1) and Thursday (3-2). Returning home for three against Winston-Salem, the Dash won 10-2 on Friday and won on Saturday 7-5 on a two-run home run in the tenth inning.
Lynchburg will wrap up their series with Winston-Salem at 4:00 PM on Sunday before hitting the road for seven straight with Frederick (four games) and Myrtle Beach (three). After that road trip, they will play ten of their final 13 regular season games at Calvin Falwell Field.
In other chatter from Lynchburg:
MEJIA’S STREAK ENDS AT 49…BUT JUST FOR A MOMENT
The magical run for Francisco Mejia ended on Saturday night at 49 consecutive games with a hit after an 0-for-4 day at the plate with a walk for the Hillcats, only to be posthumously extended to 50 games after an official scorer’s change following the completion of the 7-5 loss to the Dash.
In the third inning, Mejia grounded sharply down the left field line. The Winston-Salem third baseman tried to backhand the ball, but was not close enough to make a play on the hit. The official scorer initially ruled the play an error at third, with Mejia reaching second base safely.
After a lengthy postgame meeting, the official scorer overturned the call, ruling it instead to be a double.
Mejia hit in 24 straight for Lake County prior to his promotion to Lynchburg, where he has now hit in each of his first 26 games at the High-A level. He is hitting .339 for the Hillcats this season.
CHANG HITS THE DL
Prospect Yu-Cheng Chang was placed on the seven-day disabled list on Saturday with a right wrist strain. The move was made retroactive to August 11.
After dealing with a head injury midway through last year in his first full season in the Indians farm system after joining the club out of Taiwan, the young shortstop had put together a relatively injury-free 2016 until this trip to the disabled list, which could put the remainder of his season and the postseason potentially in jeopardy.
If his numbers with the Hillcats turn out to be his final results, he will have put together a solid showing, slashing .271/.345/.484 with 28 doubles, eight triples, 12 homers, 69 runs batted in, 73 runs scored, and eleven stolen bases in 14 attempts while thrusting his name into the Indians’ top prospects list. The 21-year-old shortstop nearly landed in Milwaukee in the scrapped Jonathan Lucroy trade and was rumored to be a player of interest at one point by the New York Yankees.
Left-handed starting pitcher Thomas Pannone was activated from the disabled list on Saturday and started the game against Winston-Salem.
The 22-year-old, making his fourth appearance and third start for the Hillcats after a 5-5 record in 17 games for the Captains to start the season, went four innings in his first game back, allowing two runs on three hits with a walk and five strikeouts on the night.
The no-decision left Pannone with a 2-0 record on the season with a 2.14 ERA as a ‘cat.
BRADLEY BLASTS OFF
Bobby Bradley homered in the eighth inning on Saturday, his second homer in as many days against the Dash. It gave him five homers for the month of August, after hitting four in June and July. His 2016 season high for homers in a calendar month was six in April.
His 24th homer of the season and his fourth in the last nine games extended his Carolina League lead and pulled him within three of matching his professional high of 27 hit last season in Lake County.
QUALITY EFFORT AGAIN FROM LUGO
Lefty Luis Lugo had another solid start on Wednesday, despite coming away from the outing with a no-decision. He worked six innings, allowing just three hits and striking out five. The Potomac Nationals would score six runs in the next inning against the Lynchburg bullpen, including five unearned runs.
The quality start from Lugo was his eighth of the season, trailing only Sean Brady for the most on the pitching staff. The 22-year-old southpaw from Venezuela has quietly had a very strong season, posting an 8-3 record with a 3.56 ERA and 1.30 WHIP over 22 starts. He is 6-1 in his last ten games.
Tyler Krieger delivered a go-ahead RBI-double in the top of the ninth on Thursday to give the Hillcats a 2-1 win over the Nationals. Bradley started the inning with a single and was sacrificed to second by Dorssys Paulino before Krieger’s gapper to score Bradley with the decisive run.
Mejia extended his hitting streak to 48 games in the first inning while going 3-for-4 at the plate.
SECOND START BETTER THAN THE FIRST
Brock Hartson, making his second start for the Hillcats since his promotion from Class-A Lake County, worked six innings of two-run ball on Thursday as Lynchburg defeated Potomac. He gave up five hits and a pair of walks while striking out three in the game. He retired eight straight batters at one point and kept the game close for a late rally by his offense, in time to earn him his first High-A win.
Hartson made his first start on August 5 and allowed five earned runs on nine hits with two walks and three strikeouts in four and two-thirds innings in a loss at Salem.
Infielder Claudio Bautista rejoined the Hillcats on Wednesday after appearing in 19 games in Akron with the RubberDucks. He was assigned to Akron on June 27.
Right-hander Justin Garcia was placed back on the seven-day disabled list Saturday afternoon. He spent over a month on the shelf earlier in the season from May 25 to June 30.